The story of Nine DeKalb is coming to Flatbush. It may not be in such a dramatic fashion but it is coming. Can massive or modest development be an integrative force essential to an inclusive society? The assurances come partly through research on the sites history. How does sacred ground become sacred following descecration?RLC – OCCUPY
Before diving in, the quality of transparency is high from the onset of this project. It comes with names of people, places, paid participants, stakeholders, extensive Youtube videos, well-organized meeting transcripts, and so on. Observers of the effort to document the process must congratulate its creators. The ongoing structure of this project and its eventual product, on the other hand, must be thoroughly and consistently questioned.
The site is within a Mandatory Inclusion Area (MIH) established by the New York City Council to promote affordable housing from the construction of new housing described (here). It is part of a much larger MIH area stretching south along Flatbush Avenue to Avenue H and the Campus of Brooklyn College. The maps are (here) and isolate the MIH districts by Borough.
African Graves Matter: (AGM) (here) (currently down) This organization opposes any development other than forming a green space, memorial, and monument to the lives “afflicted by the atrocities of the institution of slavery.” A good idea.
The Flatbush African Burial Ground Remembrance and Redevelopment Task Force: (here) This organization holds values similar to African Graves Matter but supports development activities that include “as of right” development as outlined in the zoning text. It was predestined for two task force leaders to move on. These were Eric Adams, Co-Chair (now Mayor and Ryan Lynch are his CoS), and Mathieu Eugene, Co-Chair (former Councilmember). Reassignments are probable, and the project remains well behind its initial schedule. The following schedule should be updated.
As a recent Omnibus Article suggests, two strategies are involved. First, the role of Shanna Sabio, featured in the article, expresses an interest in education programming. There is an early indication that this will be added content in the yet-to-be-scheduled RFP.
The first strategy is to establish a common ground. One process demands absolute reverence and the other works toward accommodation. The evidence for adaptation is in staff participation from HPD, HPI, EDC, LPC, CD14 and 17, ErasmusHS, NHS, and FDC. In addition, TYTHEdesign is a paid meeting facilitator, but the agency that holds the contract (other than “the city”) for this service is not in the meeting notes. The EDC logo is on the TYTHEdesign YouTube presentations of all the meetings. A record of the service contract is public. The second strategy does not appear to offer more than resistance. Carrying the AGM position places participation onto the street. The AGM position may have already been stated as non-negotiable by participants leaving involvement in the task force’s work moot. To produce a viable vs. contested community-driven solution, the RFP should include a design-driven “charette.” The “as of right” model and the “obstruction” paradigm are ill-advised.
The RFP will require 1) affordable housing (inclusionary +?), 2) programming for youth services and 3) open space to memorialize the site’s history. The final decision report to include housing will acknowledge other opinions about site development. For example, the design charette concept may be the best way to establish a permanent record. In addition, the process will continue to consider how the project can accomplish multiple goals.
The site is a proposed commercial and housing development property. It has a reparation claim established by African Graves Matter (here) as an African Burial Ground (aerial map here) and by the Flatbush African Burial Ground Remembrance and Redevelopment Task Force (here). In addition, they supervised research on this location through Historic Preservation Incorporated (here) + (wiki). Who purchased the contract for HPI’s work? It is in the city record somewhere.
The displacement forces have removed the structure at Church and Bedford, but the stories remain. In this vein, Historic Preservation Incorporated (HPI), a private consulting firm contracted by “the city,” seeks the input of historical content of all kinds in its outreach efforts. It has also produced a protocol report on proceeding with community engagement in 16 pages. pdf. (here) that details the requirement for an Archaeological Work Plan.
Where is the Equity?
Equity is the total liquid value of people (as a corporation or as a group) minus debt or liabilities. Today equity is also an instrument of forced displacement. With a long list of causes, forced displacement results from acquisition practices capable of controlling land with capital on residential property. As a result, developments push rents up for low- and moderate-income residents.
The political movement “The Rent is Too Damn High” is a statement of fact. As affordable housing is becoming a national issue, new federal investments and policies are expected. It is advised to visit HUD.gov’s Renter FAQ for the basics. However, the content of local policy is explained best by The New York Housing Conference (here) as it outlines projected resources. Local Housing Solutions (here) is a planning resource focused on NYC. It does not provide direct assistance, but it is a super valuable resource. (Furman and Abt)
Condominium projects such as the Nine DeKalb Super Tower ($2M for two bedrooms) function as the routine of an ocean tide, slowing moving the light material (that with less equity) out to sea. The push is out to the favelas and slums of the urban fringe worldwide. Cities like New York continue to fight these impacts, but the tools and resources are few and weak (discussion here).
While stalled by the pandemic, expect developers to negotiate with the city to acquire and develop the site: Block 5103 | Lot 58. The site’s Zoning District is C4-4A, allowing housing governed by R7 regulations. Details on C4 are (here) and R7 (here).
The zoning references below provide general information. More detailed regulations for sites wrapped up in the C4-4A and R7 envelope will be found in the Zoning Resolution. Therefore, the illustration and table below only provide a basis for what can be expected.
As of 2021, none of this is real, but it is all potential.
The resources, rules, and data available from the NYC Department of City Planning are transparent and helpful for ordinary citizens. The deep end is (here). The newly redesigned New York City’s Zoning and Land Use map (ZoLa) also provides the ability to drill down to connecting issues such as access to Inclusionary Housing Zone information, the area Transit Zone and the FRESH Zone. All of them are helpful. Those are the facts as we understand them to date. The next page will explore some possibilities and the development challenge, given all the above options.