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City Built Less Than 2 Percent of Affordable Units Promised to Williamsburg

 The city has built 16 of the 1,345 units it promised North Brooklyn in 2005.
North Brooklyn Affordable Housing
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WILLIAMSBURG — Eight years after the city pledged to build 1,345 affordable housing units on North Brooklyn's city-owned land, only 19 of those units have been completed, officials admitted to DNAinfo New York.

The promised low- and moderate-income housing units — part of the 2005 rezoning of Williamsburg that allowed high-rise and high-end commercial and residential developments to hit the neighborhood — have been more difficult to construct than expected, officials said.

"Some sites have presented unique challenges that we are committed to working through with the community and local leaders," said a spokesman for the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The spokesman noted that an additional 722 of the pledged city-owned units were in "predevelopment," including 631 affordable housing apartments that would be built in the controversial waterfront towers at Greenpoint Landing and 65 Commercial St.

But to North Brooklyn leaders and residents, the city's failure to build affordable units quickly has displaced thousands of people as real estate prices have skyrocketed in the neighborhood. And now, a coalition of nonprofits and politicians is planning a giant rally Wednesday to "commemorate eight years of broken promises" and to demand the city move forward with the affordable housing.

"If you care about affordable housing, you should be there," said Williamsburg and Greenpoint's Community Board 1 Chairman Chris Olechowski. "Displacement is the horror of what takes place without thinking through what you're doing to your local people…and that’s what we have to continue to fight."

The new high-rise developments planned at Williamsburg's former Domino Sugar Factory and on the Greenpoint waterfront have also prompted a stronger push for the promised housing, locals said.

"They'll change the culture of this neighborhood," said Olechowski, though city officials and developers have said they want to work with the existing neighborhoods to provide waterfront access and other resources for the community.

In addition to the 1,345 affordable units on city-owned sites promised in 2005, the city also pledged 1,563 affordable units in new private waterfront developments, and 640 units in existing buildings inland, comprising one-third of the new housing slated for the area. So far, 788 of the non-city-owned units have been built, and another 134 are in construction, the city spokesman said.

"In keeping with the commitment in the Points Of Agreement," he said of the 2005 rezoning pledge, "a total of 922 units are complete or in construction...with an additional 766 units in predevelopment."

But the city-owned units should have been the easiest to provide since the government already owned the property, local housing advocates said.

So far, the only city-owned properties that have new affordable housing are at 43 Herbert St., 208 Grand St. and 303 Grand St., according to a presentation the city gave local advocates last week. Those developments, containing a total of 19 units, were built by local nonprofits, advocates said.

Longtime community coalition GREC — which has pushed to develop the Greenpoint Hospital by Cooper Park into affordable housing for decades — noted that the city had included the hospital in its 2005 pledge, but that development has been at a standstill.

"We've tried for years and years to develop Greenpoint Hospital," said Jan Peterson, founder of GREC. "How can we be moving forward on [new developments] when we still haven't resolved Greenpoint Hospital?"

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development spokesman said the city still intends to deliver the pledged apartments.

"Efforts continue to facilitate affordable housing," the spokesman said.

The rally for affordable housing will be Wednesday at 6 p.m. on Kent Avenue and North Seventh Street.