Jonathan Andrews, MLA I 2017
Organization: Fifth Avenue Committee, New York, NY
Sponsor: Joint Center for Housing Studies Community Service Fellowship
“One of my first tasks at Fifth Avenue Committee was preparing a PowerPoint presentation for a Community Board meeting in Sunset Park. The project, which proposed the reconstruction of the neighborhood library, would double the size of the overused facility (not to mention add an additional six stories, containing 50 units of affordable housing). The deal comes as part of Mayor DeBlasio’s campaign to add 100,000 affordable apartments to New York over the next ten years.
Sunset Park is a traditionally working class immigrant community in South Brooklyn, known for its’ diversity. It seems like a prime candidate for this kind of community-oriented affordable housing. However, about a third of the crowd attended the meeting to come out and protest the project. Their reason? They wanted to stop the gentrification of their neighborhood.
Despite a well-thought-out presentation by my supervisor, and our patiently answering residents’ questions, there still remained a pervasive fear about community displacement. With the recent controversy surrounding the rebuilding of Brooklyn Heights Library as part of a luxury apartment development, as well as the lawsuits surrounding the affordable housing at Atlantic Yards, it isn’t hard to understand their reticence.
While we were able to assuage the fears of some, most of the concerned residents withheld their acceptance till promises could be made to the community on paper. In the world of New York development, promises are made easily. Despite the fact that Fifth Avenue Committee is a non-profit affordable housing developer with a progressive social mission, it’s over the long term that the organization will need to prove its’ earnestness.”