East New York Community Land Trust (ENY CLT) and District 37’s Councilmember Sandy Nurse weighed in on two upcoming development projects that could dramatically change the landscape of Broadway Junction in Brooklyn: a commercial development at the transit hub and four high-rise mixed use developments across the street.
History has persistently seen Black and Brown communities pushed out of low-income areas marked for development and upzoning in the city, making even the most well-intentioned plans for a large commercial building or a high rise in the Broadway Junction area of East New York in Brooklyn look daunting, said advocates.
Firstly, Mayor Eric Adams has had his eye on the Broadway Junction’s transit hub since he was Brooklyn borough president. In a press conference on April 6, he reminisced on how much “the Junction” has meant to him since his days as a transit cop. “I remember riding through here seeing the L, the J, the A, just watching a community with so much opportunity just being ignored,” said Adams.
Adams and former Councilmember Rafael Espinal collaborated on the push to develop the Junction back in 2016, which led to the East New York area being rezoned. The area’s four transit stations, five subway lines, six bus routes, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) access, and meeting points of six largely residential and relatively low-income neighborhoods were viewed as not fully realized “potential.” By 2017, the Broadway Junction Working Group was created to study what the Junction needed to thrive: basically jobs for locals, a cleaner facility with better amenities, and an engaged public space.
Adams intends to place a commercial building at the Junction, or 2440 Fulton Street, which will host 1,100 employees of the Department of Social Services and have new retail space along Fulton Street, Herkimer Street, and Van Sinderen Avenue. The building will be developed by the Leser Group and designed by Marvel Architects. It builds on work the Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) began in 2017 and is a part of the Mayor’s CARE strategy to revitalize the city.
Nurse was eventually elected after a long stretch of turnover when Espinal left office in 2020. Former Councilmember Darma Diaz was voted in to replace him, but lost her reelection to Nurse in 2021.
Nurse said about the “inherited” project that big real estate and other top city officials have had plans for Broadway Junction for a while. She said that in some ways the office building is a test to see how future projects might go down. “We absolutely have reservations about the current proposal—which we’ve expressed—about the height and uses proposed,” said Nurse in response to Amsterdam News’ inquiry.
“As we build it, they will come, but they coming cannot be displacement,” said Adams about questions of potential displacement of Black and Brown residents. “There are far too many people who have been here for so long and really wanted to have an opportunity to watch the growth of this community.”
Adams maintains that the office space will feature local businesses and bring much needed city services closer to people who need them most while shortening commutes.
“We don’t think our job is to sell this project in any way,” said Nurse. “It is not my job to build trust around the current proposal, or to lie to my community that displacement won’t happen. Displacement has been happening for a while, and homeowners have been facing speculative pressure even with a Cease and Desist Zone in most of CB5.”
Nurse said that tenants have also been facing looming pressure in the forms of harassment, neglect, dramatic rent increases, and substandard housing because of the amount of “unregulated housing stock in our district and the lack of code enforcement by the city.”
She added that affordable housing development through the 2016 rezoning in East New York isn’t nearly where the city thought it would be, even with the rezoning’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing mandates. Many of the commitments from the rezoning “either weren’t clearly communicated or are still unfulfilled,” said Nurse.
According to the city’s Equitable Development Data tracker, the East New York community, in Community Board 5 where the Broadway Junction falls, is made up of an almost 98% non-white population with about half of those people living with incomes 200% below the federal poverty rate, and severely rent burdened households. Because of these factors, places like East New York and nearby Cypress Hills are neighborhoods among the highest at risk for displacement.
“The history before that was that we were told we were shit,” said Boris Santos of ENY CLT. “We were redlined. We weren’t given the investments that we needed; city, state, federal government were part of our sad tale and narrative. Of course a lot of us are anxious. A lot of us are nervous about what’s to come. Panicked even.”
Santos said admittedly the mayor’s plans for an administrative building at the Junction is “less threatening” than Totem Group’s proposed four high rise towers, which is a separate entity and development project.
Totem Group filed to build one 18-story senior housing development and three 24-story residential and commercial towers between Fulton Street, East New York Avenue, and Williams Place. The Brooklyn Paper reported that Totem Group’s plans called for the “demolishing and ‘demapping’” of the block of Herkimer Street between Van Sinderen and East New York avenues to make way for the development.
“While we are still well over a year away from the start of the formal ULURP process, we have already begun community outreach and remain committed to pursuing a robust community engagement process with residents, leaders, and local partners to ensure the Herkimer-Williams project is best suited to elevate and support the needs of East New Yorkers,” said a Totem spokesperson in a statement. “We will work with the community through every step of this process and look forward to helping create a vibrant mixed-use district that delivers 100% affordable housing and countless jobs at the nexus of one of our city’s most critical transit hubs.”
In the conference, Adams promised to develop affordable housing and “go after those who harass tenants and displace them.”
“I think there is widespread agreement that we need extremely strong tenant protections,” said Nurse, “ironclad and legally binding agreements around land use issues, and of course income targeted, deeply and permanently affordable housing, preferably in nonprofit or community control. These issues will be the first thing on my mind in any conversation I have with stakeholders.”
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w