Bedford-Stuyvesant

Cuomo’s $1.4B ‘Vital Brooklyn’ plan would invest heavily in Central Brooklyn

March 9, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined a $1.4 billion initiative on Thursday that aims to transform Central Brooklyn, long one of the most troubled areas in the city. “Vital Brooklyn” would invest sizable sums in community health services, affordable housing and other areas. Screen grab courtesy of Gov. Cuomo’s office

Bulk would be spent on community health care and affordable housing

Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined a $1.4 billion initiative on Thursday that aims to transform Central Brooklyn, long one of the most troubled areas in the city.

Central Brooklyn includes Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Bushwick and Crown Heights, neighborhoods that struggle chronically with poverty, crime, poor health and low educational achievement.

The initiative, dubbed “Vital Brooklyn” would target and invest in eight areas in an integrated manner, Cuomo said. The largest chunks of the $1.4 billion would be spent on improving community health services ($700 million) and affordable housing ($563 million).

The remaining $166 million would be spent on increasing access to open spaces and recreation, assuring access to healthy food, resiliency, economic development and job creation, youth education and development and community violence prevention.

Cuomo said that the state’s former piecemeal approach to Central Brooklyn had proven ineffective.

“We are going to employ a new holistic plan that will bring health and wellness to one of the most disadvantaged parts of the state,” Cuomo told the approving crowd that included Central Brooklyn officials and union members from TWU and 1199SEIU health care workers. 

“Every New Yorker deserves to live in a safe neighborhood with access to jobs, health care, affordable housing, green spaces and healthy food, but you can’t address one of these without addressing them all,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo told elected officials that while the state would provide the funding, they would have to provide the leadership and bring in the community, spread over ten Assembly districts. Districts would choose from a menu of options.

 “You can’t impose anything on the community,” he said.

Cuomo also warned officials that it would not be easy to convince Albany, which will deal with the budget on April 1, to invest in the plan.

“Be ready for war when we go back” to Albany, he said.

Officials attending the announcement, held at Medgar Evers College, included Senators Kevin Parker and Roxanne Persaud, state Sen. Jesse Hamilton, Assemblymembers Joseph Lentol, Nick Perry, Erik Dilan, Walter Mosley and Martiza Davila, Councilmembers Mathieu Eugene, Rafael Espinal and Robert Cornegy and a slew of representatives from churches and organizations, including SUNY Downstate.

Elected officials, including Borough President Eric Adams, issued statements supporting the plan following the announcement. Senator Kevin Parker said, “This needs to be passed in this year’s budget and when it does it is our aspiration that Vital Brooklyn will usher in a new era in our community that will be filled with hope [and] opportunity.”

The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce also supports the plan.

“We want to commend Governor Cuomo for his Vital Brooklyn Initiative which will pump $1.4 billion into Brooklyn’s most underserved areas,” Chamber President and CEO Andrew Hoan said in a statement.

He added, “As Brooklyn continues to grow jobs in the private sector, there’s no reason why residents of Central Brooklyn shouldn’t get the proper training and access to these jobs.

Public Advocate Letitia James introduced the governor. Sections of the extensive plan were explained by Counsel to the Governor Alphonso David and Karim Camara, former Brooklyn assemblymember and current executive director of the Office of Faith-Based Community Development.

Vital Brooklyn details

Community-Based Health Care: There are only 55 primary care physicians per 100,000 people in Central Brooklyn, while the statewide average is double that figure. Cuomo said the initiative would strengthen local health care facilities, increase access to quality services and preventive care, and develop a 36-site ambulatory care network. It would “strengthen local hospitals” as well, he said.

Affordable Housing: Residents of Central Brooklyn pay approximately half of their total household income on rent, Cuomo said, compared to 32 percent of household income statewide. Vital Brooklyn would build more than 3,000 new multi-family affordable housing units at six state-owned sites.  The community would decide on options, including supportive services; housing for the developmentally disabled, seniors and formerly incarcerated; public open space; and pathways to home ownership.

Open Space and Recreation: Currently, Central Brooklyn residents have some of the fewest opportunities for physical fitness in the entire state Cuomo said. Vital Brooklyn would eliminate the area’s “park deserts” by enhancing amenities at more than a dozen community gardens and school yards to create public spaces for recreation, create recreation space at state-funded housing developments, and enhance existing recreational facilities through grants.

Healthy Food: Vital Brooklyn includes Farm-to-Table initiatives that connect Upstate growers with Downstate families, add more than a dozen new farmer’s markets, provide job training for young people through the United Federation of Teachers and provide existing community gardens with additional resources.

Education and Youth Development: The state would expose at-risk youth to hands-on learning on shoreline and habitat restoration efforts in Jamaica Bay through an expansion of the Billion Oyster Project and State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Environmental Justice programs.

Economic Development and Job Creation: Central Brooklyn’s unemployment rate is almost three percentage points higher than the New York City rate, Cuomo said. Vital Brooklyn would add 7,600 new hires through the Brooklyn Unemployment Strikeforce, expand the Green City Force AmeriCorps program for NYCHA youth, train 1,200 people in the construction trades through the expanded Unemployed Workers Training Program, train more than 300 students through CUNY’s Workforce Development Initiative, and deploy a Mobile Command Center to increase financial literacy.

Community-Based Violence Prevention: The homicide rate in Central Brooklyn is almost triple the statewide average, Cuomo said. Vital Brooklyn would support community-based SNUG initiatives that conduct outreach and prevent gun violence, enhance more than 20 anti-violence programs and establish new Midnight Basketball programs — an idea his father championed, Cuomo said.

Resiliency:  Central Brooklyn is vulnerable to extreme weather, while its need for electricity is increasing, Cuomo said. Vital Brooklyn would invest in sustainable practices, including renewable and redundant energy sources, energy efficiency and green jobs training. This includes 382 solar projects; 62 multi-family and 87 single-family energy efficiency projects and 15 new cogeneration projects. It would also advance the Clarkson Avenue Microgrid Project, linking Kings County Hospital, SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Kingsboro Psychiatric Center with a resilient source of on-site backup power.

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More details at www.governor.ny.gov.

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