Bedford-Stuyvesant

‘What about us?’ Formerly homeless push for truly affordable housing

“The neighborhood that we groomed and grew up in is unreachable for us.”

November 27, 2019 Paul Frangipane
Housing advocates gathered outside 348 Nostrand Ave. to demand the city offer truly affordable housing and units for homeless New Yorkers. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

Local advocates, including formerly homeless Brooklynites, gathered outside a soon-to-be-completed luxury building on Nostrand Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant Wednesday morning to demand that the mayor offer truly affordable housing and double the number of units for homeless New Yorkers.

Situated between blocks of brownstone row houses and a community garden, the development at 348 Nostrand Ave. will include nine units of affordable housing. Advocates say nine is not enough — but on top of that, they charge that the units aren’t affordable at all. The apartments were given to residents making more than $68,572 per year.

“I tried to get into buildings like this for three years now, I couldn’t retain it,” said Charisma White, who was homeless for the last three years before securing housing in Sunset Park. “The neighborhood that we groomed and grew up in is unreachable for us.”

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Charisma White, center, was homeless for three years before securing housing in Sunset Park. “I’m not understanding why they’re putting up new developments that the people in the neighborhood can’t utilize," she said. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
Charisma White (center) was homeless for three years before securing housing in Sunset Park. “I’m not understanding why they’re putting up new developments that the people in the neighborhood can’t utilize,” she said. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

The protest comes roughly two years out from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s projected goal of creating 200,000 affordable housing units by 2022 as part of his Housing New York 2.0 plan. The plan currently creates twice as many units for households who can afford rents above $2,500 than it does for the homeless, according to representatives from VOCAL-NY, who hosted the protest.

When the mayor announced that the plan, originally slated for completion by 2024, would achieve its goal two years early, he set a new mark of 300,000 affordable apartments by 2026.

VOCAL-NY hosted the protest. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
VOCAL-NY hosted the protest. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

Felix Guzman, a formerly incarcerated person who works with VOCAL, spent 15 and a half months homeless and said buildings like the one on Nostrand are a waste of space without proper affordable units.

“We are not just the capital of the world, we are the homeless capital of the world,” Guzman said, citing at least 60,000 homeless people staying in the city shelters daily.

As part of their House Our Future NY campaign, the group demanded that the mayor set aside 30,000 units in his plan for homeless New Yorkers. In a step toward this, advocates are backing new bill sponsored by Councilmember Rafael Salamanca Jr. The legislation would require developers receiving city financial assistance — for projects that create or preserve more than 15 dwelling units — to set aside 15 percent of those units for homeless New Yorkers.


The luxury apartment building is situated in the heart of gentrifying Bedford-Stuyvesant. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
The luxury apartment building is situated in the heart of gentrifying Bedford-Stuyvesant. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

The legislation is currently supported by 34 councilmembers.

Housing advocate Leroy Alexander put pressure on Council Speaker Corey Johnson to bring the bill to the floor of the council for a vote.

“Speaker Johnson, we urge you, if you’re really with us like you say you are, let’s make this bill a law. Once again I’m asking, what about us?” Alexander said. “What we’re seeing here is affordable luxury.”


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