Sunset Park

Sunset Park needs affordable housing. This project delivers.

November 19, 2020 Eagle Editorial Review

Recently in Sunset Park we watched as anti-development protests, led by simple motivations of political power, shut down in the immediate future a bold plan to develop Industry City. The broadest constituency of Sunset Park, we believe would have benefited positively from the Industry City plan. Now, a progressive development plan has been proposed for new housing in another part of Sunset Park. This project delivers.

Sunset Park is facing a housing crisis. It’s clear that a lack of development of both affordable and market rate housing and a growing population have created a formula for displacement and gentrification. As Fifth Avenue Committee recently detailed in their report 2020 Sunset Park Housing Conditions, only 1,000 new housing units have been constructed since 2014, with only 80 of those units being affordable, while the population grew by 18,000 people between 2010 and 2018.

The housing crisis in Sunset Park is a pervasive issue, and we know that one project can’t tackle it alone. But one of the most expedient ways to bridge the gap is to encourage private developers to build much-needed affordable housing.

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That’s exactly what the developer Totem is doing with their proposal at 737 4th Avenue.

Right now the current site is a fast food restaurant in a massive parking lot, located directly on top of a subway station. Without using one cent of public funds, Totem can bring 135 units to the community, with one in four of them being permanently affordable. All they need is to extend the current residential zoning adjacent to the site one block south.

This project team spent eighteen months meeting with local leaders, residents and stakeholders, holding more than 50 meetings, to hear the most pressing concerns in the community. They delivered a number of requests the community asked for, including eliminating studio apartments to create more family-sized units, adding green infrastructure like green roofs and bioswales, and going beyond the City’s housing program to offer units at deeper affordable income levels starting at just $500 per month for households making between $25,000 to $65,000 per year.

It seems that for some “development” has become a bad word. Anything new gets equated to the word “luxury.” But this isn’t a luxury building. This building is designed for working class and middle income residents already in the neighborhood.

This project certainly won’t solve the entire housing crisis in Sunset Park, but it is a step toward providing much-needed housing, including homes low-income families of this community can actually afford. In addition to providing more housing, this project will also provide 12,000 square feet of ground floor neighborhood retail space, permanent good-paying union jobs for local residents, an easement for a new ADA accessible entrance to the 25th Street subway station, and more.

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The housing crisis has been growing for decades. And Sunset Park can’t afford to turn down thoughtful, inclusive plans like this that are helpful in addressing community needs. All that is needed now is for neighborhood leaders, including Community Board 7 and Council Member Carlos Menchaca, to approve this rezoning.


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