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City Council unanimously approves proposed development 737 Fourth Ave. in Sunset Park

Mixed-use affordable housing project in Sunset Park is accompanied by precedent-setting Community Benefits Agreement

April 23, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff

On Thursday, the New York City Council approved the rezoning for the proposed 737 Fourth Avenue project in Sunset Park by Totem, a real estate developer specializing in community-driven projects. The proposed project includes development of 134 residential units, 1 in 4 of which will be permanently affordable at an average of 46% of area median income (AMI), or between $40,960 and $51,200 for a family of three. The project also includes ground-floor retail, publicly-accessible car and bike parking including a new concept for indoor bike storage with preference for delivery workers who live in Sunset Park, transit accessibility, and an environmentally-centric building design.

Linked to this approval is a first-of-its-kind Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) to ensure lasting benefits for the community, including affordable housing, jobs and infrastructure improvements for the neighborhood. Unlike previous CBAs, which are normally stand-alone agreements, this CBA was signed by Totem, along with local community-based organizations including Fifth Avenue CommitteeBrooklyn Workforce InnovationsSouthwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation and Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow as part of the ULURP process. Following approvals by Community Board 7, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and the City Planning Commission, this CBA was formally announced at a City Council hearing held on February 23rd.

“We are thrilled by the City Council’s decision to approve the rezoning of this land for residential use. We have held conversations and discussions with the community over the past year and are confident that 737 Fourth Avenue will bring much-needed benefits to Sunset Park,” said Vivian Liao, Co-Founder, and Principal at Totem. “With the help of the community, we have specifically designed 737 Fourth Avenue to bring housing, transit accessibility, green design, and jobs to the neighborhood, while also setting a precedent for future inclusionary zoning with the CBA.”

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Rents at 737 Fourth will be set at nearly 30% less rent than the standard Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Option 1 program citywide. This project takes an average of 60% of AMI down to approximately 46% AMI, with approximately 40% of the affordable units at 30% of AMI, meaning individuals making $15 an hour would qualify. This is one of the lowest AMI averages achieved in the last five years in Brooklyn.

“Fifth Avenue Committee has been a leading voice for housing advocacy across Sunset Park, which has been experiencing one of the worst housing shortages in New York City. Sunset Park is in desperate need of more housing, and this project at 737 Fourth Ave will bring exactly that to the neighborhood, including critically needed deeply and permanently affordable housing,” said FAC Executive Director, Michelle de la Uz. “We’re thrilled to be working with Totem on such a groundbreaking and collaborative project that truly puts the needs of the community at the forefront, as described in the Community Benefits Agreement.

This piece of land also sits above the subway system at 25th Street in Sunset Park, which does not have easy access for the public. Included in the CBA is the promise for an easement to allow the MTA to build an elevator to provide access to the station.

In addition to this, the project will enhance the transit accessibility to extend to bike riders, with publicly-accessible bike parking to be installed by the Brooklyn-based startup, Oonee. In partnership with Councilmember Menchaca’s office, a portion of these bike spaces will be available to Sunset Park delivery workers, helping to support these essential workers.

Details from the Community Benefits Agreement include:

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Housing Commitments

  • 33 units at an average of 46% of AMI without government subsidy
  • 40%of the affordable units going to household making 30% AMI
  • Removal of studios from housing mix
  • Outreach program targeting Sunset Park residents in the diverse major languages in Sunset Park

Job Commitments

  • Neighborhood-scale retail with about900 sf pop-up incubator space
  • 35% local hiring and local and MWBE Contracting/32BJ Agreement

Community Infrastructure Commitments

  • MTA easement for 25th Street accessibility
  • First-of-its-kind secure bike parking facility
  • Letter of commitment to not flip development to homeless shelter
  • Green infrastructure including bioswales in sidewalk and green roof

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