Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Shaun Donovan and New York State Assembly Housing Committee Chairman Vito J. Lopez today announced that City service providers will go door-to-door to provide residents with housing and healthcare services to improve the quality of housing in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The Bushwick Initiative is a pilot program that will preserve residential housing, plan for appropriate development of remaining vacant land, and stimulate commercial development in a 23-square block area adjacent to Maria Hernandez Park in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Over the next two years, HPD and the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizen's Council, a local not-for-profit social services and housing development agency, will work with community residents, building owners, local organizations, the Police Department, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Department of Small Business Services to improve the quality of existing housing, combat housing-based drug activities, and attract private investment in the area.
"Preserving and improving our supply of housing and ensuring that Bushwick and all our neighborhoods are safe places to live, work, play, and shop is critical to the economic health of our City," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Assemblyman Lopez understands that connection. Two years ago I announced the Administration's housing plan to finance the preservation and creation of homes and apartments for over 200,000 New Yorkers through 2008. We're on track to meet our five-year goal. Assemblyman Lopez has been a valued partner in our efforts; his leadership on affordable housing in the state legislature continues to be key to the success of our housing plan."
"Preserving housing means ensuring that multi-family buildings are properly maintained by both enforcing the City's Housing Maintenance Code and helping landlords get financing for needed repairs and upgrades," said HPD Commissioner Shaun Donovan. "It also means protecting property owners from predatory lending, which robs them of their future financial security. Through the Bushwick Initiative, we want to make tangible improvements in the quality of life, housing conditions and neighborhood services."
"The Bushwick Initiative is essential for the future of our neighborhood," said Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez. "This unique collaboration will allow for the preservation and revitalization of one of the poorest areas of both Bushwick and the City as a whole. I look forward to working with this administration and the community residents and leaders to ensure that Bushwick is a safe, vibrant and affordable place for families to live."
Overall, housing conditions have improved Citywide, but in Bushwick the improvements in conditions, while noticeable, have lagged behind those in many other neighborhoods. HPD chose Bushwick for this two-year initiative because of its high level of need. HPD recently completed a comprehensive survey and analysis of 864 buildings and 91 vacant lots in the 23-square block area bordered by Central Avenue on the west, George Street and Flushing Avenue on the north, Irving Avenue on the east and DeKalb Avenue on the south. About 768 of the buildings contain residential units. During this survey, HPD staff looked for objective indicators of "troubled properties," including physical indicators, high violation counts, outstanding emergency repair charges and unpaid property taxes. Now that the properties have been identified, HPD and Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council have begun outreach to both tenants and owners in the target area. This is the first time in HPD's history that it will be going door-to-door in a target area with its partners in order to blanket the area with information about the City's programs and services.
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will be providing funds to HPD for lead abatement efforts. DOHMH will also map out high-risk buildings by using contact info for previously confirmed cases of elevated blood lead levels in children.
"The City has made tremendous progress in reducing childhood lead poisoning, especially in high-risk communities," said Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH. "Citywide, there has been an 82% decline in childhood lead poisoning cases over the past decade. To make further progress, the Health Department will focus its efforts on buildings where children with elevated blood lead levels have been identified. In Bushwick, the Health Department will coordinate its lead-reduction efforts through its Brooklyn District Public Health Office, and we look forward to working with community partners toward a lead-safe environment for all children in New York City."
To broaden outreach efforts, information about HPD's programs and services - including lead abatement - is now available in English and Spanish at the Brooklyn Public Library's Bushwick branches; DeKalb at 790 Bushwick Avenue, Bushwick at 340 Bushwick Avenue, and Washington Irving at 360 Irving Avenue. In addition to this literature, HPD also presented each the these libraries with eleven housing-related books including The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs and My House, Mi Casa by Rebecca Emberley. HPD and Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizen's Council held the agency's first bi-lingual "Owners' Night" in September 2004, where information about HPD programs and services was presented in both English and Spanish.
Since 1987, HPD has created and preserved 4,286 homes and apartments in Community Board 4 (Bushwick). HPD is currently sponsoring the creation of Rheingold Gardens, a large mixed-use development less than a mile away from the target area. This is the first major re-development of a formerly City-owned industrial site to create a new residential neighborhood. Phase I creates two- and three-family homes and condominiums totaling 156 units and two rental buildings totaling 155 apartments. This development highlights key strategies of the Administration's $3 billion housing plan: increasing homeownership and using former industrial land for housing.