Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced plans to rezone a six-block area that will allow for the creation of several hundred new units of housing in Borough Park, Brooklyn and expand the Hatzolah of Borough Park, an all-volunteer, not-for-profit emergency medical response organization that serves the community. Councilmembers Simcha Felder and Bill De Blasio, Housing Commissioner Shaun Donovan, Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, President of SBCO, a Division of Agudath Israel of America, and Professor Elliot Roseman of Hatzolah of Borough Park attended the announcement at a breakfast with community leaders in Borough Park.
"Today, the City is committing land, a scarce and valuable resource in Borough Park, towards addressing two critical community needs," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Through the sale of land to SBCO and the rezoning of the Culver El, we will create much-needed housing in a community where opportunities for residential development are restricted, as well as enable the expansion of one of Brooklyn's fastest growing communities. To complement this effort, we will also be selling an underutilized lot to Hatzolah of Borough Park, which will allow for the growth and expansion of an organization that has been a vital part of the Borough Park community. I thank Councilmembers Simcha Felder and Bill De Blasio for working closely with the Administration and the local leaders of the Borough Park community to move these important initiatives forward."
Borough Park is a community whose population has grown by 15.6% between 1990 and 2000 while there has only been a 4.5% increase in housing stock. The Culver El, a former right-of-way for the discontinued elevated railway, is a strip of largely undeveloped land running along 37th Street in Borough Park that currently used for parking and storage. To increase the opportunities for housing development in Borough Park, the NYC Department of City Planning (DCP) will rezone the six-block area to allow for future residential growth. The rezoning, which includes two City-owned blocks, will allow for the creation of several hundred residential units. The City has initiated an environmental review for the rezoning; the public review will begin this fall.
In addition to the rezoning, the City will sell the two City-owned blocks to the Southern Brooklyn Community Organization (SBCO), a not-for-profit organization that develops and provides affordable housing in the communities of Borough Park and Kensington. On the City sites, SBCO will develop approximately 80 owner-occupied affordable apartments for families earning 100% of the area median income or below ($62,800 for a family of four). The sale will be initiated by the New York City Department of Housing, Preservation & Development (HPD) as part of the Bloomberg Administration's $3 billion plan to create and preserve more than 65,000 homes and apartments over five years.
"Our community is a community of families, a community where parents, children, and grandchildren often live within walking distance of one another, a community with the highest proportion of both infants and seniors," said Councilmember Felder. "Meeting the unique needs of this community takes a willingness to make bold and inspired decisions. Mayor Bloomberg's solution in working towards addressing two major concerns - housing and health care - is indeed both bold and inspired, and he is to be commended."
"Creating affordable housing and community facilities in this city requires commitment, perseverance, and creativity," said Councilmember De Blasio. "For too long, the City passed up such beneficial development opportunities as this one on the Culver El site. I want to thank and congratulate Mayor Bloomberg and his administration for responding to the needs of this community and working with Councilmember Felder and myself to provide the affordable housing and services we so desperately need. This is a historic step forward for the Borough Park community."
"Locating space to build more affordable housing in Borough Park has been near impossible and many large families have been priced out of the market as there is practically no housing stock left," said Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz of SBCO. "The Culver El has been dormant for over 20 years, and today this Mayor is taking action and responding to the needs of the community. We thank Mayor Bloomberg for addressing the need for affordable housing through the sale of these properties, which will have a lasting positive impact on our community."
"These sites present a unique opportunity for affordable housing development in a community where the demand is great," said Housing Commissioner Donovan. "HPD is pleased to work with the local elected officials and our partner agencies to meet the changing needs of neighborhoods through the adaptive reuse of sites like the Culver El."
At the breakfast, the Mayor also announced the sale of a 5,000 square foot lot along the Culver El at the northeast corner of 37th Street and 14th Avenue to Hatzolah of Borough Park, an all-volunteer, not-for-profit emergency medical responder with 140 volunteers and five ambulances. The organization will construct a 15,000 square foot building to contain a street-level parking garage for its ambulances, emergency training facilities, and administrative offices. The proposed facility will be Hatzolah of Borough Park's second, allowing the organization to expand training, increase and diversify vehicle dispatch points and improve response times. The project will be funded entirely by private funds raised by Hatzolah of Borough Park. The sale of the lot will be done through the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
"This is a great day for Borough Park Hatzolah," said Professor Elliot Roseman, Coordinator of Hatzolah of Borough Park. "Purchasing this land will allow us to expand our capacity to serve Borough Park and the surrounding communities. We thank Mayor Bloomberg for giving us the opportunity and we can assure him that his commitment will benefit our communities for years to come."
Founded in 1988, Hatzolah of Borough Park provides critical services, free-of-charge, in Borough Park and the surrounding neighborhoods, working closely with the New York City Fire Department. The organization has a daytime response time of under 4 minutes and a nighttime response time of 7-8 minutes, and operates with no Federal, State, or City government aid. Coordinating with local precincts and individual hospitals, Hatzolah of Borough Park fills an important niche by providing EMT staff and paramedics that speak Yiddish. In 2003, Hatzolah of Borough Park responded to more than 25,000 emergencies within its Brooklyn service area. The organization is an unaffiliated offshoot of the Chevra Hatzolah of New York, which is the largest volunteer ambulance service in the United States, with almost 1,000 New York State-certified emergency medical technicians and paramedics.