They’re building on a prayer.
Faith leaders from a Fort Greene congregation on Nov. 9 revealed their plan to erect a new 13-story building of so-called affordable housing on S. Portland Avenue, which supports the church’s charitable work in the nabe, said a rep for the developer working with the house of worship.
“They are not doing this to make money, they are providing housing for the neighborhood,” said Michael Rooney, a project manager with MDG Design and Construction. “The church knows, and I know, that God is in control of all things, and they’ve been praying about what’s best.”
Leaders of the Hanson Place Seventh-day Adventist Church told locals they want to raze the organization’s old three-story community center at 142–150 S. Portland Ave. between Hanson and S. Elliott places — which currently houses a soup kitchen as well as youth-mentoring and women’s programs — to make way for a 135-foot residential building with a new ground-floor space for locals to gather and a below-ground medical facility.
But because the area’s current zoning laws prohibit buildings from breaching nine stories, the city must first upzone a swath of land generally bounded by S. Portland Avenue, Hanson Place, and S. Elliot Place — which contains the development site and other lots — in order to allow construction of up-to-14-story high-rises.
The change would also give developers a free pass to build commercial storefronts on the first floor of Hanson Place buildings within the re-zoned area, according to an attorney who specializes in zoning law.
“It would allow them to have a ground floor bakery, restaurant, a retail store,” said Richard Lobel, who is representing the church.
The new tower would offer 100 apartments through the city’s housing lottery that are divided into three income-based affordability tiers. Twenty-five units would be priced at 60 percent of the area’s median income — around $48,676 according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau — another 25 would be offered at 100 percent, and the last 50 would be at 130 percent.
Potential renters making roughly $30,000 could apply for a $761-per-month studio at the lowest tier, while individuals making roughly $72,000 could move into a $1,807-per-month studio at the highest.
Church officials also want to provide eight units of Section 8 housing — apartments for low-income people that are partially paid for with government-issued subsidies, according to Rooney.
But a handful of locals demanded the clergy and developers go back to the drawing board, claiming most of the units are merely market-rate housing in sheep’s clothing.
“It’s not affordable, you’re disguising the fact,” said Fort Greener Sandy Reiburn.
Other residents applauded the proposal, however, citing the need for cheaper residences in a nabe where skyrocketing rents continue to displace long-time residents.
“Despite these number games I’m hearing, that is 100 percent affordable by today’s standards,” said S. Eric Blackwell. “I am with this project as long as it continues to reflect our local needs.”
Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee will review the proposal at a to-be-determined public hearing that kicks off the first stage of the project’s full Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. The full board will then vote on it, followed by the borough president, the Department of City Planning, Council, and finally Mayor DeBlasio.
©2017 Community News Group
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