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Calling Developers: The Mayor Wants You For East New York

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In the first concrete step to create more housing in East New York since the neighborhood's rezoning passed in April, Mayor Bill de Blasio released a call for developers to build as many as 200 affordable housing units at a city-owned vacant lot at Dinsmore Place and Chestnut Street.

Sketch of the Dinsmore and Chestnut project in East New York, Brooklyn

The site being offered is almost 29k SF and has the density to build more than 200 units. The mayor, in a joint announcement with council member Rafael Espinal, Department of Housing Preservation and Development commissioner Vicki Been and Department of City Planning chair Carl Weisbrod, released an RFP calling for developers to submit proposals for the site.

“The city-owned lot at Dinsmore-Chestnut has been vacant for decades: a tragic and all-too familiar symbol of previously unfulfilled promises and a lack of investment in East New York,” Espinal said. "The issuance of an RFP for this major cornerstone of the ENY Plan is a crucial step toward the realization of our goals and the sustained growth of our community."

Dinsmore-Chestnut site

The plot, which the mayor's office says is one of the largest city-owned vacant lots left in the five boroughs, could also support retail and community uses, and any applications "should include open space and environmentally friendly features."

CPEX managing partner Tim King said to expect up to a dozen developers to apply for the rights to develop the site, including the usual suspects that tend to go for jobs like this, names like L+M Development Partners and David Schwartz's Slate Property Group

"The city has a good process in place for picking a winner," King said. "They don’t always look for the top dollar, they look for a track record, a twist with community involvement or residential amenities."

Dinsmore and Chestnut public forum

The city hosted community meetings in June, including the one pictured above, to discuss the site. In total, the vacant lot spans 80k SF, but a majority of that will stay with the city as it builds a 1,000-seat public school and a recreation yard to serve the school and the surrounding community.

At the meetings, community residents said they wanted the maximum possible amount of community housing to be built, along with retail fronting Chestnut Street and a green roof to encourage urban farming. Family-sized units were the most requested type of apartment in the upcoming building, followed by senior housing.

While the RFP and subsequent development will comprise just one-tenth of one percent of the mayor's goal to build 200,000 new units of affordable housing, it's a key part of the East New York Neighborhood Plan's stated goal of putting 1,300 new units of affordable housing in the neighborhood while trying to beat back the tide of gentrification.