The rise of mixed-use redevelopment in America’s cities in recent decades has mostly been a good thing. But “mixed use” is often assumed to mean retail on the ground floor, maybe with offices on the second and third floors and residential above.
But more retail isn’t always what a neighborhood needs most in order to revitalize. In many cities, light manufacturing has traditionally been a major source of well-paid skilled jobs. But too many redevelopers don’t even consider the needs of these “makers”, many of whom run clean, quiet, odor-free operations.
Another problem with most mixed-use redevelopment is that the residential portion is usually market-rate only…ignoring the vitally-important affordable and workforce housing needs of the community.
So, it was good news when, on May 17, 2022, construction began on a $118 million mixed-use, light manufacturing/affordable housing redevelopment in the Brooklyn, New York neighborhood of Brownsville.
“Quality affordable homes and good paying jobs are the foundation for successful and thriving communities, and that is what we are delivering to Brownsville with this important investment,” Governor Kathy Hochul said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “Bridge Rockaway is an innovative collaboration between state and nonprofit partners that will bolster our continued efforts to revitalize Central Brooklyn.”
Known as Bridge Rockaway, the redevelopment will offer 174 affordable apartments, including 87 with supportive services, and 39,000 square feet of ground floor manufacturing space which will be available for lease to light manufacturers.
Representative Yvette D. Clarke said, “New York has witnessed too many needless tragedies occur due to the affordable housing deficit that stifles families and communities, denying them the security of housing all people deserve. Thanks to the dedication of Governor Hochul, we are beginning to fight back against this affordable housing crisis. The Bridge Rockaway Development is a historic and noble investment in revitalizing Brownsville that reflects the great need in the community. Also, I’m proud of the work I championed in Congress to deliver $2.5 million in essential funding for the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center – part of the development team – that will pair well with this larger housing initiative to build up and stabilize the community. It is truly a privilege to witness this development bring my beloved Brooklyn residents’ new homes and jobs, along with the safety and peace of mind that comes with having a home.”
The manufacturing space will be separately owned and operated by Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center, a nonprofit industrial developer, and it is expected to create up to 35 jobs.
The CEO of Greenpoint Manufacturing & Design Center, Brian T. Coleman, said “GMDC is particularly proud of our Brownsville initiative. Not only does this project replicate our decades-old model of creating quality modern facilities for small manufacturers, but it also goes a step further, developing a new model with The Bridge to bring together two disparate uses in a successful manner. We hope that this project will serve as a model for the future as we seek out ways to fulfill our mission in a very expensive and competitive real estate market.”
Bridge Rockaway is part of Governor Hochul’s plans to make housing more affordable, equitable, and stable. In the recently enacted State Budget, the Governor successfully secured a new $25 billion, five-year, comprehensive housing plan that will increase housing supply by creating or preserving 100,000 affordable homes across New York, including 10,000 with support services for vulnerable populations, plus the electrification of an additional 50,000 homes.
The development team consists of The Bridge, Mega Development and Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center.
The Bridge CEO Susan Wiviott said, “The Bridge is pleased to be part of this important project that will, for the first time in New York City, offer affordable and supportive housing for families and formerly homeless adults and affordable light manufacturing spaces for local entrepreneurs. Bridge Rockaway will create new homes, jobs, and green spaces in a safe and healthy environment for those who live, work, and play here.”
The development will consist of two residential towers, one with six floors, and another with seven floors, separated by an 11,000-square-foot garden. All 174 apartments will be affordable to households earning 70 percent of the Area Median Income or less. There is one superintendent unit.
Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Daniel W. Tietz said, “Supportive housing provides targeted assistance for individuals and families that have experienced homelessness to ensure they remain stably housed and can succeed in their community. Once constructed, Bridge Rockaway will offer veterans with disabilities, the elderly, and those suffering from a serious mental illness with the housing and supportive services they need to thrive in a safe, independent setting. With projects like this one in Brooklyn, Governor Hochul continues to demonstrate her commitment to making affordable housing accessible to all New Yorkers, including our most vulnerable neighbors.”
Thirty-five households will have access to on-site supportive services and rental subsidies funded through the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative and administered by the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. These homes will be reserved for seniors and veterans in need of supportive services.
An additional 52 apartments will be reserved for chronically homeless adults. Services for these individuals will be funded through the NYC 15/15 Congregate Supportive Housing Services Program administered by the New York City Human Resources Administration and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. On-site supportive services will be provided by The Bridge.
Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “Bridge Rockaway is a transformative development for the residents and businesses of the Brownsville neighborhood. We are proud to partner with The Bridge, Mega Development and GMDC to provide a brighter and more secure future for 174 families, including permanent supportive housing for 87 homeless adults including seniors and veterans. By pairing the housing development with new light manufacturing jobs, we can leverage our work to help drive economic growth and support local business owners for years to come. Thank you to our many public, private and non-profit partners who have helped us reach today’s milestone.”
Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center will operate a 39,000-square-foot manufacturing space on the building’s ground floor that will provide affordable small scale manufacturing facilities to approximately ten to twelve local businesses. It is expected that the facility will create up to 35 jobs.
Residential amenities will include a ground floor community facility space, a continuously-staffed lobby reception area, and a community garden. Additional residential amenities will be on the second floor including social services offices, a computer room, a community kitchen, a multipurpose room, bicycle room, storage, and laundry facilities.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, “Affordable housing is becoming increasingly hard to find in New York City, and the global pandemic exposed the extent of the housing crisis in this country, hurting our most vulnerable communities. Bridge Rockaway would not only provide much-needed housing for seniors and veterans in need of supportive services, but it would also provide homes for chronically homeless adults. I want to thank Governor Hochul for her efforts in addressing New York City’s housing crunch and finding solutions that help those who have fallen through the cracks.”
State financing for the residential portion includes $11.4 million in permanent tax-exempt bonds, Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits that will generate $46 million equity and $16.9 million in subsidy from New York State Homes and Community Renewal. The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance is providing $6.5 million through the Homeless Housing Assistance Program. The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development is providing $17.1 million in support.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said, “My administration is deeply committed to building homes for our most vulnerable neighbors, and I am proud to have supported this project as borough president and now starting construction as mayor. We are investing millions of dollars to bring much-needed affordable and supportive apartments to this community with critical space for a local nonprofit manufacturer, and we are committed to investing the billions we need across the city to provide the high-quality, affordable housing New Yorkers need and deserve.”
Empire State Development has agreed to support the $11.8 million manufacturing space with a capital grant of up to $1.6 million. The grant was recommended by the New York City Regional Economic Development Council and reflects New York State’s efforts to revitalize and grow New York’s manufacturing sector and support small businesses.
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, “GMDC’s Bridge Rockaway is a transformative development that will create affordable housing and encourage small business manufacturing in Brooklyn. This project will complement the State’s efforts to revitalize areas by building healthy, affordable and vibrant communities, while the small businesses support local supply chains and create jobs that catalyze regional economic growth.”
Public and private leaders voiced their support for the project:
State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud said, “Bridge Rockaway will produce needed affordable units in the Brownsville neighborhood. With half of the 174 units intended for people who have experienced chronic homelessness or live with a disability, these New Yorkers can live with dignity in a supportive environment. I applaud HCR, OTDA and ESD for investing in new housing opportunities in Senate District 19.”
Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso said, “There is possibly no better celebration than marking the beginning of a project that will bring many affordable housing units in Brooklyn, but the Bridge Rockaway development is going an extra step by also incorporating light manufacturing space that will create dozens of jobs. You’ve heard advocates and myself speak about the inter-relatedness of our housing issue with many other urban issues our city faces, one being the lack of access to high-paying jobs. Thank you to Governor Hochul for championing this project.”
New York City Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr. said, “As a part of the Brownsville Plan, HPD engaged the community to understand local needs and priorities, including a desire to connect residents to jobs and job training, coupled with affordable housing investments. Bridge Rockaway does just that. It brings jobs and affordable housing to the Brownsville community. Thanks to our partners at the State, The Bridge, Mega Development, and GMDC for this thoughtful and creative mixed-use affordable housing and manufacturing development model. We look forward to the ribbon cutting celebration!”
New York City Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Andrew Kimball said, “The groundbreaking of Bridge Rockaway supports the City’s continued economic recovery and commitment to providing affordable housing and job opportunities to all New Yorkers. NYCEDC is proud to support the development of this vibrant facility and work with GMDC, The Bridge, and Mega Development to bring more opportunities to Brownsville.”
New York City Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chairs Winston Fisher, Partner at Fisher Brothers, and Dr. Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, City University of New York Chancellor, said, “Bridge Rockaway builds on the Regional Council’s economic development strategy to support projects that create economic opportunity and revitalize the manufacturing sector. The NYCREDC is proud to support Bridge Rockaway, which will provide access to much-needed affordable housing and ensure that small manufacturers are a thriving segment of the New York City economy.”
Vice President of Mega Development and Mega Contracting Group Hercules Argyriou said, “We are thrilled to be part of this pioneering project that we hope provides a new model for affordable housing and economic development. We are very fortunate to have partnered with the Bridge and GMDC to make this concept a reality. We are also grateful to our public partners, particularly at DCP, HPD and HFA, for working with us through all of the complexities of this project. It has been truly a great example of successful public and private collaboration.”
Images courtesy of the Office of the New York Governor.