Council Subcommittee Approves Hotel Building Conversion in DUMBO

90 Sands Street Building/Image Credit: Breaking Ground/CPC

The building conversion will bring 508 supportive and affordable residential units to DUMBO. On March 13, 2020, the City Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises approved an application to facilitate the conversion of a 29-story former hotel building at 90 Sands Street. The building would be converted into a mixed-use residential use and community facility building with a future possibility for commercial use. To facilitate the conversion, the applicant, Breaking Ground, is proposing to rezone Brooklyn Block 87, which comprises of 90 Sands Street and 175 Pearl Street, from a manufacturing zoning district to a special mixed-use district that allows residential use and to designate the block as a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing area. Brooklyn Block 87 is bounded by High Street to the north, Sands Street to the south, Jay Street to the east, and Pearl Street to the west. For CityLand’s prior coverage on the application, click here.

Breaking Ground plans to convert 90 Sands Street into a supportive and affordable housing development, with community facilities and commercial space. They plan to convert the building’s existing hotel rooms into 508 apartment units, with 415 studios and 93 one-bedroom units. The building will have 305 supportive housing units for the formerly homeless, 202 affordable housing units, and one superintendent’s unit. The affordable units will be targeted to households making 30 percent AMI to 100 percent AMI or approximately $25,620 to $85,400 for a two-person household. The rents would range from $504 a month for a studio at 30 percent AMI to $2,000 a month for a one-bedroom at 100 percent AMI.

The building will also have a total of approximately 30,000 square feet of commercial or community facility space on part of the ground floor and two cellar levels. The community services, which include case management services, primary medical care, and employment assistance, will be available to all building residents. Breaking Ground also plans to renovate the building’s 7,672 square foot plaza to make it more accessible to the public. The plaza is currently surrounded by a fence and masonry wall. Breaking Ground plans to remove part of the fence and wall to create publically accessible open space.

On February 26, 2020, the City Council Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee held a public hearing on the application. At the hearing, David Beer, Breaking Ground’s Vice President, stated that he anticipates the conversion to begin in July 2020 and construction to complete within 14 months. He notes that converting an existing building into supportive housing takes less time than new construction for supportive housing. Beer stated that new construction for supportive housing typically takes about 26 months.

Local Council Member Stephen Levin asked the applicants why they chose to set aside the affordable units for households in the 30 percent AMI to 100 percent AMI income bands. Beer stated that originally the affordable units were set aside for households making an income of 60 percent AMI to 100 percent AMI. However, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams recommended that the affordable units should be targeted to low-income seniors because there is a need for affordable senior housing. Beer stated that, based on the recommendation, the applicants lowered the AMI levels to include 30 percent and 40 percent AMI to attract more low-income seniors.

Council Member Levin then asked how the applicants will reach out to seniors to apply for the building’s units. Brendan Rosen stated that the applicants have held meetings, sent flyers to senior centers around the City, and worked with community groups, resident associations, and elected officials to find out the best way to market the units to seniors.

In response to a question about the project’s financing, Beer stated that Breaking Ground purchased 90 Sands Street in August 2018 using funds from the City, the Enterprise Foundation, an organization that provides loans to affordable housing projects, and a sponsored loan made by Breaking Ground. Beer stated that the project’s construction will be funded by 501(c) (3) bonds from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The 501 (c) (3) bonds are given to non-profit organizations to finance new construction or preservation of affordable housing projects.

Council Member Levin believed that the project is a great solution to address the homelessness crisis in the City and stated that he supported the project. He noted that the local community was supportive of the project because the project can quickly create permanent housing to bring people out of dangerous living conditions.

On March 13, 2020, the Subcommittee approved the application. The Council Land Use Committee will vote on the application at a later date.

By: May Vutrapongvatana (May is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2019).

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