New East New York Development to Renovate Shelter and Create Affordable Housing

Rendering of 515 Blake Avenue Project/Image Credit: HPD, HELP USA, Curtis + Ginsberg Architects, and City Planning

The new development proposes services for both residents and the greater East New York community. On October 16, 2019, the City Planning Commission voted to approve a land use application to develop four mixed-use buildings in East New York, Brooklyn. The lot is bounded by Sutter Avenue to the north, Blake Avenue to the south, Snediker Avenue to the west, and Hinsdale Street to the east. To facilitate the new 387,100 square feet development, the applicants would demolish the existing three-story homeless shelter at 515 Blake Avenue. The project will redevelop the shelter and bring affordable housing, community facilities, and retail. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development, HELP USA, a national non-profit focused on providing shelters, Department of Homeless Services, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, and Curtis + Ginsberg Architects are the applicant team.

Aerial View Floor Plan of Proposed Project/Image Credit: HPD, HELP USA, Curtis + Ginsberg Architects, and City Planning

The new nine-story shelter would run along Sutter Avenue and have approximately 195 units. There would be two entrances on the west and east ends of the block, with retail space located in between the entrances. There would be confidential interview rooms within the residential section of the shelter for case managers to meet with residents.

An eight-story supportive housing building would face Hinsdale Street and have 71 housing units with on-site social services and space for youth programming.

There would be two affordable housing buildings. One would be a six-story building south of the supportive housing building fronting Hinsdale Street. The second would be a six-story building fronting Snediker Avenue but the southern end fronting Blake Avenue would rise to ten-stories.

Both buildings would bring 255 housing units, with 77 units reserved for the formally homeless and the rest for households in the 30 to 80 percent Area Median Income range. The Snediker building will have ground floor retail space.

The four buildings would be located along the perimeter of the lot, leaving the center for 26,000 square feet of open space. The open space would be divided by a wall, with 7,000 square feet of the space reserved for shelter residents and the rest for residents of the other buildings. The shelter facility would have a daycare and computer training room open for shelter residents, affordable housing residents, and the East New York community.

To facilitate the project, the applicant proposes four land use actions. The first is the disposition of City-owned property in order to develop the lot and an Urban Development Action Area designation and project approval request which would provide a property tax exemption for the project. The second is a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing designation to provide affordable housing. The third and fourth actions are to rezone the area to allow for taller buildings and to modify current bulk regulations on the site, which would better support the large scale development of the project.

Brooklyn Community Board 5 has not taken a vote on the application. In a response to a question about the Board’s thoughts on the application, Community Board District Manager, Melinda Perkins, told CityLand that the Board was generally against replacing new shelter units and would rather have 100 percent permanent affordable housing.

On September 10, 2019, Brooklyn Borough President, Eric L. Adams, approved the application with modifications. Borough President Adams’s recommendations include preference for Brooklyn Community Districts 5 and 16 residents in the shelter and housing units and increase the affordability of units.

On September 11, 2019, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing on the application. Erin Buchanan of HPD, Dr. Tom Hameline and David Cleghorn of HELP USA, and Mark Ginsberg of Curtis + Ginsberg Architects presented the application.

At the public hearing, Vice Chair Kenneth J. Knuckles asked about the relocation of current shelter residents during construction. Hameline explained that the shelter would be vacated over a period of three to four months and HELP USA aims to move as many families into permanent housing during this period. Families who cannot find permanent housing will be moved into other Homeless Services shelters that are close to family, a child’s current school, or other needs.

Commissioner Larisa Ortiz had concerns about the location of the Sutter Avenue retail space. She stated that the retail space’s location in the middle of the block would decrease visibility and marketability. Hameline explained that the location was to create two separate lobbies for the shelter in order to decrease lobby traffic during rush hour and prevent potential conflicts for the residents’ safety.

In response to Commissioner Orlando Marín’s question on the shelter units’ layouts, Hameline explained that each unit would have its own private kitchen, bathroom, sleeping spaces, and a door that locks.

Chair Marisa Lago was interested in the open space division between shelter and affordable housing residents. Hameline explained that the division has two purposes. The first is that shelter regulations require staff to keep track of when residents enter and exit the building. The second is for the shelter residents’ safety from potential abusers or threats coming into the space.

On October 16, 2019, City Planning unanimously voted to approve the application.

The City Council will hold a hearing on the application at a later date.


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

2 thoughts on “New East New York Development to Renovate Shelter and Create Affordable Housing

  1. Is there going to be a parking lot for residents. This new development is going to cause a hardship for owners on the block who don’t have a driveway.

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