Respond to Government-Initiated Projects and Plans
Impact Private Development Projects
Create and Defend Community Spaces
Ensure Public Assets Are Used for Public Good
Policymaking Around Structural Inequality and Displacement
Bronx Coalition for a Community Vision Fights City-Initiated Neighborhood Rezoning
|A community forum around a proposed rezoning in the Bronx that drew close to 500 people. CDP is working closely with the coalition that convened the event. Photo credit: Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA).|
Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA) is a membership-driven tenant organizing project that works to protect and maintain affordable and safe housing in the Southwest Bronx. CDP’s Equitable Neighborhoods practice has partnered with CASA on advocacy around the proposed rezoning of Jerome Avenue, which would dramatically change development on over 70 blocks in the Bronx. CASA has been a powerful leader in the Bronx Coalition for a Community Vision, which is working to ensure that the rezoning creates housing that community members can afford, prevents the displacement of low-income residents and small businesses, and generates career-track jobs for community members. Since the rezoning was announced in late 2014, the Coalition has engaged hundreds of residents in the rezoning process through meetings, forums, workshops, rallies, hearings, surveys, visioning sessions, and more. CDP has provided ongoing advice and technical support to CASA and the Coalition, including by conducting research to support the development of the Coalition’s policy platform, supporting the Coalition’s strategic planning and campaign development, and working with the Coalition to develop responses to the City’s plans.
Northwest Bronx Groups Win ‘First Credible Community Benefits Agreement’ in New York City
|Community members in front of the Kingsbridge Armory. Photo credit: Charles Fostrom/RWDSU.|
When the city announced plans to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory in the Northwest Bronx, a coalition of 27 community-based organizations came together to ensure that local residents would benefit from the project. With CDP’s assistance, KARA negotiated a Community Benefits Agreement with the developer of the new Kingsbridge National Ice Center, which is expected to create 260 permanent jobs and 890 construction jobs. The CBA guarantees that hiring preference will be given to Bronx residents, workers will be paid a living wage of at least $10 an hour, and $1 million will be set aside annually in free ice time for local children and community groups. Experts have called the deal the “first credible CBA in the City.”
Key Food Cooperation Agreement: South Brooklyn Groups Win Agreement Preserving Neighborhood Supermarket and Creating New Affordable Housing
In early 2016, residents of Park Slope, Gowanus and Boerum Hill were outraged when they learned that Avery Hall Investments (AHI) had plans to raze a local Key Food supermarket – a large, affordable market that has served the diverse community of South Brooklyn for almost 35 years. Neighbors quickly sprang into action, organizing a forum where hundreds of people voiced concerns about the absence of a supermarket in the planned mix-use development. Local groups leveraged an urban renewal plan that placed restrictions on the use of the Key Food site until 2022 to force AHI to the negotiating table, reminding AHI that any changes to the plan would have to be approved by the City and that the community was prepared to oppose AHI’s plans if needed. CDP worked with the groups for over a year to identify specific concerns about the planned development, come together around shared goals for the project, and negotiate with AHI. Once the local groups and AHI had reached agreement on the major features of the future project, CDP brought in the pro bono law firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley, and McCloy LLP to support the final negotiations and help draft a legally binding agreement to memorialize the deal. In March 2017, ten community groups including the Fifth Avenue Committee, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), and three local NYCHA residents’ associations signed a contract with AHI that will guarantee a lease for a large supermarket at the future development for 20 years and create 40 apartments at below-market rents, including 16 affordable to families of four making $37,000 a year or less. Both AHI and the local groups are optimistic about the future of the site and excited to move forward with a development responsive to the community’s needs.
Brooklyn Speaks – Settlement to Speed Up Creation of Affordable Housing at Atlantic Yards
The Atlantic Yards project near Downtown Brooklyn was approved as a multi-use project: a basketball arena, street-level storefronts, and a significant amount of housing, including thousands of units affordable to low- and middle-income New Yorkers. But two years after the Barclay’s Center opened, not one unit of affordable housing had been built. CDP worked with BrooklynSpeaks, a coalition of community-based organizations and advocacy groups, to prepare a legal challenge after the Empire State Development Corporation approved a modified project plan that had the effect of extending the project's build-out from ten to twenty five years. The coalition argued that the project delay violated the Federal Fair Housing Act because residents near to the project site were guaranteed a preference in the affordable housing lottery – but the rapid displacement of black residents from the area meant that fewer African American people would be eligible every year the project was delayed. The coalition reached a settlement with the project developers and with ESDC that promised delivery of 2,250 affordable apartments by May 2025, ten years earlier than previously agreed.
Brownsville Residents Save Local Farm and Garden
CDP supported the resident-run Green Valley Community Farm in Brownsville when it faced potential displacement to make way for housing that would be marketed towards New Yorkers making more than three times the local average income. CDP attorneys collaborated with organizers from 596 Acres, a citywide community land access advocacy organization and Isahbaliah Ladies of Elegance Foundation to articulate and operationalize the community’s claim to the land as open space held in public trust by the City for its residents. The City capitulated when the community, backed by CDP’s legal team, demonstrated a willingness to sue and the ability to demand proper process for the eviction of the farm and market. At the final hour, the City agreed to transfer the land to the NYC Parks Department for permanent preservation as community-managed open space: a farm and garden!
NYCommons Sheds Light on Public Land and Buildings to Empower Communities
|Community members at a NYCommons workshop in Red Hook, Brooklyn in the fall of 2016.|
CDP is partnering with 596 Acres and Common Cause/NY on NYCommons, a website and set of advocacy tools designed to help New Yorkers impact decisions about public land and buildings in their neighborhoods. Publicly owned land and buildings create important opportunities to create shared community spaces, affordable housing, and more, but too often, these sites are sold or taken out of public control with very little meaningful community input. NYCommons breaks this pattern and gives New York City residents a say in decisions over public assets. In 2016, NYCommons partnered with local groups in three neighborhoods to shed light on the publicly-owned property in these areas and ways community members can influence what happens to these properties. Working with broad, racially diverse coalitions on Staten Island’s North Shore, on the Lower East Side in Manhattan, and in Red Hook, Brooklyn, CDP and its partners hosted workshops that focused on key local sites and empowered community members with information about points of leverage in the development of these sites. The NYCommons events supported and strengthened the organizing of these local coalitions, and in Staten Island, the Parks Department selected a site and released a conceptual design to rebuild a community center that our local partners have strived to realize for years. NYCommons.org is a map of publicly owned assets in New York City, which connects users to information about the specific agency or entity that controls each site and the rules that the agency must follow to sell or lease the asset. By placing this information directly in the hands of impacted community members, NYCommons.org is demystifying the process by which decisions about public assets are made and strengthening local leaders’ ability to ensure that these assets are used for the public good.
Certificate of No Harassment
CDP is working with the Coalition Against Tenant Harassment to advocate for a citywide Certificate of No Harassment (CONH) policy. The policy, modeled after a zoning rule that has been locally effective at stopping harassment in the Special Clinton District in Hell’s Kitchen, seeks to break the profit motive that induces many landlords to engage in illegal tactics to harass and displace their rent-stabilized tenants. The policy would require landlords seeking certain types of permits from the Department of Buildings to first apply for and receive a CONH. Landlords who engage in harassment will not be able to receive permits to demolish or renovate their buildings – unless they agree to set aside some apartments as permanently affordable housing. By providing a stiff penalty for harassment, a citywide CONH policy would help deter landlords from engaging in harassment tactics and create new affordable housing where such harassment had occurred.
Tax Lien Sale
Not-for-profit corporations hold property in service of their missions: they own buildings that house day cares and mosques, arts organizations and churches, food pantries and theaters; they own land for community gardens, playgrounds and farms. State Law is clear that they are all entitled to property tax exemptions from the date they purchase the property. But New York City’s taxation system puts community property at risk: when such organizations do not apply for and annually renew the tax exemptions they are entitled to get from the City under New York State law, the City sells the accumulated debt to private entities for collection and potential foreclosure.
CDP partnered with 596 Acres, the Department of Finance Office of the Taxpayer Advocate and students in the Fordham Law School Community Economic Development Project to reach out to organizations at risk, resolve individual issues and make crucial referrals, educate community members, elected advocates and clergy, and propose policy change that will unequivocally remove all community properties from the lien sale. Our work has educated thousands of people, preserved gardens, gotten refunds of taxes that should never have been paid for community centers, saved a Black veterans’ organization from foreclosure and kept dozens of properties out of the 2017 Lien Sale.
With our partners, we created Protecting Our Places, a primer that includes information about which community properties are currently at risk, how to address the problems, how to apply for property tax exemptions for not-for-profits each year, and what to do if a property has a tax lien or goes into foreclosure.