East Brooklyn Congregations is in the middle of building 1525 affordable Nehemiah homes and apartments in the Spring Creek section of East New York. When this is finished EBC leaders will have built 5,408 homes in Brownsville and East New York. South Bronx leaders built 1000 affordable Nehemiah homes.
All homeowners are first time homeowners and the Nehemiah developments in East Brooklyn and the South Bronx have created an estimated $1 billion in wealth. In addition, less than a dozen of the thousands of the original homeowners that bought Nehemiah homes ended up in foreclosure, as reported by the NY Times in a "Sea of Foreclosures, an Island of Calm.”
The EBC and South Bronx Churches’ efforts did not emerge out of some grand plan. It resulted from a series of 100 house meetings involving close to 2,000 residents in East Brooklyn. A number of local issues emerged out of those house meetings, as well as scores of new leaders. One of the first issues was the demolition of 300 derelict buildings, long past the point of where they could be rehabilitated. Over a year’s time, as EBC leaders successfully pressed for that demolition, new land opened up and EBC leaders began to fight for affordable housing.
The Nehemiah action was built on the basics of power – organized people and organized money. Early on, EBC and SBC had a very deep base in the community – able to draw 3,000, 5,000 and up to 8,000 people to major actions or assemblies.
In Brooklyn, we were joined by the late Bishop Francis J. Mugavero, and the leaders of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. Together, with the plans developed by I.D. Robbins, Nehemiah’s first general manager, and the strong support of the NY Daily News, EBC successfully pushed Mayor Ed Koch and subsequent mayors to provide free land, infrastructure and subsidies. The success of Nehemiah caused a massive rebuilding of Brownsville and East New York, which continues today. That success was replicated in the South Bronx beginning in 1987.
New Affordable Apartments
In addition to creating opportunities for home ownership, EBC leaders have partnered with Community Preservation Corporation (CPC) and Common Ground to build or rehabilitate rental units in Bushwick, Bedford Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Ocean Hill and East New York.
Most recently, EBC partnered with CPC to build a 48-unit affordable housing apartment development in East New York, a 104-unit affordable housing apartment development in Brownsville, and a 47-unit affordable housing apartment development on the border of Bed Stuy and Bushwick. EBC also partnered with Common Ground to build a 72-unit affordable housing apartment development in Ocean Hill for seniors, named after long time EBC leader Irving Domenech, and a 161-unit affordable housing apartment development in Brownsville. In total, EBC leaders and our partners have helped build or rehabilitate 898 rental units in Brooklyn.
Affordable Housing Preservation
EBC tenant leaders have successfully organized to improve conditions at the 550-unit Riverdale Osborne Towers complex in Brownsville. The elevators, which hadn’t worked for a decade, all got repaired. Hundreds of tenants received new refrigerators, stoves, kitchen cabinets and other major repairs. New play yards were created for children in the courtyard.
TODD MAISEL / DAILY NEWS
In addition, safety for tenants has dramatically improved in Riverdale Osborne Towers since the creation of a security office, and regular maintenance and repair to the lighting in the common areas. Challenges remain but they are finally being addressed.
SBC and Manhattan Together leaders have organized teams of tenants in more than 50 buildings to make similar improvements.