By Sandy Eller – VIN News
Over a decade after he first advocated for affordable housing to be built on a parcel of land in Borough Park that had once been used for an abandoned train line, Mayor Bill de Blasio paid a Friday visit to the site where the first phase of a new housing development is finally nearing completion.
It was 2005 when then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the city would rezone a six block area of undeveloped land in Borough Park on 37th Street and would sell the parcel to the Southern Brooklyn Community Organization, a division of Agudath Israel of America Community Services that has been creating affordable housing options in Borough Park, Midwood and Kensington since the late 1970s.
The land, known as the Culver El, had once been part of the Culver Shuttle train line that was shut down in 1975 due to financial considerations according to a 1975 Daily News article appearing on the CulverShuttle.com website. The elevated tracks used by the shuttle which connected the B and the F lines were torn down in 1985 by the Koch administration and the land that once housed the tracks had remained undeveloped since that time.
At the time, two outspoken advocates for the Culver El housing project were then-City Council members Bill de Blasio and Simcha Felder, both of whom were at the new Culver Estates site on 37th Street between 12th and 13th Avenues on Friday, where 36 units housed in nine buildings are nearly ready for occupation.
Seemingly endless snags and red tape had the project stalled for years as previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2y97ef7), making the final stages of construction even sweeter for those who had long been advocating for the housing. The project is the first new development in Borough Park in well over a decade.
“It is almost like waking up and finding out that what you thought was a dream had actually come true,” Felder told VIN News. “This was a rare instance where instead of taxing residents, the government gave back to the community. Good things don’t come easily and what is most impressive is that so many people who were involved in the project kept up and persevered so that this could finally happen.”
The first phase of Culver Estates consists of nine buildings each of which houses four separate units. The three and four bedroom moderately priced units will be available for sale to those meeting certain financial criteria through a lottery, although preference on certain units will be given to disabled individuals as well as those who currently live in the local area.
The housing situation in Borough Park has become unbearable over the years, explained Rabbi Avrohom Jaffe, executive director of the SBCO, who said that many residents have moved out because there are no reasonably priced options available to them.
“The Agudah is cognizant of the fact that the shortage of affordable housing is one of the biggest problems facing young Jewish families,” said Rabbi Jaffe. “Culver Estates is just a small part of what we are working on to further alleviate this problem.”
Rabbi Jaffe hopes to have families moving into Culver Estates in February. There is no firm target date established yet for the second phase of the project will consist of another eight buildings on 37th Street between 13th and 14th Avenues and will create another 32 moderately priced units.