Newsworthy Articles

News and Media Update February 17, 2023

NYC Housing Target

Recent development trends in converting houses of faith is fueled by the increasing need for housing and accompanying commercial amenities. Governor Kathy Hochul pushed for increasing housing stock, but is now facing harsh pushback as many NYC neighborhoods failed to meet the growth target. Gov. Hochul’s proposal mandated NYC and its surrounding suburbs to increase the housing stock by 3 percent every three years, but a study from the NYU Furman Center hints at possible difficulty in meeting these targets based on the rate of permit issuance across community districts. As NYC government strategizes to meet this proposed threshold - such as permitting bigger buildings if developers include more affordable housing - houses of faith may expect greater waves of development coming their way.

Maps of housing permit issuance rates across the city’s 59 community districts between 2011 and 2019. Image from NYU's Furman Center via Politico.

Real Estate Development & Community Relations

Meanwhile, a group of faith leaders gathered in a rally at the Recovery House of Worship in the Boerum Hill area of Brooklyn to urge Gov. Hochul to support legislation aimed at protecting tenant rights. With others, including NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, the congregations called on the Gov. Hochul to support legislations like Good Cause Eviction and Housing Access Voucher Program that make evictions harder and provide housing subsidies to the unhoused or lowest-income populations.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams (center), City Council Member Crystal Hudson left, at rally for tenant protections at Recovery House of Worship in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn. Photo by Ethan Stark-Miller.

Though the rally around tenant rights and housing signal strong signs of cooperation between houses of faith and their communities, not all relationships have been so friendly. Bronx Community Board 1 Chair claimed that a plan to demolish La Resurrección United Methodist Church and build housing for veterans was proceeded without the Community Board's knowledge. Conflicting accounts have been exchanged at a recent board meeting, putting into question how community boards and residents are informed in development and real estate processes.

Complications like this are happening in other cities as well. A group of residents living near the proposed site of a synagogue in Brighton, MA filed a suit to block the construction. The residents cited potential issues related to close proximity to residential homes, drainage problems, noise from HVAC roofing systems, and snow removal as the major problem and also complained that they were ignored throughout the approval process by the Zoning Board of Appeals. The synagogue's legal representative stated that it would not be renting the building for large gatherings, but neighbors remain skeptical and are proceeding with the suit.

While stories like these show how challenging the development process could be among developers, houses of worship, and their surrounding communities, the legacy of Rossville AME Zion Church in Sandy Ground points toward some hopeful signs. From its inception when free African Americans established their own community (then known as Harrisville and Little Africa), to present-day when it’s withstanding the impact of the pandemic, Rossville has been at the center of the Sandy Ground community for nearly two centuries. The church recently secured a grant from the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to repair its two cottages, and its embodiment of community resilience will continue through the future.

Rossville AME Zion Church, seen here circa 1908, was constructed by Tottenville builder-developer Andrew Abrams in 1897. Photo via  

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