Newsworthy Articles

News and Media Update March 25, 2024

Affordable Housing

On March 22nd, Mayor Adams unveiled additional details in the “City of Yes for Housing Opportunity” proposal to tackle the housing crisis through developing more affordable housing by faith-based organizations and nonprofits. This plan involves updating zoning laws to allow houses of faith and organizations to build new housing on their properties or convert existing buildings into housing units. “The City of Yes for Housing Opportunity” will also expand the Landmarks Transferable Development Rights program, which allows landmarked buildings to transfer their unused development rights to neighboring sites, increasing housing options. 

“Today, we are saying ‘yes in God’s backyard,’ and enabling faith-based organizations and nonprofits to convert old convents, school buildings, and other properties into desperately-needed housing. Faith leaders remain on the frontlines of countless issues and now they will play an even more active role in building more housing and reclaiming our city for working-class New Yorkers. This is a fight for the soul of our city. So it’s fitting to engage so many leaders who not only understand our housing crisis, but stand ready to help solve it.” – Mayor Adams

The proposal will enter public review soon and is expected to be voted on by the City Council by the end of the year.

Part of ‘City of Yes’ Proposal to Modernize Outdated Zoning Laws, Initiative Makes it Easier for Faith- Based Organizations to Deliver Critically-Needed Affordable Housing. Photo from NYCGov

In January Mayor Adams launched “24 in 24,” a plan to advance 24 affordable housing projects on public sites in 2024 that will ultimately create or preserve over 12,000 units of housing through partnerships across HPD, NYCEDC, and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), among other agencies.

As part of this initiative, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Harlem African Burial Ground Initiative (HABGI) have chosen Bridge Philanthropic Consulting (BPC) as the lead consultant for educating and engaging the community about the historic Harlem African Burial Ground. BPC will work with Harlem Cultural Archives and NYCEDC to organize community events, create multimedia content, develop curriculums for students, and host public workshops to raise awareness about the burial ground's significance. 

The archaeology team and the Harlem African Burial Ground Initiative after NYCEDC's community town hall in September 2023. Photo from NYCEDC 

Community-Based Initiatives 

New York City Comptroller Brad Lander and Islamic Relief USA have teamed up with seven local organizations to provide Iftar meals to families in need during Ramadan. The initiative, called "Iftar on the Go," will distribute over 8,500 boxed dinners on a first-come-first-serve basis across the five boroughs. The partnership aims to support communities and deliver healthy meals to beneficiaries through weekly events in different boroughs throughout Ramadan.

At St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Endicott, New York, volunteers have been making sleeping bags for homeless individuals in Broome County since 2017. Led by coordinator Deborah Wirag, the volunteers meet monthly to create the sleeping bags using donated materials like sheets, blankets, and quilts. Despite challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ministry has resumed its activities and has donated about 50 sleeping bags to shelters and agencies. The Rev. John Martinichio describes the effort as a "labor of love" that not only supports the homeless but also gives volunteers a sense of purpose and community engagement.

Volunteers at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Endicott, New York, meet the second Thursday of every month to make sleeping bags for people who are homeless across Broome County. Photo: Courtesy of Deborah Wirag

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints collaborated with the interfaith community in the New York metro area for the 2023 Light the World initiative. They worked on 66 projects with 65 different organizations and faiths, including Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, and more. These projects aimed to bless children and families in need during the Christmas season by providing winter clothing, food, educational materials, supplies for new/single mothers, and toys/gifts. The initiative surpassed its goal by reaching close to 60,000 families, children, and individuals in the New York area and beyond. 

Real Estate and Development Projects 

Imminent closures are looming over thousands of churches across America due to declining attendance and changes in how people practice religion. While 100,000 church closures may be an estimate, the impact is significant, as church buildings play vital roles in communities beyond religious services, hosting various social activities and services. Rev. Mark Elsdon, co-founder of RootedGood, emphasizes the need for churches to adapt and repurpose their buildings, considering options like affordable housing, community centers, entrepreneurship hubs, and health care partnerships. He encourages starting with small projects to spark innovation and address the challenges of church closures, which he sees as a major issue facing American Christianity in the coming decades.

An abandoned evangelical church in Houston, Texas. (Video screengrab)

In Waterbury, Connecticut plans are in progress to convert the former Sacred Heart Parish property into a multi-purpose campus to assist individuals re-entering society after incarceration and those experiencing homelessness. The Board of Aldermen approved the purchase of the property, with plans to lease the rectory and convent for halfway houses, revamp the church building as a homeless facility, and use the school building as a re-entry center. The city is currently working to close the purchase with the Archdiocese of Hartford and plans to buy the property for $950,000 using American Rescue Plan funds.

A church in Williamsburg, originally built as a German Evangelical Mission Church and later used as a synagogue, is set to be demolished and replaced by two four-story apartment buildings. The church, located at 157 Leonard Street, was sold for $4 million in February to 157 Leonard Street LLC, with plans for one building to have seven units and the other eight. 

Two Apartment Buildings to Replace Petite 19th Century Church on Williamsburg Corner. Photos by Susan De Vries

The Chevra Anshei Lubawitz synagogue in Brooklyn's Borough Park neighborhood is being demolished amidst questions and controversy. The synagogue, built in 1907, closed in 2017 due to maintenance expenses. The demolition, which began after years of legal challenges, has drawn criticism for the demolition starting prematurely and without proper adherence to Jewish law. The new owner plans to construct a building with space for religious worship on the lower floors and apartments above. 

Chevra Anshei Lubawitz of Borough Park, N.Y., June 2017. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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