The New York City Real Estate Investment Cooperative—a group of over 400 individuals looking to secure permanently affordable space for civic, cultural, and cooperative uses—held it’s July member meeting on the 27th at the Brooklyn Public Library. The packed room first heard from 596 Acres about different pathways to community land access, and then heard from New York residents looking for support on real estate projects, including the preservation of a historic church and strong community programming in Brownsville as well as affordable housing in Inwood.
There are many different pathways to community land access, including but not limited to: city owned land, land stewarded via a lease to trusty non-profit that leases it from the city, community land owned by an absentee owner, or eminent domain for good. In exploring this different modes of ownership, 596 acres’ Mara Kravitz offered examples of land in the city that has become publicly accessible through these means (like the Maple Street Community Garden or El Jardin del Paraiso) while also answering different questions from the membership. Fortunately, thanks to a play the REIC steering committee put on to educate the membership about the goals and criteria of the REIC, everybody was on the same page.
After this, the meeting gave space for three presentations from folks in the city who were looking to use space for public good in their neighborhoods. A representative from Inwood came to discuss de Blasio’s rezoning plan, which would lead to accelerated displacement of longtime neighborhood residents. The city wants to take over the public library, building cond0-style housing on top, most of which would not be truly affordable. Libraries represent the last true commons left in New York, and alongside affordable housing for low income residents are well-worth preserving. The group is looking primarily for lawyers and people with financial expertise, but any offers of support can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next presentation was from Isabahlia Ladies of Elegance Foundation, which focuses on strengthening the families in Brownsville through an emphasis on youth in areas of socialization, cultural pride, home economics, and arts and etiquette programs. They strive to keep youth out of the system and rehabilitate those who have been through it. ILEF offers crucial services, like free books and reading support, a farmers market supported by 6 community farms, free adult computer training, a home Economics program, hands on life skills training, and an arts program. They are asking to transform a vacant warehouse in their neighborhood into a nutrition education. They have identified lands owned by absentee owners and are looking for other people to join the Board of Directors as well, especially fundraisers, architects, development planners, and those able to do outreach to the community.
Last, another representative of Brownsville discussed the Our Lady of Loreto Church—a structural masterpiece and historical landmark—which is currently under siege and being pitted against affordable housing. Brownsville, with a median income of $25,000, is the largest concentration of people with arts and humanities degrees in the city; it is an artistic hub in Brooklyn. By using the church as an arts center, complete with a theater, rehearsal space, artists office, and event rental space, the Brownsville Cultural Coalition would preserve and uplift the powerful culture of the community that lives there.