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Photo courtesy of Stephanie Cancel
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Cancel
Protesters gather in front of 358 Grove St. on May 31.

Two blocks away from the Ridgewood border in Bushwick, a controversial development that serves as a constant reminder of the housing crisis for local residents was at the center of attention once again on May 31.

A group of about 50 community members and housing advocates gathered in front of the 14-story luxury condo building at 358 Grove St. to call out its lack of affordable housing and contributions to local segregation.

Organized by Churches United for Fair Housing (CUFFH), the protest served as an introduction to a series the nonprofit plans to carry out in July to expose bad developments throughout the neighborhood.

Stephanie Cancel, a community organizer and youth coordinator for CUFFH involved in the Grove St. protest, told QNS that since the surrounding neighborhood is mostly black and Hispanic, the building is another sign of racial inequality. Those who live inside the building are predominantly white, she said.

Developers are coming into impoverished neighborhoods and it’s continuing to perpetuate racism in our communities,” Cancel said. “You rarely see any black or Latino families in these buildings, and these are the families that get displaced.”

The primary goals of the protest, Cancel added, were to stop racial segregation, advocate for more affordable housing and demand that the city conduct racial impact statements when a new housing development is proposed. Cancel believes that conducting such studies would lead to many more developments getting denied because of their effects on the local population.

Completed in 2007, the Grove St. development was met with protests at that time as well. The building contains 59 condos without any affordable units by city standards, and it received a 421A tax abatement that all but eliminated property taxes on the site. Simply put, it is 10 stories taller than any other structure in sight.

According to a Brownstoner report, only 22 of the condos sold when the building first went on the market, and then the Great Recession hit. The rest of the units were retained by a sponsor and rented out as apartments. As of 2017, those rentals still accounted for 65 percent of the building’s units and that stake in the building was listed for sale.

Cancel believes the majority of the building is currently vacant, and she sites the income level of the surrounding neighborhood as the reason why. According to StreetEasy, the only condo currently for sale is listed at $759,000, and rentals for one-bedroom units typically go for more than $2,000. There are currently no vacant rentals listed.

Meanwhile, the combined median household income in Bushwick North and Ridgewood is $51,552, according to the Department of City Planning. The neighborhoods also have a combined Hispanic population of 57 percent.

While Cancel also pointed out the building’s tax exempt status as problematic, city records do not show 358 Grove St. on the list of 421A exempt properties as of fiscal year 2017-18.

The protest attracted plenty of attention from members of the surrounding community, Cancel said, as well as representatives for Public Advocate Latitia James, Councilman Antonio Reynoso and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. In a statement sent to QNS, Reynoso explained how this all boils down to local residents and said the city needs to be more focused on helping them.

“All New York City residents deserve access to decent affordable housing,” Reynoso said. “Yet in communities like Bushwick, longtime low-income residents are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain this. The development of market rate and luxury housing is driving up real estate prices — leading to resident displacement and degradation of neighborhood character. To make matters worse, many of these buildings receive tax breaks — lending government legitimacy to the adverse effects they have on the community. The city should focus its subsidies on low-income housing, targeting our most vulnerable residents who stand to benefit the most from these programs.”

The CUFFH movement comes on the heels of another nearby group of residents who are fearing displacement from their loft buildings in Bushwick. Going forward, CUFFH will officially launch its summer movement, “Take Back Bushwick,” from July 1 to July 31 — targeting a different development each day of the month.

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FlipoutNYC June 06, 2018 / 12:22PM
What is she talking about. The building is not vacant. They don't have any unit for rent. Land is not cheap in NY and you can't afford it then move to other states.
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