EBC has completed construction of the first two phases of 1,525 units of new Nehemiah owner-occupied homes in the Spring Creek section of East New York. More than 341 families have already moved into their homes. Further construction on the third phase will begin shortly.
The overall Spring Creek site will become a brand new Brooklyn community. In addition to the 1,525 Nehemiah units (consisting of single-family, two-family, and three-family homes, and eight unit apartments), there will be three parks, a supermarket, and an EMS station. The brand new Spring Creek Educational Campus opened in September, 2012 and is home to two 6-12 schools and a district 75 school. The $73 million campus features a full gymnasium, exercise and weight training room, auditorium, a college level research library and technology lab, two fully stocked music rooms and smart boards in every classroom.
Spring Creek Nehemiah is the fourth Nehemiah development that EBC leaders have built. The first 1,100 Nehemiah homes were built in Brownsville beginning in 1983. Another 1,100 Nehemiah homes were built in East New York beginning in 1987. An additional 700 Nehemiah homes were built in the New Lots section of East New York beginning in 1996. When Spring Creek Nehemiah is finished, EBC leaders will have built 4,525 homes in Brownsville and East New York. All homeowners are first time homeowners and the Nehemiah developments in East Brooklyn and the South Bronx have created an estimated $1 billion in wealth. In addition, less than a dozen of the thousands of the original homeowners that bought Nehemiah homes ended up in foreclosure, as reported by the NY Times in “In a Sea of Foreclosures, an Island of Calm.”
The EBC and South Bronx Churches’ efforts did not emerge out of some grand plan. It resulted from a series of 100 house meetings involving close to 2,000 residents in East Brooklyn. A number of local issues emerged out of those house meetings, as well as scores of new leaders. One of the first issues was the demolition of 300 derelict buildings, long past the point of where they could be rehabilitated. Over a year’s time, as EBC leaders successfully pressed for that demolition, new land opened up and EBC leaders began to fight for affordable housing.
The Nehemiah action was built on the basics of power – organized people and organized money. Early on, EBC had a very deep base in the community – able to draw 3,000, 5,000 and up to 8,000 people to major actions or assemblies. We were joined by the late Bishop Francis J. Mugavero, and the leaders of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. Together, with the plans developed by I.D. Robbins, Nehemiah’s first general manager, and the strong support of the NY Daily News, EBC successfully pushed Mayor Ed Koch and subsequent mayors to provide free land, infrastructure and subsidies. The success of Nehemiah caused a massive rebuilding of Brownsville and East New York, which continues today.
"If you could go back in the '70s and '80s and look at pictures of the neighborhood and the devastation and the flight, it's totally different," says Pat Worthy, a retired corrections officer who bought a house in the New Lots Nehemiah development in 2000.
"If somebody had told you then, 'Oh, we're going to rebuild the neighborhood,' you would shake your head and say, 'No way.'" But now, she says, "You come in the summertime, everybody's grass is green, everybody's got nice flowers. People look at it, and they're totally shocked." – Pat Worthy, City Limits, Living on the Edge article.
New Affordable Apartments
In addition to creating opportunities for home ownership, EBC leaders have partnered with Community Preservation Corporation (CPC) and Common Ground to build or rehabilitate rental units in Bushwick, Bedford Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Ocean Hill and East New York.
Most recently, EBC partnered with CPC to build a 48-unit affordable housing apartment development in East New York, featured in a Brooklyn Daily Eagle article, a 104-unit affordable housing apartment development in Brownsville, also featured in a Brooklyn Daily Eagle article, and a 47-unit affordable housing apartment development on the border of Bed Stuy and Bushwick. EBC partnered with Common Ground to build a 72-unit affordable housing apartment development in Ocean Hill for seniors, named after long time EBC leader Irving Domenech Daily News article. In total, EBC leaders and our partners have helped build or rehabilitate 898 rental units in Brooklyn.
Affordable Housing Preservation
EBC tenant leaders have successfully organized to improve conditions at the 550-unit Riverdale Osborne Towers complex in Brownsville. The elevators, which hadn’t worked for a decade, all got repaired. Hundreds of tenants received new refrigerators, stoves, kitchen cabinets and other major repairs. New play yards were created for children in the courtyard.
TODD MAISEL / DAILY NEWS
In addition, safety for tenants has dramatically improved in Riverdale Osborne Towers since the creation of a security office, and regular maintenance and repair to the lighting in the common areas. Leaders efforts were recently recognized in a Daily News article, “Brownsville tenants team with developers and community to change their lives.” Challenges remain but they are finally being addressed.
Similar successful efforts have been made in public and private housing in other parts of Brownsville, Bushwick and East New York.