OPEN LETTER to New Luxury Tower Residents, Area Developers, City/State Agencies, Local Elected Officials and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership
The following "open letter" was released by FUREE at a rally and press conference we organized in response to a meeting of luxury tower residents on Thursday, March 24th at the Sheraton Hotel in Downtown Brooklyn.
Low-income families and public housing residents in Downtown Brooklyn and surrounding neighborhoods demand respect, recognition, and a voice in shaping the future of our communities. We will work with our new neighbors in the area’s luxury developments, and other community stakeholders, to promote a more balanced plan that stops the ongoing displacement of low- and moderate-income families. We all have ideas about what our community needs and it’s time for us to prioritize them together, fully recognizing the neglect and broken promises low-income residents continue to face. We insist that any “improvements” not come at the expense of long time community residents. Families United for Racial for Economic Equality (FUREE) members and allies invite you to join us at a Community Forum in May (date TBD) to dialogue in good faith about our community’s future.
The following issues represent many of our priorities and shared principles for accountable development:
- PUBLIC HOUSING: Real estate brokers must stop making false statements to prospective condo buyers claiming that nearby public housing will be torn down. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) must also clearly reject all policies to privatize public housing and must swiftly open up the hundreds of currently vacant public housing apartments in Fort Greene to families in need.
- QUALITY PUBLIC SERVICES FOR ALL: All residents, rich and poor, rely on schools, health care and other social services. If new investment is coming into the community, it must go toward quality public institutions that are accessible to and benefit everyone rather than result in an unequal, two-tier system.
- AFFORDABLE SUPERMARKETS: The billionaire developer John Catsmatidis must ensure that the new Red Apple Supermarket slated to open this summer on Myrtle Avenue is affordable to low-income families (as was the Associated Supermarket he demolished there in 2006) and that it provides quality, healthy foods. The developers should incorporate the recommendations from FUREE’s Food Fight Report (2009) and those that local residents come up with on April 14th at the community forum on the new supermarket.
- REAL PUBLIC SAFETY: Everyone is entitled to live in a secure neighborhood - free from violent crime. It’s time to support smart, community-driven safety strategies, not just aggressive “stop-and-frisks” and “vertical sweeps” administered by the NYPD that violate the civil rights of countless innocent people of color in the area.
- GOOD-PAYING JOBS: Our community needs expanded job creation and placement programs that provide pathways out of poverty and unemployment for low-income families and young workers. NYCHA must use its Section 3 funding to train and place larger numbers of public housing residents in jobs that lead to living-wage careers. The NY City Council must pass the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, endorsed by FUREE, to ensure that taxpayer funds create decent paying jobs in City-subsidized retail development.
- AFFORDABLE HOUSING: The overwhelmingly one-sided development of luxury housing in our community in the past few years must come to an end. The ongoing and growing affordable housing crisis calls for a more balanced, mixed-income approach, including the creation of units that are genuinely affordable to low-income and working-class families at CityPoint and other development sites in Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn.
- ALBEE SQUARE FAMILIES: It is a travesty that the only affordable housing development in Downtown Brooklyn is slated for demolition. Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) owes the low-income, immigrant families living in the Albee Square houses who are being forced out through eminent domain, genuine relocation assistance to new affordable apartments and decent living conditions.
- ACCESS TO PUBLIC SPACE: The proposed new Willoughby Square Park (and massive underground parking lot) must not become a pseudo-public space that caters mostly to the surrounding new hotels and luxury tower residents. There must be genuine public input from all stakeholders, including the low-income community members, as the planning process proceeds. Other supposedly public spaces, such as Metrotech Plaza, must not discriminate against or harass low-income area residents and youth of color.
- SMALL BUSINESSES & AFFORDABLE RETAIL: For decades Downtown Brooklyn and the Fulton Mall area has been a vibrant commercial and cultural hub of countless locally-owned small businesses and affordable retail options. Plans to convert the area into an upscale shopping district of national chain stores must be scrapped and recommendations from FUREE’s Out of Business Report (2008) should be implemented.
- FUTURE PLANNING OF OUR COMMUNITY: The “redevelopment” of Downtown Brooklyn has been marked by hype, broken promises, backroom deals between elites, and give-aways to developers, with few community benefits in return. While not all changes have been negative, a more inclusive vision for our collective future is only possible if the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and other public and private interests respect a more community-led process. To that end, FUREE is organizing a Community Forum in May to address the critical issues addressed in this “open letter” and other related matters. We invite all decision-makers and community stakeholders to attend, and we’ll jointly find a date that works best for everyone. A more transparent, collaborative, and accountable development model is possible!
FUREE is a Brooklyn-based, multi-racial organization made up of and led mostly by women of color. We mobilize low-income families to change the system.