Locals fear homeless shelter king will gentrify East New York

David Levitan planning two 14-story buildings in low-income Brooklyn neighborhood

3100-3124 Atlantic Avenue in East New York, Brooklyn (Google Maps, Getty)
3100-3124 Atlantic Avenue in East New York, Brooklyn (Google Maps, Getty)

A proposal by controversial developer David Levitan has residents of an East New York housing complex concerned.

Levitan is planning two 14-story buildings to replace the two-story brick buildings of Arlington Village, City Limits reported. The property owner presented a plan for the modern, glass buildings to the community board in the fall and is planning to seek new zoning to build it.

East New York is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, as the wave of gentrification that lapped at central Brooklyn during the Bloomberg and de Blasio years did not quite reach it. But the fate of other neighborhoods of color, combined with a rezoning in 2017 that promised to bring lots of new apartments, has some East New York residents on edge.

They have expressed concerns about gentrification and being priced out of the area if Levitan replaces Arlington Village with his larger complex, even though a spokesperson for the developer said residents of buildings to be razed have been offered apartments in the new place with the same rents as they pay now.

The spokesperson said plans have changed since the fall and that only one of the complex’s two sections would be demolished in the near future; residents were reportedly unaware of the shift.

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In about a decade, however, the developer will likely still raze the second section of the complex, potentially displacing dozens of rent-stabilized tenants. However, it is unclear what he will do if he fails to win a rezoning, which requires the sign-off of the local City Council member.

Levitan needs the change because Arlington Village was carved out of the 190-block upzoning in East New York, the first sweeping rezoning of the de Blasio administration.

Residents of the complex previously beat back a plan by a group of investors led by Eli Tabak, who purchased it in 2015 for $30 million, to redevelop it as affordable housing.

Levitan’s proposal calls for 2,195 units, including 559 for low- and middle-income renters. If Levitan only moves ahead with one building initially, it could still bring about 280 affordable units.

Levitan has applied to rezone the property but reportedly has had discussions with the Department of City Planning, which is standard prior to making a formal request. Councilmember Sandy Nurse has said she would defer to tenants in deciding the project’s fate.

Levitan comes to the table with a controversial history. The landlord has racked up numerous code violations at his properties for rat infestations, broken elevators and collapsed staircases, among other problems. Yet he had little difficulty reeling in shelter contracts from the de Blasio administration, which did not have a lot of options as it struggled to meet demand for beds.

— Holden Walter-Warner