Ossé, can you see? Council member preps for high-stakes housing fight

Brooklyn pol’s clever video makes case for thousands more homes

Council Member Chi Ossé Makes Case for Thousands More Homes
Council member Chi Ossé (Getty)

The real estate industry was wrong about Chi Ossé.

Last summer the industry feuded with the Brooklyn Council member about his broker fee bill. Real estate pros called him clueless.

But now Ossé has posted a brilliant video that explains — better than real estate people ever could — why a crucial area of Brooklyn must be redeveloped. That’s a bigger issue because unlike the broker fee bill, it will almost certainly be voted on by the City Council.

Not only do his words and images make a compelling case for change in just one minute and 11 seconds, but Ossé is a credible messenger. He is a local person of color who has searched desperately for housing in the area.

Jim Whelan, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, could talk until the cows come home about the need for more housing — and has — without persuading folks in Central Brooklyn. Whelan knows the issue as well as anyone, but he’s a white guy getting paid big bucks by the real estate industry.

Nor could Whelan get away with saying what Ossé says in the video:

“Over the course of 10 years, over 22,000 Black New Yorkers were displaced from historically Black Bed-Stuy, and this is happening all over the city,” Ossé begins. “The underlying reason is simple: The rent is too damn high!”

But rather than blame “greedy landlords” or the lack of universal rent control, Ossé tells the story straight.

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“New York City is the greatest city in the world,” he goes on to say. “That’s why we all want to live here. So what happens? More demand for the same supply of housing makes prices go up.”

One solution, he says, is to build more housing.

“We’re not going to stop people from moving in,” he says. “So how do we ensure no one is pushed out?”

The camera then pans to the plethora of gas stations and tire shops that he says “wastes valuable space” along a one-mile stretch of Atlantic Avenue between Vanderbilt and Nostrand avenues.

“Not this space,” he clarifies, pointing at the ground. “This space.” He points up, and the camera pans to the sky.

The Council member then tells viewers about a plan to fill that vertical space with thousands of homes for “working New Yorkers … so that you don’t get priced out, and there’s room for everyone.”

The effort began with Council member Crystal Hudson, who represents most of the area to be rezoned. It’s called the Atlantic Avenue Mixed-Use Plan; the acronym, AAMUP, is pronounced “aim up.”

Adams administration planners drafted the proposal, which Hudson and Ossé will surely tweak to show they are responding to feedback. But the video — the first of several, Ossé promises — is crucial.

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The Council member is getting in front of the main threat to the plan: fear of gentrification. Public hearings about big new buildings in a low-scale, working-class area can get very ugly. Wisely, Ossé is laying out why the rezoning will prevent rather than accelerate displacement.

After just one day, his video already had 626,000 views and 3,000 likes on X. If Ossé spreads that message on the streets of Brooklyn, and keeps his distance from REBNY (which shouldn’t be a problem), the city will move one step closer to solving its housing crisis.

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