New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

HABITAT

CROWN HEIGHTS

Petition drive seeks to kill zoning change favored by developers.

Affordable Solar Comes to Affordable Co-ops

Written by Marianne Schaefer on April 04, 2018

Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Community Share Program cuts bills for common areas and apartments.

Even without luxury condos, opponents deride project’s gentrification.

Crown Heights activists fight city plan for Bedford Union Armory.

In the early 1980s, the 16-unit co-op at 572 Sterling Place in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn was an abandoned, derelict shell. Catholic Charities and the parish of St. Theresa of Avila helped secure it a $440,000, 30-year mortgage, and property was incorporated as a co-op under the city's Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC). Each unit was valued at just $27,500, and shareholders agreed to contribute sweat equity for 10 percent of that sum, including demolition work and installing flooring, trim, and cabinets.

It was a building designed to be affordable to low- and middle-income New Yorkers. But now some shareholders, delighted by the low price when they bought, are seeing things differently as they go to sell — warping the very affordability the HDFC program fosters.

The board at 572 Sterling Place deals with challenges every day, but its members know how to face them. The key, they say, is that instead of picking up the phone and calling a manager when problems and challenges arise, they're willing to roll up their sleeves and take on the task themselves. Or, as board vice president Ralph Pinero puts it: "Nowadays, if you want a place to live that's decent and affordable, you're going to have to get your hands dirty."

For New Yorkers of the 1990s, Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood was the fearsome site of racial conflict, crime and the aptly named Crown Heights Riot. Lately it's been the scene of "knockout game" attacks. But architecturally, Crown Heights is a crown jewel, and now, joining its townhouses and rowhouses, comes a cornucopia of condominiums. The New York Times reports on a plethora of projects, including one at the prewar building 875 St. Marks Avenue, where all but two of its seven condos have sold for prices ranging from $470,000 to $659,000.

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