Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Tag Archives: Cypress Hills

Cypress Hills LDC Gets at The Heart of The Community Reinvestment Act: Local Banks Must Reinvest Locally

Cypress Hills LDC Gets at The Heart of The Community Reinvestment Act: Local Banks Must Reinvest Locally

On December 1st, the East Brooklyn Reinvestment Committee, a group of East New York activists and Board and Staff members of the Cypress Hills LDC (CHLDC) held their annual Bank Reinvestment Forum. This powerful forum really gets at the heart of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which requires banks to reinvest and lend equitably in the local areas where they do business – it doesn’t get any more local than this. This forum has historically focused on the five banks in the Cypress Hills / City Line area of Brooklyn: M&T, Chase, Citibank, Capital One, and City National of NJ (which has since closed). In recent years, it has expanded to include banks throughout Brooklyn Community District 5, which also includes Bank of America and HSBC.

The forum was well attended by community members and representatives from ten banks, the OCC which regulates most of the local banks, NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez’s office, and State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan’s office.  Through public data, bank data, stories, and the experiences of community members and CHLDC staff, the reinvestment committee revealed trends in the lending market, highlighted community needs, and made concrete recommendations for banks to follow.

The overall theme this year was, “Banks are going in the wrong direction”. They found that residential and small business lending among these banks was down from 2015 to 2016, and the percentage of home lending by local banks has been quite low for a number of years now. Worse, City National Bank of NJ left the Banking Development District (BDD) program two years ago and is now closing their branch, further reducing access to banking in an already underbanked area.

This year’s forum focused on four key areas. While the recommendations were very specific to the East New York area, many of them hold true citywide:

  • Home Lending: Stagnant wages and rising home prices puts homeownership further out of reach for lower-income New Yorkers. Meanwhile, the existing housing stock is aging and in need of repair. Low-income and senior homeowners need access to capital to maintain and repair their homes. CHLDC outlined the characteristics of an affordable and accessible home repair product and urged all banks to offer a product that incorporates them.
  • Small Business Lending: CHLDC supports over 300 small businesses on their end of Fulton Street in Brooklyn and has an active small business association made up of nearly 50 local businesses. They struggle to access credit to purchase property and expand and operate their businesses.  Their recommendations to the banks include affordable mixed-use mortgages for business owners to purchase their buildings; bilingual business banking staff; financial education; planning support and technical assistance; new lending products for small businesses; and working with CHLDC and the small business committee to carry out these recommendations.
  • Responsible multifamily lending: After decades of neglect and disrepair in the affordable rent-regulated housing stock, the recent rezoning of Cypress Hills / East New York is now putting residents at greater risk of displacement due to real estate speculation and gentrification. Investors anticipate the area will command higher rents and higher property values as a result of the rezoning. This puts enormous displacement pressure on low-income tenants as landlords seek to push them out to make way for higher paying tenants. Now is exactly the time for banks to pay attention to the lending they do and ensure that it does not facilitate harassment or displacement. The reinvestment committee advocated with banks to commit to ANHD’s set of best practices for responsible lending: Responsible underwriting; proper vetting of landlords; and responding appropriately and proactively when problems arise.
  • Access to Banking and a new BDD Bank Branch: The Banking Development District (BDD) program offers publicly-subsidized deposits so that banks are able to increase access to banking in underbanked areas through bank products, loans, investments and services. City National of NJ had a BDD branch for many years. However, they lost that designation and later announced they were closing the branch entirely. CHLDC is looking for another bank to fill in that gap by opening a new BDD branch in the same location. They want this BDD branch and all banks serving this neighborhood to offer affordable home and home improvement loans, a safe affordable bank account that accepts the IDNYC, small business loans and supports, and responsible multifamily lending.

The Community Reinvestment Act is one of most important tools we have to bring banks to the table.  Cypress Hills is an excellent example of a local organization doing just that – literally bringing banks to the table to learn about local needs. We now call on these and all banks in New York City to act by responding to these needs with products, loans, investments and services.

 

 

Jaime Weisberg, ANHD’s Senior Campaign Analyst

Cypress Hills Small Businesses Demand City Action Over Awning Fines

Cypress Hills Small Businesses Demand City Action Over Awning Fines

Small businesses along the Fulton Street commercial corridor in Brooklyn came out in force last week to urge City attention at resolving challenges to running their businesses. The Cypress Hills Business Partners Merchant Association and local business owners highlighted the heavy fines associated with awning violations, which has led some shopkeepers to face fines of as much as $20,000. These fines, in addition to increasing rents and a lack of commercial protections, make it harder for businesses to afford their space and stay open. Most of the businesses that have been targeted are immigrant owned. Along with Councilmember Espinal and State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan, immigrant business owners urged the City to intervene and alleviate this pressure.

The call for the Administration to take action comes at a time when commercial tenants in commercial corridors across the city face an increasingly uncertain future. Based on the experiences of business owners, the fines jeopardize the viability of businesses that have been in Cypress Hills for decades. As some indicated in their remarks, the City’s approach to fine rather than educate and help small businesses become compliant is also problematic. It builds a barrier rather than a bridge between potential city services and small businesses in communities.

As small businesses citywide continue to face displacement pressures from multiple directions, communities can learn from this mobilization by the Cypress Hills Business Partners Merchant Association. The City has an opportunity to step up and support immigrant small businesses and the communities they serve.

 

YASNIRI, OWNER OF TWO ROSES EVENTS

“My name is Yasniri Espinal, and I am the owner of Two Roses Events and a member of the merchant association. The DOB [Department of Buildings] has been too aggressive towards small businesses in the Cypress Hills community. As a small business owner, we are working extremely hard day by day to make ends meet. We feel that the DOB has been targeting the Cypress Hills community and needs to teach us how to fix this problem instead of taking advantage of it. My business got a summon from the DOB regarding our awning, and because of this, we had to hire an architect. This was pricey, and many of us don’t have the money to do so. We are here to ask the mayor to work with us to find a way to comply with the laws without hurting our businesses.”

 

JOSE LUIS, OWNER OF TIO DELI

“Mi nombre es Jose Luis Cepeda, dueño de la bodega Tío Deli y un líder de la asociación de negociantes de Cypress Hills. Estamos aquí hoy para expresar nuestra preocupación por la ola de presión a la cual estamos siendo sometidos los comerciantes de Cypress Hills. Somos una comunidad humilde y trabajadora, la cual aporta grandemente con sus impuestos a la ciudad de NY. Los pequeños negocios no estamos en condiciones de pagar multas tan altas, por lo cual le pedimos al alcalde que nos dé más tiempo para educarnos mejor en el problema y para poder legalizar nuestros letreros.”

 

JAVIER SOLIS, OWNER OF LOS TAXES

“My name is Javier Solis, and I am the owner of Los Taxes and a leader of the merchant association. When I came to Cypress Hills back in 1994, I never thought this would become my permanent home and my business. I see how many small business owners struggle with the daily challenges we face to keep our doors open, and now we are faced with the lack of consideration of our city agencies. The sad and unfair penalties many of us have received for having inherited a business sign is escalating to thousands of dollars, and we still do not have a reasonable commitment from the Department of Buildings to help us come to a settlement where we can correct the problems. Our councilman Rafael Espinal is aware of the issue and is willing to work with us, but we need the Mayor to help us find an immediate solution to this issue.”

 

JUAN DIAZ, OWNER OF AVI MULTISERVICE

“Mi nombre es Juan Díaz, dueño de AVI Multiservice, y un líder de la asociación de negociantes de Cypress Hills. He sido dueño de varios negocios en la comunidad por 25 años. Hemos recibido summons por no estar cumpliendo una ley que no sabiamos que existia. No hubo educación ni comunicación que la ley estaba en efecto ni cómo cumplirla. Es difícil mantenerse al tanto de cambios de leyes y regulaciones. Le pedimos al alcalde una campaña de educación al respecto, en inglés y en español porque somos una comunidad mayormente hispana.”

 

JULIO TAVARES, OWNER OF TAVARES RESTAURANT

“Mi nombre es Julio Tavares y he sido negociante en esta comunidad por más de 11 anos. Recientemente yo recibí una multa del departamento de buildings por la suma de $ 5,000 dólares suma que por su alto valor en estos momentos yo no puedo pagar. Estas multas constante por las agencias de la ciudad, perjudican grandemente mi negocio. Por esta razón, hoy estoy aquí reunido con mis otros compañeros negociantes para pedirle al Mayor que por favor trabaje con nosotros para buscarle una solución a este problema.”

East New York Coalition Calls for Community Benefits or No Development

East New York Coalition Calls for Community Benefits or No Development

As the first neighborhood rezoning under the de Blasio Administration, the Coalition for Community Advancement: Progress for East New York has presented communities with a first look at how to approach the City on issues of displacement, affordability, and development. Tomorrow, their efforts will focus on ensuring community benefits are intrinsically part of new neighborhood developments.

Specifically, the Coalition is demanding robust local hire, use of local suppliers, inclusion of community facilities, discounted commercial space for local retailers/services, reinvestment of the developer’s fees into East New York, and meaningful involvement of local nonprofits. To achieve these goals, they are calling on the NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) to require applicants to address these issues in the current Office Anchor Strategy request for proposals (RFP). Because of the need for a robust plan to address crucial community benefits, the Coalition is calling on NYCEDC to postpone the current deadline (August 18) by four months.

The efforts underway in East New York are an instructional moment for communities in the midst of-or anticipating-a rezoning. The conversation around the need for local jobs, training, and affordable space may begin around a single rezoning. However, the Coalition demonstrates that in those efforts, the fight for a community’s future is not wholly dependent to a particular land use process; it is dependent on the vigilance of neighborhood advocates to push for tangible and equitable development where ever it may occur.

Armando Moritz-Chapelliquen, ANHD’s Campaign Coordinator for Equitable Economic Development

One Year After Rezoning, East New York and Cypress Hills Residents Gather to Keep Up the Fight

One Year After Rezoning, East New York and Cypress Hills Residents Gather to Keep Up the Fight

East New York and Cypress Hills residents came out this past Saturday for a Community Assembly hosted by the Coalition for Community Advancement, seeking to inform and engage community members one year out from a neighborhood-wide rezoning. The rezoning of East New York – approved in April, 2016 – was the first, and to date only, neighborhood rezoning to pass as part of the de Blasio administration’s Housing New York Plan. But as impassioned speakers and community leaders reminded the crowd throughout the day, the work of the local community in this process is far from done.

Coalition members Catherine Green and Pastor Preston Harrington started the day with a forceful rallying call for people to get involved and stay involved. As Green put it, “It’s important that we’re at the table, not on the menu.” Coalition members shared their experience organizing and advocating around the rezoning – highlighting what they fought for and what they won – while stressing that the fight continues around their unmet demands, including deeper affordability, new anti-displacement policies, and community benefit agreements with private developers to achieve measures like local hire and a living wage.

The Assembly included a visioning session around Arlington Village and a presentation on the potential development of Broadway Junction. Arlington Village, a privately owned site encompassing the entirety of two city blocks, was successfully cut out of last year’s rezoning thanks to the Coalition’s efforts, to better ensure that any new development there matches the community’s needs. Neighborhood residents had the opportunity to share their vision for the site, including around housing density and open space and what type of community facilities and commercial establishments would best serve the area. Representatives from The Department of City Planning and the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President presented a vision for Broadway Junction as a future office and retail hub – a move that would largely require a new land use review process – with a chance for questions from community members afterwards.

 

Both these sessions served to illustrate the larger message of the Coalition: that change is coming to East New York and even if it seems far off, now is the time to get involved, to organize and to stay organized so that the community can assert itself as early and as frequently as possible in the land use process and the scope of any future development. Or as Coalition member Al Scott put it, “How do we make sure we’re involved in the beginning, the middle and the end?” of the entire process.

Coalition member Bother Paul Mohammed closed out the event by laying out what was at stake for the community and why it’s so urgent for residents to get involved. “This is the last stand, if we’re forced out of East New York, there’s no place left for us to go.” But Mohammed, and his fellow speaker Ana Aguirre, were eloquent about their faith in the power of East New York and the strength of its community. Noting all that has been fought for and won in the past, including during last year’s rezoning as well as through prior long decades of disinvestment, Aguirre concluded by saying, “Don’t tell me we cannot organize and we cannot change things.”

This is a vital message, not just for East New York, but for every neighborhood facing a rezoning throughout the city, where the crucial fight is for communities to be equal partners in both the planning process and the planning outcomes. As the hard work of the Coalition for Community Advancement shows, community involvement can produce real results with real benefits for the neighborhood. But the work is never finished and the battle is always uphill. It takes constant engagement, constant organizing and constant people power to make it a reality. This is what our member groups are working for day in and day out and what ANHD is proud to work in support of.

Photos courtesy of Nora Gordon from Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A (BKA).