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Last July, LISC NYC and Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC) co-hosted a tour of the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn highlighting projects that demonstrate community returns on federal investments.
The participants were a broad range of community development stakeholders, including elected officials, government agency staff, bankers and funders, LISC Board and Local Advisory Committee members, LISC Cashin Fellows, and community residents. FAC Executive Director Michelle de la Uz led the tour within a three-block radius of FAC's headquarters, demonstrating how a wide range of federal programs and resources have been deployed and leveraged to advance economic and social justice, including: Low Income Housing Tax Credits; Community Development Block Grants; HOME Investment Partnerships Program; US EPA’s Superfunds Program; NYCHA public housing; and HUD's Section 4 Capacity Building Program.
The tour began at FAC's offices with an overview of the Gowanus neighborhood presented by FAC staff, community residents, and community organizers from FUREE, a member-led program of FAC’s Community Organizing department. The panel described how real estate values are rising amid the clean-up of the Gowanus Canal and new development underway. While improvements have long been needed, these investments are fueling displacement pressures of longtime low-income residents who are seeing their rents rise amid this change.
De la Uz explained that FAC has been around for 39 years, and “it is our mission to ensure those investments are impacting people in a positive way and advancing economic justice.” Among the examples de la Uz pointed to on the tour was 336 Butler Street, one of 21 buildings rehabilitated as affordable housing as part of their $24.3 million FAC Renaissance initiative. The project was made possible with federal housing tax credits provided by NYC HPD, syndicated by the National Equity Fund, along with debt provided by LISC NYC.
LISC NYC Executive Director Sam Marks said, "With LISC NYC and FAC working together, we can bring a whole set of relationships to leverage federal resources. But the federal resources are key. That's the fundamental component that brings the city and the financial institutions to the table.”
The tour also included Wykoff Gardens, where Deborah Goddard, Executive Vice President of NYCHA Capital Projects, discussed the NYCHA Next Gen plan and various tools to support the preservation of public housing. Residents and community organizers spoke about the importance of public housing as a means of keeping Gowanus a diverse and inclusive neighborhood.
The tour ended with a question and answer session with Eric Enderlin, President of NYC Housing Development Corporation. “What you all did today, every elected will tell you, is one of the most significant ways to make a difference,” said Enderlin. “Bring people to where these investments are made, to go out and see where that money is going, to meet the people who are benefiting.”