New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has unveiled the winning proposal for the 7.2-acre redevelopment of an underutilized portion of the Kingsboro Psychiatric Center campus in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn. That section will give way to a 900-apartment residential community anchored by a 10,000-square-foot grocery store and enveloped in abundant public green space.
The proposal, described by the Governor’s Office as a “modern, mixed-use wellness-oriented development” that presents the “most comprehensive vision for this prime property in East Flatbush,” is led by a development team comprised of Almat Urban, Breaking Ground, Brooklyn Community Services, the Center for Urban Community Services, Douglaston Development, Jobe Development, and the Velez Organization. The New York office of Adjaye Associates and Studio Zewde, the Harlem-based landscape architecture and urban design firm led by Sara Zewde, are helming the design of the $400 million affordable housing development.
Funding for the transformative overhaul comes from Cuomo’s $1.4 billion Vital Brooklyn initiative, a community development program launched in 2017 focused on eight integrated areas of improvement—open space and recreation, healthy food, education, economic empowerment, community-based violence prevention, community-based health care, affordable housing, and resiliency—within Central Brooklyn’s most underserved neighborhoods.
The proposal, as mentioned, calls for 900 units of affordable and supportive housing as well as senior housing. A portion of the apartments will also be set aside for homeownership programs. Additionally, the proposal also includes a pair of new homeless shelters, both of which will replace two aging, L-shaped buildings built in the 1930s on the far western edge of the campus abutting Albany Avenue. The buildings are currently home to the Kingsborough Star Men’s Shelter and the Salvation Army Men’s Shelter.
The grocery store will serve as a core commercial center for the new development while a 7,000-square-foot community hub with a workforce development training center, performance venues, exercise facilities, computer-equipped classrooms, and dedicated community empowerment space will serve as the civic heart of the complex. The proposal also envisions amenities including a basketball court, an urban farm with greenhouse, and expansive open green space. Free public WiFi will be available throughout the development.
Given that greater Central Brooklyn is considered one of the worst food deserts in New York City, the urban farm and grocery store serve as foundational features of the wellness-centered proposal.
“The redevelopment of a portion of Kingsboro Psychiatric Center will bring more affordable housing to a community that desperately needs it, and the opportunities for healthier and greener living,” said Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President and Democratic nominee in the 2021 New York City mayoral election, in a statement. “As someone who has long promoted the need to overhaul our local food system, I am particularly glad to see that this project will include urban farming opportunities to connect people to healthy foods and activities.”
Although Cuomo’s office did not provide a construction timeline in its release, the Brooklyn Paper reported that work on the project, which will bypass the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) as a state-funded development, is slated to wrap up in four years. Community engagement activities are the next major step. It’s anticipated that the development will create 3,700 constructions jobs and more than 200 permanent jobs for the residents of East Flatbush and surrounding neighborhoods.
It’s worth noting that along with the rebuilt homeless shelters, the state-operated psychiatric hospital itself isn’t going anywhere. Originally founded in 1852 as a Kirkbridge Plan-style facility surrounded by what was once remote farmland, the Kingsboro Psychiatric Center has switched hands—and names—numerous times over the decades. Featured prominently in the 1990 Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro film Awakenings, the historic hospital, located at 681 Clarkson Avenue, is dedicated to “providing competent compassionate psychiatric care to people with serious mental illness with a purpose of reintegrating them to the community.”