Affordable Housing Project in Brooklyn, NY

Equity's Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Successfully Complete an Affordable Housing Project in Brooklyn

Equity Environmental Engineering (Equity) completed planning and engineering work on a complex redevelopment project for “The Astra”, a 96 unit, 6-story building at 645 Gates Avenue in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. In a project that uniquely highlights Equity’s multi-disciplinary capabilities, our firm supported this 100% mixed-income affordable housing development through a joint NYC Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) Special Permit and NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) financing process. These Agencies require for such discretionary actions, the completion of a City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) Environmental Assessment Statement (EAS). The findings of the EAS included a hazardous materials remedial investigation through NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) – which ultimately necessitated the development of a Remedial Action Work Plan (RAWP), and full engineering and construction oversight coordinated with NYC Office of Environmental Remediation (OER).

The Project Site was developed in the early 1970s with low and moderate-income housing as part of the Central Brooklyn Community Development Plan Area, an urban renewal plan and associated conveyance approved by the City Planning Commission (“CPC”). The existing buildings on Site were developed on a single zoning lot with 192 total units and a shared surface parking lot for the 106 required accessory off-street parking spaces. The Project Area was developed with a reduced parking requirement subject to ZR § 25-25, for “publicly-assisted housing” which required parking spaces for 55 percent of the total dwelling units. The result of this zoning requirement was far more parking than would ever be utilized by the residents of the buildings. For the past 30 plus years, this 106 car, 25,000 sf accessory parking area to the residential units at the site was basically vacant – with at most 2 or 3 cars parked during any given time.

Working with the Developer, Proto Property Services and the project land use counsel and architect, we filed an application pursuant to Sections 73-03 and 73-433 of the Zoning Resolution of the City of New York to request a special permit to reduce existing parking spaces for income-restricted housing units. The proposed special permit reduced the existing parking at the, “Project Area”, from 106 accessory off-street parking spaces to 28 spaces. The special permit was used to facilitate the development of the new, six-story, mix-use, affordable housing building on the underutilized surface parking lot.

During completion of the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Special Permit parking wavier before BSA, Equity provided a unique contextual analysis of parking for similarly situated properties in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. This analysis found that many affordable housing developments in the area were encumbered with antiquated parking requirements that have resulted in historically underutilized parking assets. Use of historical photography and in field reconnaissance provided the necessary support to demonstrate significant underutilization of parking assets at affordable housing sites that offered such on-site parking for tenants resulting in the approval by the BSA.

Also, during the completion of the EA, Equity conducted an American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) compliant Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA). The findings of the Phase I identified potential Recognized Environmental Conditions (RECs) and it was recommended by OER to conduct a Phase II Investigation. The environmental investigation identified several Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), several Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs), metals, PCBs, and pesticides above NY cleanup guidelines. Soil vapor samples detected low levels of petroleum-related and chlorinated compounds. In addition, subsurface investigation at the site revealed the presence of many underground storage tanks (USTs).

To offset the cost of soil removal and provide supportive grant to offset remedial investigative costs, the developer enrolled in OER’s VCP (Voluntary Cleanup Program) and prepared the necessary workplans and reports and conducted the necessary remediation to bring the project to completion.

During the course of remedial activities, Equity completed the following tasks subject to OER approval, many of them during the Covid Pandemic:

  • Additional soil vapor investigations were performed to supplement initial soil gas samples.
  • Performed Waste Characterization Study of soils prior to excavation activities, to determine where the soil could be disposed of properly.
  • Performed Community Air Monitoring Program (CAMP) for particulates and VOCs.
  • Oversaw the excavation of 7,590 cubic yards of non-hazardous soil/fill for offsite disposal in 10 days.
  • Conducted materials management of excavated materials including screening for indications of contamination, temporarily stockpiling, and segregating for disposal or reuse.
  • Oversaw the removal of eleven (11) USTs (Underground Storage Tanks) in compliance with applicable laws and regulations under NYSDEC PBS.
  • Designed and oversaw the installation of a vapor barrier system.
  • Assisted the client with NYC OER review for a vegetative ground cover/permeable parking paver grid.
  • Oversaw and documented the imported soil to be used for backfill and cover in compliance with the RAWP (Remedial Action Workplan) and in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.
  • Submitted daily, weekly, and monthly reports during construction oversight activities.
  • Developed a SMP (Site Management Plan) for long-term management of the property, including plans for operation, maintenance, inspection and certification of the performance of Engineering Controls and Institutional Controls.
  • Assisted our client with recording a Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions with the property deed with the County Clerk.

Project Components

  • City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR)
  • Environmental Assessment
  • Traffic Analysis
  • Air Quality Study
  • Noise Study
  • Parking Study
  • Phase I Site Assessment
  • Phase II Site Investigation
  • Waste Characterization Studies
  • Underground Storage Tanks
  • Vapor Barrier Design
  • Remedial Action Work Plan (RAWP)
  • Construction Oversight
  • Site Management Plan

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