When CPC opened its first Brooklyn office on the Eastern Parkway corridor in Crown Heights over 30 years ago, its initial goal was twofold --- to rescue and preserve hundreds of deteriorating large apartment buildings along the Parkway and its surrounding areas, and to learn how to work closely with and meet the needs of the local population.
Eastern Parkway, a major Brooklyn boulevard, is described by The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation as the “World's First Parkway.” It was constructed between 1870 - 1874 and spans through the neighborhoods of Brownsville, Crown Heights and Prospect Heights.
The areas along the Eastern Parkway corridor, particularly Crown Heights, have experienced population changes starting in the 1930s, with immigrants from Jamaica. During the '40s, '50s and '60s, many middle class Jewish families moved to the area, paving the way for an influx of large synagogues to be built along Eastern Parkway. African American families from the South moved to Crown Heights in the 1970s and Haitians in the 1990s. Newer Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe also settled in this area. Currently, Crown Heights is headquarters of the Lubavitch Hasidic Jewish sect, with its main synagogue on Eastern Parkway.
Vacant, Deteriorating Structures Once Dominated Crown Heights & Brownsville
When CPC arrived to Brooklyn in the 1970s, New York City was in the midst of a long period of severe financial decline due to inflation, the energy crisis and rising operating expenses. The neighborhoods intersected by Eastern Parkway saw hundreds of buildings become vacant due to countless families fleeing to the suburbs. This caused an excess of housing inventory, declining schools and a negative quality of life in this area as well as other Brooklyn neighborhoods. As was the case in the Bronx, particularly the South Bronx, several neighborhoods along the Eastern Parkway corridor experienced a wave of arson, started by the buildings’ own landlords, who sought to benefit from the insurance proceeds.
Crown Heights, One of CPC’s Originating Neighborhoods
CPC’s founding mission was to concentrate its investments in distressed areas that could most benefit from rehabilitation. Crown Heights was the first Brooklyn neighborhood CPC focused on restoring. In 1975, CPC closed its second company-wide loan in Crown Heights, a neighborhood which contained innumerable vacant buildings. CPC was a major player in former Mayor Edward Koch’s 10-year plan to develop low- to middle-income housing in New York City’s deteriorating areas, which included the Eastern Parkway corridor.
CPC worked with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and financed the purchase of buildings through HPD’s Vacant Buildings Program, which allowed qualified developers to rehabilitate buildings on the verge of being disposed of. CPC joined with City and State agencies to increase the supply of affordable housing and continue the revitalization of Crown Heights and its surrounding neighborhoods. Since the 1970s, CPC has partnered with HPD to finance approximately 90% of the sites in HPD’s Vacant Building RFP program.
Continuing to Build
In 1991, Crown Heights experienced three days of riots, sparked by racial tensions. The riots did not deter CPC’s commitment to focus its lending in this area and made CPC more sensitive to the enormous tensions within this neighborhood. Community leaders joined together quickly after the riots and their efforts to keep this neighborhood from becoming further destabilized proved to be successful.
Aftermath of CPC’s Investments Along The Eastern Parkway Corridor
CPC’s success along the Eastern Parkway corridor has been astounding. During the past three decades, CPC has financed more than $400 million in over 250 projects which encompass more than 8,000 housing units along Eastern Parkway and the surrounding area, including rental and for sale structures. Buildings that had been vacant and abandoned have been renovated into quality, affordable housing for Brooklyn families.
An explosion of private investment has also taken place as the area recovered. The revitalization in this area generated interest from private investors who were able to build without subsidy, allowing scores of ground floor commercial spaces in the newly renovated buildings and nearby to open. The rehabilitated buildings inspired additional developers to build new market-rate developments and further an influx of new families and businesses.
Eastern Parkway – A Neighborhood Transformed
Today, the communities surrounding the Eastern Parkway corridor contain some of the most vibrant and culturally diverse neighborhoods in all of New York City, including African American, Hasidic, West Indian and Hispanic residents. CPC’s investment in this neighborhood has laid the groundwork for the renaissance taking place in Crown Heights, Brownsville and Prospect Heights, signified by the feasibility of unsubsidized development and the resurgence of Brooklyn’s great cultural institutions, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and the Brooklyn Library.