Investing in Brownsville: Growing Healthy Communities

Organization Name: L+M Development Partners, Inc.

Project Title: Investing in Brownsville: Growing Healthy Communities

Project Location: Brownsville, Brooklyn, NY

Project Goals:
L+M sought to transform a deteriorating residential development through its acquisition, ongoing rehabilitation, and broader community investment at Marcus Garvey Apartments (“MGA”).  In Brownsville, L+M has teamed with Project EATS to bring healthy, safe and sustainable resources to MGA and the surrounding community. The Project uses a two-pronged approach to stabilize the residential buildings and eliminate neighborhood blight. (i) The rehabilitation work at MGA will update the 1970s-era Mitchell-Lama buildings and provide curb appeal to the facades and common mews areas, make the buildings energy efficient, and increase security. (ii) Project EATS’ operation of an urban farm on a formerly vacant half-acre lot converts a breeding ground for dangerous activity into a safe, productive space. It makes fresh, organically grown produce accessible and affordable while educating residents on good nutrition and healthy living and it creates job opportunities for Brownsville residents.

Project Description:
In partnership with HFA, Citibank and Wells Fargo L+M and Project EATS are transforming a tired asset through L+M’s acquisition, ongoing rehabilitation, and broader community investment.  The 625 residential units in the 32-building Mitchell-Lama complex will receive an energy efficient retrofit that includes additional insulation, heating systems, appliances and lighting upgrades and a 500 kW rooftop solar array. L+M also improved security and the streetscape. There are a few vacant lots on the path from the Number 3 train on Rockaway Ave in Brownsville through the low-income MGA development. L+M and Project EATS found a solution for one of the larger empty lots: a half-acre urban farm.  The farm is equipped with a greenhouse and 22 raised beds growing kale, string beans, eggplant, squash and lettuce. At the site, Project EATS operates a weekly farm stand during the summer and early fall, cooking demonstrations, afterschool and summer programs, job training, and community fairs.

Community Impact:
Since the 1960s, Brownsville has been plagued by challenges: highest concentration of public housing in the city; high unemployment rates; low high school graduation rates; high crime rates and poor health outcomes. L+M and Project EATS cannot tackle all of these problems but together they seek to make a difference.

Before L+M acquired Marcus Garvey, it commissioned a local non-profit to do a community needs assessment. Residents’ top three priorities were: 1) nutrition/fitness; 2) jobs; and 3) youth development. The Project EATS farm addresses all three of these priorities. It provides access to fresh, healthy food and educational programming on healthy living. It provides job and internship opportunities for residents, as well as an array of programs for youth.

The impact is clear. L+M is following through on the double bottom line of improving housing quality while investing in community resources that improve the health and well-being of residents.

Organization Description:
L+M Development Partners Inc. (“L+M”) is an established full-service real estate development firm with expertise in taking projects from conception and planning through completion and management. Since 1984, L+M has been an innovator in developing quality affordable, mixed-income and market rate housing. L+M stands out from other development firms as a double bottom line company, measuring our success not only in financial returns but also by the positive impact we make in communities. Project EATS is a project of Active Citizen Project, a New York City non-profit that engages local residents to operate social enterprises that support their health and well-being. Isabahlia Ladies of Elegance Foundation, a Brownsville-based farming group, provides cooking demonstrations at the farm. Wells Fargo, the LIHTC investor, participated together with L+M employees in two volunteer days at the farm to construct raised beds and build the greenhouse.

    Before: empty half acre lot and MGA buildings

    Project EATS Harvest Festival in October

    A farm grows in Brownsville

    An MGA building façade near completion

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