Flatbush Community Investment Adds Affordable Housing, Education and Skills Training Center

The vacant lot at 2286 Church Street in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Formerly the site of PS 90, but will soon be the location of new affordable housing. Image credit: Google Maps

The development is on the site of an ancient monument. On October 9, 2020, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Member Mathieu Eugene announced plans to develop affordable housing in Flatbush, Brooklyn to add approximately 130 affordable apartments. This new site would be located at 2286 Church Avenue and is the site of the former Public School 90.

Public School 90 was a 29,000 square foot development site built between 1878 and 1894 that was demolished in 2015 due to unsafe structural conditions. The school was originally named District School #1 and is a descendant of the First Flatbush School which would be the first school established on Long Island by Dutch settlers as early as 1659. The architecture of the school was designed by John Culyer. , who also designed Flatbush Town Hall. The building was permanently sealed around 2000, and in 2008 Public School 90 received historic designation. At the time of its designation, the building had been vacant for many years and was in poor condition. A non-profit organization was supposed to rehabilitate and occupy the building, but efforts to find another use for the building failed. In September 2015, the Buildings Department issued an emergency declaration ordering the building to be demolished due to public safety concerns. Currently, the city is issuing a request for qualification to develop affordable housing and an educational and vocational training center for young Brooklynites. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development will publish the Request for Qualifications later this year and then publish the Request for Proposals to qualified individuals who have responded to the Request for Qualifications.

Although the site is best known for originally housing a historic building from the late 19eA school building from the last century, the site also has another story – archaeological expeditions to the site have unearthed a small number of human remains. At the time of excavation the remains were transferred to the Dutch Reformed Church in Flatbush for re-internment and the remains may be associated with a historic cemetery for people of African descent. In 2019, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and Economic Development Corporation created a task force to identify all potential descendant communities of colonial slaves and freed Africans of early Flatbush. The working group is also responsible for establishing a procedure to manage any additional remains in the event of a discovery and to discuss potential memorialization of the site. This working group will work concurrently with the Request for Qualifications process.

James Patchell, president and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, said of Public School 90 “local leaders have been advocating for this underutilized property to better serve the Flatbush community, with affordable housing and educational spaces”. Speaking about the project, Mayor de Blasio said, “Today’s announcement demonstrates our commitment to the development of inclusive and equitable housing. With 130 affordable apartments and educational and vocational training facilities, this project will restore this historic site as a community anchor for Flatbush and the entire borough.

A public hearing will be held by Community Board 14 in December to discuss the project with the Flatbush community.

By: Lynsey Smith (Lynsey is an intern at CityLaw and a student at New York Law School, class of 2022.)

Jill E. Washington