Pratt Center Research

Sustainable Community Development

Development Opportunity and Historic Preservation in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn

Presentation  |  December 17, 2007

Cypress Hills: New Housing for a Rooted  Community

In northeast Brooklyn, Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation (CHLDC) has built or rehabilitated nearly 100 homes and apartments in the last five years alone. Now CHLDC is a victim of its own success: it is running out of development sites. Teaming up with Pratt Institute's graduate programs in planning and preservation, Pratt Center is helping Cypress Hills LDC find ways to build a significant amount of new housing while preserving the area's affordability and established communities. Board, staff and constituents of CHLDC recognize that the neighborhood's blocks of historic rowhouses have architectural and aesthetic value, but they also see the increasingly urgent need to house recent immigrants and low-income families who are quickly being priced out of the neighborhood.

Pratt Center surveyed 20 census tracts in the area, lot by lot, property by property, to identify vacant land, derelict buildings, and other potential locations for new or rehabilitated homes. The property survey is part of a larger planning study to identify strategies for neighborhood redevelopment in Cypress Hills, which is tucked between East New York and Evergreen Cemetery. One of the issues the community is contending with is the illegal conversion of single-family homes into apartments, including basement residences. The study, to be completed this fall, will identify possible solutions, including approaches to zoning and historic preservation.

Students in the Pratt Institute's Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment surveyed Cypress Hills residents to determine housing conditions and find out what kinds of resources and services need expansion or improvement, including schools, transportation, employment services, and shopping. The survey also reached out to residents of the nearby Cypress Hills and Pink Houses public housing projects, who rely on Cypress Hills LDC's services including its Cypress Hills Community School.