Truthout | Aaron Cantú | posted: 2/5/2015
As City Hall attempts to jam thousands of more housing units concurrently with new commercial development near subway lines, it is presenting the Lefferts Gardens community with an ultimatum: Accept new development in the name of affordable housing so that other parts of the neighborhood will be shielded from rising real estate values, or be left at the mercy of market forces that have transformed other neighborhoods.
It’s no secret that real estate along beaches and park fronts is some of the most desirable land in the world. This is especially true for a gritty and gray city like New York, but few outside the mega-rich can afford to live alongside the periphery of the city’s lush parks. That’s what makes Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, a 45-square-block neighborhood in Brooklyn with a mostly African-American population, stand out.
While the average income of the neighborhood is below the city’s, the community sits at the southeast corner of Prospect Park, one of the borough’s most scenic outdoor areas, which has a large lake at its center, wide open grassy spaces and plenty of leafy corridors in which to get lost. On Sundays in the summertime, hundreds of people from the neighborhood – mostly of Afro-Caribbean descent – pack into the park, filling the air with the scent of chicken on the grill and the punchy percussion beats of goatskin drums. During autumn, people walk along the park’s edge while watching the yellowing leaves fall from the trees, and in the winter, you can even skate in the park’s new ice rink.
Once a drug-filled, crime-ridden area in the 1970s and 1980s, Prospect Park’s rehabilitation is said to be the reason for a sharp rise in interest and property prices in Lefferts Gardens.