The ribbon has been cut as the ground has been broken on the first building of the first phase of Kingsland Commons: the Barbara Kleinman Men’s Shelter. The focus of the groundbreaking celebration is not to celebrate one building but to cheer on the beginning of the entire development and to acknowledge the activism that paved the way. Kingsland Commons is the official moniker for the mixed-use development that will redevelop the 3.4-acre campus of the former Greenpoint Hospital. In addition to the 200-bed men’s shelter, the development will also feature 557 affordable apartments, community facility space, open space, and retail.
The Greenpoint Hospital campus in its original six building state opened in 1914 and closed in 1982. Kingsland Commons is the result of decades of activism and persistence from the local community that started shortly after the hospital shut its doors. Forty years ago, in 1983, neighbors formed the Greenpoint Renaissance Enterprise Corp. (GREC) — once six now thirteen organizations — and guided an innovative grassroots effort to redevelop the one of the few remaining large public sites. They created a comprehensive plan for the former Greenpoint Hospital that would best benefit the neighborhood. The ensuing years’ attempts to gain permission to develop the site was, in brief metaphor, a cha-cha with the powers that be: moving a few steps forward and a couple steps back; in reality it was a long test of endurance and dedication that might nearly shatter the patience of a saint. The community’s hopes were realized in 2018, when St. Nicks Alliance and the Hudson Companies were designated to develop the long stagnant site by New York City Housing Preservation & Development (HPD). Project Renewal joined the team to operate the Barbara Kleinman Men’s Shelter and provide services for the shelter’s clients, including employment counselling, occupational therapy, psychiatry, and primary care at an on-site medical clinic.
“My husband Guido and I along with my neighbors at GREC devoted 40 years of our lives to redeveloping the campus. We were there for a 40-night vigil to right size the former 1150 bed shelter. I attended every community board meeting to advocate and invested countless hours with my neighbors to shape the plan for the campus,” stated Theresa Cianciotta, of Concerned Citizens of Withers Street and Area Block Association and GREC. One of their dreams for the site was to build a home for seniors to live during their golden years. This was reported in The New York Times on August 27, 2006. Guido was 56 when he began this campaign, and he passed away at 94 in 2021. Senior housing and a senior center will be included in Kingsland Commons.
“I want to acknowledge GREC for your vision for your nonstop work not just to demand that communities have seat at the table, but reminding the North Brooklyn community about the history here. We are very privileged in this community to say that we came from a long line of activists and organizers. This site is special, for a long time it was a battleground between community interests and special interests. … That fight for justice was decades and decades long,” said NYC Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez.
Kingsland Commons’s first phase is the extensive renovation of the campus’s historic Nurse’s Residence at 19 Debevoise Avenue to convert it into a purpose-built shelter, the Barbara Kleinman Men’s Shelter. Construction on the 54,000-square-foot facility will be done in partnership with the New York State Historic Preservation Office to preserve and restore some of the building’s historic interior and exterior structural elements, along with brand-new building systems, finishes, a rooftop courtyard, and landscaping. Construction began in December 2022 and the new shelter is expected to be completed in October 2025. “Project Renewal looks forward to bringing our 55 years of experience to bear, making this a place of comfort and stability, with targeted services that break the cycle of homelessness,” said Eric Rosenbaum, president and CEO of Project Renewal.
“The newly rebuilt Barbara Kleiman shelter will provide dignified emergency housing to people experiencing homelessness. With a high-quality shelter operator, I am confident that the future clients at the Barbara Kleinman will get connected to the support, services, and permanent housing they deserve,” stated NYC Council Member Lincoln Restler.
At completion Kingsland Commons will reveal approximately 557 affordable homes for seniors and families, a senior center, a workforce development center, a cafe, and public open space. This vital development is championed by Mayor Eric Adams and former District 34 NYC Council Member and current Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso.
“Kingsland Commons is a reminder that when we fight alongside one another, we can shape our neighborhoods for the good of our people,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “While we keep our eye squarely on stable, dignified, and affordable housing that can support Brooklynites long-term, shelters like this remain essential in providing temporary reprieve and a steppingstone toward better futures for our neighbors.”
The next component for Kingsland Commons’ is the construction of a building adjacent to the shelter that will create 311 affordable homes for low-income families earning between 30% and 80% of Area Median Income (AMI). Construction is expected to begin in 2024. The new apartment buildings will offer a range of studios, one-, two-, and three-bedroom units. Amenities will include outdoor courtyards and playgrounds, rooftop terraces, laundry rooms, fitness center, bike storage room, children’s playroom, and tenants’ lounge.
“We are honored to work with GREC community leaders over the 40 years and thrilled that we were able to bring together outstanding joint venture partners in Hudson Company and Project Renewal to realize the GREC Community Plan.” said Michael Rochford, executive director of St. Nicks Alliance. “We are equally proud that Hudson Companies has committed to investing in skill training for 30 neighborhood residents to work and develop the skills to a career as well as joining with St. Nicks Alliance to invest in improving Cooper Park across the street from the site and $1M in the new School Settlement Community Center nearby.”
Aaron Koffman, president of The Hudson Companies, first acknowledged “community stakeholders passionately advocated for decades to bring to fruition.” Then he said, “We take great pride in developing leading-edge permanent and transitional housing for all New Yorkers and today we are one step closer to transforming this campus into nearly 557 affordable homes in East Williamsburg with a new 200-bed shelter, open space, and community spaces to complement the neighborhood.”
The new shelter was designed by Edelman Sultan Knox Woods Architects and will be built by Broadway Builders. Magnusson Architecture and Planning and Architecture Outfit are designing the overall campus plan and the other building which is part of the first phase.