City Council Approves Conversion of Jehovah’s Witness Hotel into 500-Unit Affordable Housing Complex in DUMBO

Existing conditions at 90 Sands Street (Courtesy of Breaking Ground) Existing conditions at 90 Sands Street (Courtesy of Breaking Ground)

The New York City Council has approved plans to convert a defunct 29-story hotel development near the DUMBO, Brooklyn waterfront into an affordable housing complex. The building is located at 90 Sands Street and was formerly owned by the Watch Tower Society, business entity of the Jehovah’s Witness religious organization.

The project is one of the latest developments from Breaking Ground, a non-profit social services organization that focuses much of its efforts on creating housing for New York City’s homeless and extremely vulnerable populations. When complete, 90 Sands Street will comprise 203 affordable apartments for severely low to moderate-income households, and an additional 305 units for the formerly homeless. The building will also feature a 24-hour attended lobby, flexible communal spaces for meetings and events, a digital library, a fitness room, and a public plaza.

Monthly rent will be priced as low as $492 per month for a studio apartment.

As previously reported by YIMBY in 2019, residents will also have access to on-site social services provided by The Center for Urban Community Services. This includes individualized case management, primary medical care, mental health services, vocational advisory services, and benefits counseling. A portion of the ground floor and cellar will also support the unspecified manufacturing area.

In total, these ancillary components will span an estimated 30,000 square feet.

View from the Brooklyn Bridge of existing conditions at 90 Sands Street (Courtesy of Breaking Ground)

View from the Brooklyn Bridge of existing conditions at 90 Sands Street (Courtesy of Breaking Ground)

“Now, more than ever, New York City needs new supportive and affordable housing for the homeless and lower-income individuals,” said Breaking Ground president and CEO Brenda Rosen. “With the City Council’s approval of Breaking Ground’s ULURP application for 90 Sands, we are on our way to bringing 500 much-needed affordable units to DUMBO, one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the borough.”

In August 2018, RFR Realty leased the former hotel for $170 million to Breaking Ground. The RFR’s original plans included the construction of a 600-key hotel in partnership with eccentric hotelier Ian Schrager. Those plans were eventually scrapped for reasons unknown.

To finance the acquisition, Breaking Ground received $2 million in support from the New York City Council, a $155 million loan from the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and a $10 million grant from Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. Breaking Ground also provided a $6.7 million sponsor loan to finance the purchase.

The conversion of 90 Sands Street was originally expected to be completed by 2022. It is unclear if Breaking Ground is on track to wrap construction by that date.

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18 Comments on "City Council Approves Conversion of Jehovah’s Witness Hotel into 500-Unit Affordable Housing Complex in DUMBO"

  1. David in Bushwick | April 30, 2020 at 7:40 am | Reply

    This is excellent news! NYC has over 60,000 homeless and a third of them are children. Without a vaccine, tourists won’t be coming back anytime soon. Hopefully the City will purchase more empty hotels to help our fellow citizens who need it the most.

  2. Glad to see more affordable especially in this location, but why so low-vibration ugly?

    Excellent design is not just for market rate.

  3. Nice to see affordable housing of this scale being built. Greed has caused everywhere to become so expensive in NYC to the point that most people can barely pay rent even with multiple roommates in many cases. The Coronavirus pandemic has really exposed the high level of inequality and the astronomical rents prices in the city. Even people making six figures are now getting crash course in poverty. More lower and middle income buildings like this need to be built not just luxury towers for the rich. Modern versions of Coop City should be considered it is a good example decent housing on a large scale.

  4. Yes I Said That... | April 30, 2020 at 11:25 am | Reply

    Everyone loves to “stick it” to tax paying citizens of New York with dopey comments like “we’re bringing affordable housing to one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Brooklyn”. We get your tongue-in-cheek jabs. What does it matter if you scammed your way into this development in DUMBO (which, by the way sweety, this isn’t even DUMBO) or if this development were in the South Bronx, Jamaica, or East Harlem. No difference if your real core missions (cough cough) is to house the homeless.

    Trust me, I don’t feel bad nor have guilt for one second of the day that I work for a living, make good money, and have owned property for 10+ years in a waterfront neighborhood that’s flourished. I shake my head in sorrow for all of you haters of success. It must be tough to wake up each day and be so hateful. A tear for all of you.

    • Your comment is actually a clear example of condescending hate.

    • Guess ur stating ur take. The building was leased by a big real estate concern to a nonprofit that coyld reduce their losses. 600 a night hotel fails.

      Lease it to become 600 a month apartments.

  5. michael t bianco | April 30, 2020 at 4:16 pm | Reply

    To put low income residents in a area of high priced service such as food may be a disservice in the long run

    • It often works out OK. Housing is better than no housing, and lower-income kids in higher-priced neighborhoods can benefit from better schools.

    • U see high price food is an illsuion. More neighbors better pricing.

      500 units is 1200 new community members plus hundreds of their ppl.

      Merchants should adjust prices.

  6. Brooklyn is big. It’s a good place to put the homeless and low income.
    And keep Manhattan for the richer crowd, business and tourists.
    Makes sense.

    • Manhattan is hardly the land of rich. Many nyers r living in subsidized gousing.

      Stuytown is an example. An example of affordable housing now becoming 2400 a month studios.

      Faster and faster. You see the irony. Stuy town was a town itslef. And the living was affordable.

      You have 90 yr olds in florida who have their grandkids livingin their 3 bedroom for 2300.

      These r guesstimates. But when stuytown was founded i doubt a 3 bedroom was 500 dollars.

  7. U see so manhattan is getting redredged left and right.
    Ues
    Uws
    Les
    Far east west
    Far south north etc

    The natural course is live like sardines like new new yorkers. Or stay crampped or overspaced because of a different price elsewhere.

    Stop this entitled 2nd and 2nd downtown nyer vibe. That vibe exists for 2 percent of the city.

    Most supposedly secure income nyers live with 3 roomates in a 4 bedroom apartment.

    Supposedly decure being 43000 a yr one person. Which in 85 percent of america is decent.

    • All u preserve the wealthy manhattan for the wealthy.

      Be wary ur next lover will be living on a nycha housing extension. For 400 less than u. And insists on living alome after 4 yrs of relationship.

      And she knows her spot is much cheaper and a better supermarket.

      U see nyers in 2040 now?

  8. There is no space in nyc. Eant to build a 60 unit builsing u have to buy out 7 brownstones.

    The original owners paid 520k in 1987 and its worth 2.4 million as is today.

    That owner will wait and wait and wait. And the whole time have someone renting 2 levels above for 4000k a month.

    4k for 3.5 bed. 2 bath. Dine in kitchen. And private backyard.

    U see so building in nyc is a mess. No one wants tobuy 7 plots over 11 years.

  9. Say u have a 200 unit site. 20 percent market rate. 80 percent affordable/subsidized. With the tax benefits and market rate u can break even. And still have growing site value.

    U dont think there r 5000 ppl who wouldnt pay 1210 for a studio? Or stay in their 300000 citizen town.

  10. Frances Forde | May 21, 2020 at 10:09 pm | Reply

    stop the noise please. I say decent housing for all people. I agree with the homeless having decent housing, but what about the homeless senior? everyone who homeless didn’t become homeless due to no fault on their own, I know many have chosen to become homeless because they will get good apartments better than what they had before choosing homeless or without children, New Yorker knows the stories, sadly it’s true. Please don’t say nobody chooses homeless, with or without children. there are many senior homeless funds for them as there are for the homeless. I believe that why there are so many seniors living in rooms. Help them live in decent communities as Dumbo

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