“We firmly believe that we should come to the people,” said Vito Mustaciuolo, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, standing in the back of the School Settlement House’s very crowded auditorium on Manhattan Avenue and Jackson Street. “They shouldn’t have to come to us to get their questions answered.”
On Thursday night HPD—and a host of other city agencies—did just that: They came to Williamsburg, for a homeowners forum designed to solicit questions from, and provide adequate answers, resources and support for, homeowners in North Brooklyn.
“It’s helpful for us to hear from the community. We take all of this information back to city agencies and it helps us move forward and develop new resources,” Mustaciuolo continued. “Recently, we developed a loan program tailored to address the needs of the community, like curing violations in buildings. In Williamsburg there are fewer foreclosures than other neighborhoods, but there are certainly other questions to be answered.”
Co-sponsored by the St. Nick’s Alliance, the forum featured ten experts from various government sectors including several branches of HPD, Parks and Recreation, Department of Buildings, Consumer Affairs, Department of Finance and Open Space Alliance.
“Here in Williamsburg, we have a large population of homeowners that need help,” said Alison Cordero, St. Nick’s Community Preservation Deputy Director. “It’s good for people to come and see that there are real faces attached to these agencies, and to these homeowners. We want to help residents solve problems, and help facilitate immediate contact.”
Throughout the two-hour question-and-answer period, some of the most common problems were flooding, sidewalk subsidence throughout Williamsburg, adequate light on street corners and disruption from neighboring construction sites. For most of the questions, representatives from HPD recommended that residents first call 311 for further assistance, though they did promise to look into each issue specifically and report back.
Among the attendees was Councilmember Diana Reyna, who congratulated homeowners for their involvement and willingness to speak out.
“There are so many programs the city has to offer—and the advertising is close to zilch aside from these forums,” Reyna said. “Only by raising questions can we appropriately direct an agency. It’s not just about affordable housing. We have homeowners and they need services as well.”