Pilot project called a success; 90 Sands adds 491 affordable homes to Brooklyn

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New York Construction Report staff writer

Breaking Ground is celebrating the opening of 90 Sands, a former Jehovah’s Witnesses hotel converted into 491 affordable housing units in Dumbo, Brooklyn, including 185 rent-restricted homes.

“When we launched ‘Housing Our Neighbors,’ I said that safe, stable, and affordable housing is fundamental to a prosperous, inclusive city. That is what we are delivering today,” said Mayor Eric Adams. “90 Sands demonstrates exactly why we fought for hotel conversion legislation in Albany: To create affordable housing more quickly and efficiently than we can starting from scratch.”

The city’s “Housing Our Neighbors” strategy looks for opportunities to convert vacant hotels into new housing, and the pilot project underwent a lengthy and expensive land use review process to convert to affordable housing, despite being uniquely well positioned for such a conversion. A new state law — which would have eliminated two years from the development process at 90 Sands had it been in place — will ease the process for these conversions going forward, and additional state funds are available to help these projects reach completion more quickly and cost efficiently.

“In line with this administration’s ‘Housing Our Neighbors’ blueprint, serving the most vulnerable New Yorkers is a key priority, as is creating affordable housing opportunities in all our city’s neighborhoods. As we look to convert vacant hotels into affordable and supportive housing, 90 Sands serves as an important model,” said HPD Commissioner Adolfo Carrión. “An old hotel is now 491 beautiful affordable homes in the heart of Dumbo, with critical supportive services to help more than 300 New Yorkers formerly experiencing homelessness get back on their feet.

The 30-story building features a 24-hour attended lobby, multipurpose room for community events and meetings, a digital library, fitness room and extensive bike storage. 90 Sands also includes a newly activated plaza for public use at the corner of Sands Street and Jay Street, adding a new green space to Dumbo. Breaking Ground plans to bring in community-serving uses to occupy more than 20,000 square feet of community facility and commercial space on the ground floor and lower level.

Until August 2017, 90 Sands was a residential hotel operated by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. On this project, Monadnock Construction, Inc. is the general contractor, Beyer Blinder Belle is the project architect, and W Architecture and Planning designed the public plaza space at the corner of Jay and Sands Street.

“We are thrilled to open 90 Sands at such a critical time to provide much-needed housing for low-income and formerly homeless New Yorkers,” said Brenda Rosen, president and CEO, Breaking Ground. “Over the course of two years, the redevelopment of 90 Sands remained on schedule despite the pandemic to help more than 300 people leave homelessness behind and find dignity and security with a home of their own. Our first hotel conversation project in over two decades, 90 Sands advances key goals of equity and inclusion.”

Until August 2017, 90 Sands was a residential hotel operated by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. On this project, Monadnock Construction, Inc. is the general contractor, Beyer Blinder Belle is the project architect, and W Architecture and Planning designed the public plaza space at the corner of Jay and Sands Street

“Beyer Blinder Belle is honored to have partnered with Breaking Ground on 90 Sands, helping contribute to its mission of ending homelessness via adaptive reuse of existing buildings,” said Carlos Cardoso, partner, Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners.

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