Since its inception in 2008, Brooklyn A’s Green Building Law and Justice (GBLJ) Project has been cultivating a green and sustainability law practice under our Community and Economic Development Program. This project provides legal assistance to nonprofit community development corporations (CDCs) and community based organizations (CBOs) undertaking environmentally sustainable, or “green,” community development projects.
True to our mission and practice of responding to the evolving needs of its clients and the services which they provide, Brooklyn A’s GBLJ Project grew out of our clients’ affordable housing work. As clients started building “green” our practice likewise evolved, adapting construction, financing, and other agreements that encompassed sustainable requirements.
The GBLJ project seeks to improve communities by building affordable housing, health centers, schools, and vital neighborhood infrastructure that are:
- Environmentally sustainable, energy-efficient, and therefore more affordable over time
- Healthier for current and future residents, and
- Sources for livable wage and sustainable employment, generating wealth and improving overall quality of life
The inclusion of low-income community development in the larger movement towards environmental sustainability and energy efficiency promises multi-faceted solutions to many of the issues facing low-income neighborhoods. These issues include high rates of asthma, environmental contamination, lack of living wage employment opportunities, and the need for more truly affordable and quality housing units. With our GBLJ Project, Brooklyn A specifically works toward the construction and renovation of green affordable housing and other community facilities to include more energy efficient elements like airtight building envelopes, high efficiency windows, and solar power. We aid in the conversion of vacant lots into community gardens, markets, arts and cultural spaces, as well as greening and improving transit corridors and streets, in order to promote community cohesion.
Additionally, Brooklyn A has developed resources for community economic development lawyers who represent organizations wanting to “go green.”
DIRECT CLIENT SERVICES
Brooklyn A’s GBLJ project consists of three primary components:
Legal Advocacy, Resource Development and Program Development; we provide legal representation to CBOs throughout various stages of green development, such as:
- Helping clients to take advantage of green financing programs and new laws
- Ensuring that each project consistently integrates sustainable components
- Adapting each project to new issues that arise due to the incorporation of green elements
- Researching green laws and assistance programs available to CDCs
- Creating model documents for green transactions
- Providing opportunities for colleagues to network with each other and collaborate on sustainability projects
Program Development: we work with CDC clients to adapt or develop programs focused on sustainable development, such as:
- Altering existing buildings to increase their sustainability
- Focusing on the incorporation of green elements with regard to new construction sites
- Developing community-wide long term sustainable development plans
Brooklyn A ‘s GBLJ Project clients have included:
- Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, Cypress HIlls Verde Initiative
- El Puente, Green Light District Initiative
Brooklyn A serves as general counsel for the Cypress Hills Verde Initiative, a project of the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, Inc. (CHLDC), an organization we have worked closely with for almost over three decades. The Verde Initiative makes Cypress Hills a greener, healthier, more sustainable place to live. The Verde Initiative improves the quality of life in Cypress Hills by expanding community gardens and creating other green spaces, increasing access to healthy food and exercise, encouraging residents to advocate for healthy food access in the neighborhood, and retrofitting small homes to make them environmentally sound. Read more about the initiative here.
Our work with the Verde initiative has included various aspects of the project. For example, in the area of “green” affordable housing, Brooklyn A assisted CHLDC to incorporate sustainable goals and requirements into its property management related documents. We advised and represented CHLDC in the conversion of a vacant lot into community garden and chicken coop. Brooklyn A also continues to represent CHLDC in the development of multiple brownfield sites, as well as general green counseling on a regular basis on issues that arise in the Verde Initiative’s development and implementation.