New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a $1.4 billion plan to "transform" central Brooklyn on Thursday, unveiling a multi-faceted effort to take on poverty, violence, a lack of housing and chronic health problems like obesity and malnutrition.
The Democratic governor unveiled the plan he's calling "Vital Brooklyn" just weeks before lawmakers will be asked to vote on it as part of the state budget.
Specifically, the plan calls for 3,000 new multi-family units, $700 million for community health care clinics and programs, 5 acres of new recreation space and programs to help young people stay out of trouble and learn job skills.
Cuomo said a comprehensive approach is what it will take to revitalize the borough's central neighborhoods.
"If you look at unemployment rates, food stamps, physical inactivity, and number of murders - one of the greatest areas of need in the entire state is central Brooklyn," Cuomo said. "We want to take what we know needs to be done, and we want to provide those resources for the communities in central Brooklyn to be in a position to help themselves."
Crown Heights resident Sheila Arthur Smith says access to health care is sorely needed, "especially in these communities." And Dominique Williams of Bedford-Stuyvesant wants to see more fresh fruit in her area.
"We have a saying in the community: put your money where your mouth is," said Brooklyn pastor Herb Daughtry. "The governor is saying, 'I've got a plan.'"
The proposal comes as a bit of a surprise so late in the state's budget-writing season. Cuomo did not mention Vital Brooklyn during a series of speeches he gave in January laying out his priorities, nor was it discussed during weeks of legislative hearings on the governor's $152 billion budget recommendation. He made his announcement Thursday at Medgar Evers College.
Cuomo and top lawmakers are now working to negotiate a budget compromise ahead of the fiscal year beginning April 1.
Lawmakers from Brooklyn praised the proposal, which they said represents a strategic approach to the area's problems.
"Vital Brooklyn is taking a new, integrated approach to community development by connecting the dots between important services and resources that impact lives in a meaningful way," said Democratic Assemblyman Erik Dilan.
The money is far from guaranteed: Cuomo acknowledged he'll need the support of legislators, many of whom live upstate. So he told local lawmakers they'll have to fight.
"We are gonna need them to go back up to Albany. And they're gonna have to be ready for war," he said.