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NYC to use modular construction for affordable apartments in Brooklyn

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The 167-unit apartment building will have apartments for low-income New Yorkers

Courtesy of Think! Architecture and Design

Can modular construction help solve New York City’s affordable housing crisis? That’s a question that the Department of Housing Preservation and Development is hoping to answer—or, at the very least, start considering—with a new apartment building in East New York.

HPD announced this week that it will partner with FullStack Modular—which acquired Forest City Ratner’s modular construction division in 2016—to build a new, fully affordable housing development in East New York. The project, which will be located on a city-owned lot at 581 Grant Avenue, will have 167 apartment that will be available to low-income and formerly homeless New Yorkers.

The development team is Thorobird Companies and the nonprofit Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services (BACDYS), and Think! Architecture and Design will oversee the building’s design. They were chosen after the city issued a request for proposals (RFP) last May seeking bids for the site.

There are only a handful of buildings in New York City that have been built using modular construction, including Carmel Place in Kips Bay, which won a Bloomberg-era competition to design livable micro-apartments in NYC, and 461 Dean Street, which opened as part of the Pacific Park megaproject in 2016.

Even though modular construction allows for shortened construction timelines—a benefit in a city that desperately needs more affordable housing—it has proven difficult to build in the five boroughs, with cost concerns and construction delays among the issues that have plagued modular companies.

Still, the city is hopeful that the East New York project—which could be completed 25 to 30 percent faster than a traditional building project—will prove an instructive test case in how to do modular right. “Doing modular is a really important, long-term strategy for the city,” former deputy mayor Alicia Glen told the Wall Street Journal. “We know it saves time, and as it scales up, it will start saving money.”

If all goes according to plan, construction would begin next year, with the building ready for residents by 2022.