Brownsville, Brooklyn, NYC's #1 hotspot for violence and chronic disease is the pulse of New York City's health equity crisis



Brownsville, represented by Ocean Hill Brownsville Community Board 16, with around 90,000 people, is located in Eastern Brooklyn between the current neighborhoods of East New York, Canarsie, East Flatbush, Crown Heights, Bedford Stuyvesant, and Bushwick. It is one of the oldest sections of Brooklyn, and has a unique and critical relationship to the rest of New York as a refuge for the under-served, a location of violence, and a hotbed for social innovation.


Operating in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Alan Waxman Ecosocial Design has been actively choreographing neighborhood agencies to address health in-equity.  In 2015, we conducted an interagency Health Impact Assessment where we identified three major patterns in health equity in Brownsville and 14 recommendations to by which neighborhood programs might address these patterns.


Major patterns identified in Brownsville in terms of health:


- Social Cohesion: Promoting opportunities for social interactions between community residents, businesses and nonprofit organizations;


- Access to goods, services, and recreation: Providing better access to local food sources and other opportunities for youth and families;


- Community Safety: Provide protective measures through architecture and landscape design principles as well as programs to enhance community safety by reducing exposure to crime and fear of crime.


From these priority impact areas described in the Health Impact Assessment conducted in 2015, a number of programming, policy and regulatory recommendations were developed to help maximize healthy community design principles for future redevelopment in the Brownsville neighborhood:


1. Recognize the reality of inter-development rivalries (turfs) resulting in violence and engage youth in trans-generational, spatial programming.


2. Address the actions and perception of law enforcement and security personnel.


3. Create a positive relationship between residents, program officials, and law enforcement to allow participants from different housing developments to access programs.


4. Encourage and publicize walking groups to increase street access during periods of less pedestrian activity.


5. Address the divide between public and private housing through more joint programming and information exchange;


6. Recruit businesses open during different times of day throughout commercial corridors.


7. Recruit businesses that prioritize employing local residents.


8. Use transparent storefront windows that create a friendly and inviting atmosphere but cannot be damaged easily.


9. Create facilities that have commercial store frontage at ground level with housing above.


10. Maximize visibility for high risk areas with street lights.


11. Invest in community projects such as neighborhood parks and community gardens to encourage recreation and social interaction opportunities.


12. Fill the gap in published knowledge on Brownsville after 1970 by recording stories from current long time Brownsville residents.


13. Create a dynamic feedback mechanism for neighborhood information including qualitative and quantitative measures that help to evaluate proposed programs, infrastructures, and public spaces.


14. Integrate these processes into Brownsville so that this HIA methodology is an ordinary part of maintaining neighborhood health.