This variegated row of rectangles is part of Nehemiah Spring Creek, a development within Gateway Estates, which itself is a new neighborhood of affordable housing, decades in the making, that is finally being built on a formerly empty expanse of landfill in East New York. Designed by the renowned architect Alexander Gorlin, these homes consist of prefabricated modules that are assembled in a factory at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and then trucked across the borough to Spring Creek.
The non-profit group putting up these houses, Nehemiah, is named after the biblical leader who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. It is backed by East Brooklyn Congregations, a consortium of local churches that banded together in 1980 to revitalize the blighted neighborhoods of Brownsville and East New York, places where other developers wouldn't even think about building. Nehemiah's focus has always been on keeping costs as low as possible by erecting large batches of houses at once, in the hope that a concentrated influx of new homeowners could provide stability to a formerly deteriorated area. They have been largely successful in this approach, but, as a result, their architecture typically lacks much in the way of character.
Spring Creek, however, offers a striking departure from the blandness of previous Nehemiah projects. The facades are still quite minimalistic, but their irregularly alternating patterns and colors are anything but boring. Walking around here on a foggy Sunday afternoon was a surreal experience; I felt at times like I was stuck inside an endless alien suburb, but I was simultaneously captivated by the arresting visual landscape. It's unlike any other place I've seen in NYC. Adding to the strange vibe was the fact that there weren't any stores or restaurants to be found — there is a gigantic mall on the south side of the Gateway development, but it's not accessible to pedestrians in the residential area — but apparently that's going to change soon.