Protesters Shut Down Brooklyn Rezoning Hearing

An officer attempts to escort protesters outside after the abrupt conclusion of the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure meeting on July 10 at Brooklyn Borough Hall. (Photo by Kelly Mena via Kings County Politics)

A July 10 hearing for two controversial development projects in Brooklyn – the rezoning of the Broadway Triangle in Williamsburg and the redevelopment of the Bedford Union Armory in Crown Heights – came to an abrupt end after hundreds of protesters shut down the meeting, reports Kelly Mena for Kings County Politics. The hearing was held as part of the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

When the rezoning of the former Pfizer site came up for discussion, the chair of the Broadway Triangle Coalition, Juan Ramos, “stood in protest as representatives from the project developer, the Rabsky Group, attempted to submit their proposed plan.” The rezoning plan includes “1,146 mixed-income residential units, 65,000 square feet of neighborhood retail, a half-acre of public open space, and 405 parking spaces.”

Ramos, and the protesters in attendance, believe that the rezoning would displace longtime Black and Latino residents in South Williamsburg.

“On behalf of the hundreds of people who came out today to this gathering, we firmly object to this meeting even taking place because we feel that this plan went through our community in a way that was unfair to our community, and the way the community saw no plan at the community board meeting. We firmly oppose the development at the Pfizer site and the Bedford Union Armory, both of which stand to displace thousands of long-term community members,” said Ramos.

Mena noted that the Rabsky Group was unable to give their presentation but “they are still committed to the project and believe it is in the community’s benefit to move forward with their plan.”

Nearly three weeks earlier, on June 21, Brooklyn’s Community Board 1 had voted 26-15 in favor of the rezoning. In a Forward article published before the July 10 hearing, reporter Ari Feldman gave some background on the empty lots that currently make up the Broadway Triangle.

For nearly 30 years, these lots have been at the center of the housing hopes of four growing communities: Latinos, African Americans, Hasidic Jews and high-income families priced out of the “Brownstone Belt” of neighborhoods like Park Slope and Prospect Heights. Their presence has brought renewed attention, and this controversial new development, to the Broadway Triangle, a 52-acre swath that adjoins the tips of Williamsburg, Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant. It’s some of the last unbuilt land in North Brooklyn.

(…)

Everyone agrees that the Broadway Triangle needs housing. But many residents do not trust the city to insure that housing in the Triangle will go to residents of color. An attempt by the Bloomberg administration to develop the Triangle resulted in a string of buildings occupied exclusively by Hasidic Jews, despite a court injunction against the city’s plans.

Ron Shiffman, an urban planning professor at the Pratt Institute and a veteran city planner, told The Forward: “What we’re beginning to see is that the Rabsky site is the last available site to remedy the historical inequities and segregation that have affected this area for over 30 years.”

Yet some community leaders are worried that the latest development will perpetuate the same patterns. They distrust the developers and their motives, and say the city isn’t doing enough to build affordable housing. They believe it will have an outsize number number of three- and four-bedroom apartments, and that this will make the majority of affordable units available only to large Hasidic families. (The Rabsky Group has not disclosed the floor plans of the Triangle development.)

Read more from The Forward and Kings County Politics.

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