Broadway Triangle debate heats up
by Daniel Bush
Aug 12, 2009 | 1036 views | 0 0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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The city’s Broadway Triangle redevelopment plan moved to Borough Hall last week, where the borough president held a land use hearing on the controversial project.

The hearing drew droves of supporters as well as opponents of the plan, which would create 1,900 apartments on a empty 31-acre site known as the Broadway Triangle that is bounded roughly by Broadway and Union and Flushing avenues.

The plan has stoked a fierce development debate between the city and the communities in the three neighborhoods that border the site: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Williamsburg, and Bushwick.

The city’s plan would reserve 48 percent of the units built at Broadway Triangle for moderate and low-income residents. Community advocates say that is not enough.

The Broadway Triangle Community Coalition (BTCC), a group of 40 organizations, has proposed an alternative plan to build even more housing, including thousands of units more to be rented at below market rates.

The BTCC plan calls for 4,800 units, with a 75 percent affordable housing component. The plan is popular, especially amongst Latinos in South Williamsburg, where longtime residents have watched gentrification drive up housing prices in recent years.

“The city’s plan is not going to serve me,” said Debra Medina, who lives in South Williamsburg. BTCC’s plan, on the other hand, “is going to be a plan that actually helps the community’s needs.”

Lincoln Restler, a Community Board 2 member speaking in his capacity as an area resident, said the alternative community plan would “meaningfully stem the flow of displacement from South Williamsburg” and the other neighborhoods surrounding the site.

At the hearing, residents lashed out against the city planning process, alleging it was secretive, held behind closed doors, and excluded community groups.

Critics of the city’s plan have long contended the city granted development rights for the project to two powerful groups - the United Jewish Organization (UJO) and Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizen Council (RSBCC) - without consulting other community organizations.

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez’ community liaison, Evelyn Cruz, called for greater transparency in the planning process.

Cruz said though many community advocates were disappointed by the city’s rezoning of the Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfronts in 2005, at least the city’s plans for that project were inclusive.

“The community was able to participate,” Cruz said. “That was not the case here.”

Assemblyman Vito Lopez, an affordable housing authority in the city who founded RSBCC, has said the planning process for Broadway Triangle was a fair one.

After the hearing, Rabbi David Neiderman, UJO’s director, said the city plan would bring positive change for his Hasidic community and others.

“We support the redevelopment of housing for poor families,” Neiderman told the Star. He called the alternative redevelopment plan to build several thousand more houses unrealistic at best, given the economy.

The plan, which was conditionally approved by Community Board 1, will now be reviewed by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

“The Borough President appreciates the public input at the ULURP hearing and looks forward to rendering a decision at the appropriate time,” said Mark Zustovich, a spokesman for the borough president.

The borough president has until August 20 to submit a comment on the plan, which will then move to the City Planning Commission for review.

The attorney for BTCC, Marty Needleman, said the coalition is holding out a “fifty-fifty” chance that Markowitz will reject the city proposal. “It would be a major victory for us if Marty Markowitz voted against it,” Needleman said.

The borough president will certainly be pressured to do so.

Congresswoman Velazquez “is urging the borough president to reject this plan and instead to consider and discuss the plan proposed by BTCC,” said Cruz.

Restler said community groups opposed to the city plan would continue pressing as well.

“This is not at all over,” Restler said. “We’ll continue to fight tooth and nail to make sure the community is heard.”

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