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Broadway Triangle battle reaches Marty’s hearing room

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Opponents of the controversial Broadway Triangle rezoning proposal took their case to Borough President Markowitz on Wednesday, arguing that the proposal to build 1,851 housing units was so compromised by a politically corrupt process that it must be tossed.

The plan, which would rezone 31 acres in East Williamsburg to encourage the construction of 905 below-market-rate units, has been surrounded by controversy since the city gave the development rights in a no-bid contract to the United Jewish Organization and the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, two groups with deep connections to Brooklyn Democratic Party chair Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D–Williamsbu­rg).

Critics, who drastically outnumbered the plan’s proponents at the Borough Hall hearing, argued that while the goal of increased affordable housing was laudable, the process had excluded large parts of Williamsburg’s black and Hispanic communities and that the plan itself did not contain enough affordable units.

“It’s not about opposing affordable housing,” said Juan Ramos, chair of the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition. “It’s about the people that love Brooklyn, the people that called this neighborhood home before people wanted to walk on the streets of Williamsburg and Bed-Stuy. It should be an open and clear process.”

The plan is “racially, ethnically, and religiously discrimina­tory,” added Marty Needelman, also of the opposition group, because half the apartments would have three or four bedrooms. He claimed that this “clearly exhibits racial and religious bias,” because it would cater to large Hasidic families.

The plan’s proponents, however, did not sit idly as a silent minority.

“I have committed a great sin,” said U.J.O. President Rabbi David Niederman, tongue firmly planted in cheek. “For four years, we have been working to successfully develop a plan that nobody can dispute.”

He touted the plan’s affordable housing, saying, “Think to yourself: what are we as a community? What is going to be our answer to the hundreds of families that can’t afford homes?”

As Niederman finished his testimony, boos, along with a few cheers, rang out from the audience, but the hearing never got out of hand, as prior hearings had.

Opponents of the plans held signs reading, “Open the process and stop the rezoning!”

If Markowitz had an opinion, he didn’t reveal one, asking just one clarifying question and reacting to impassioned testimony with only the occasional nod.

Community Board 1 already approved the rezoning, though board members complained of a corrupt process. The Beep has until Thursday, Aug. 13 to submit his recommendation to the City Planning Commission. After that, the city rezoning plan goes to the City Council, where it is expected to be approved. It is supported by the neighborhood’s councilman, David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights), but opposed by a neighboring lawmaker, Diana Reyna (D–Bushwick), who is fighting it after a falling out with her mentor, Lopez.

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Reader Feedback

marta from williamsburg says:
if there is a no-bid contract to the United Jewish Organization then why when these organization start's building home's they do not rent to Hispanic's, African American or any other race, is there a law against descrimination when it comes to renting especially if the government is helping these oganization's, can some one explain this to me I've been in this neighborhood for 43 yrs, that's all my life and boy have I seen thing's in this community and all the wrong doing that has been un-notice by law maker's and some of our residential's but when no one want's to get together as a community what can one do.
Aug. 6, 2009, 10:49 am
Resident from Willaimsburg says:
What the opponents of this rezoning do not realize is that they ARE participating in the process, because the hearings at the Community Board, in front of the Borough President, and now in front of City Planning IS the process. That is how every rezoning works and how every rezoning is reviewed by the community. The heart of this argument is not the process. The heart of this argument is who is going to develop the land, and to veil this in claims of "discrimination" is disgusting.
Aug. 6, 2009, 11:24 am
Thomas from Prospect Heights says:
The no-bid contracts and the government financing that goes behind them is utterly appalling. Everyone shares the objective about affordable housing, but then why provide favorable treatment to some groups rather than others that want to and are equipped to participate? I don't know whether or not there are discrimination aspects here -- there are rifts within the Hasidic community and the Hispanic community, too, so they're not monolithic blocs, though in this case it's disturbing why African American groups haven't been actively engaged, in light of the fact that Flushing Avenue -- one of the "sides" of the Triangle -- is the border between Williamsburg and Bed-Stuy. I don't live in this area, and am not involved in any of the organizations involved in this controversy, but I'm a long-time Brooklynite interested in politics and community organizations, and I have seen some of these folks in action. This situation is just mind-blowing. I mean, come on! One of the two organizations that is being favored and given the no-bid contracts, is the one that Vito Lopez founded, and where his girlfriend works as the head of their housing program, and he heads the Assembly Housing Committee, and she is on the City Planning Committee, and he gets big state grants for that organization. Oh, and Mr. Lopez puts Maritza Davila, who worked at the organization, up for the City Council seat opposing Councilwoman Reyna, and he gets campaign contributions for his candidate from staff members of the organization, and a staff person who works in the organization's housing department files a challenge to contest Reyna's (as well as Evan Theis and Joann Simon vying for Yassky's seat against Lopez's chief of staff, Steve Levin), and I could go on and on. And the organization even turned down a city grant from Reyna (http://bushwickbk.com/2009/06/26/diana-reyna-and-rbscc-whats-really-going-on/) that she has supported for many years. Now, I'm not criticizing Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council from a program perspective -- they seem to do great and important work and I hope this sordid situation does not impinge on what they achieve for the local community -- but this just seems like such a blatant example of favoritism and political power. I thought this kind of thing went the way of Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall. Just unbelievable.
Aug. 6, 2009, 11:59 am
Sam Jacoby from Williamsburg says:
As I was just sworn in as new member on the community board # 1 i want to thank everyone and I pledge to work hard for all the people who live in District # 1 . I want to say that this issue on the triangle is becoming "Racial" with a big R its the white people against the black people.I say stop the non sense,bull,scare tactics, this is not the 60;s Everyone tries to scream louder and louder and louder, as my coboard memeber shimon weiser explained this is good for everyone and its for all the people ,,the black,the white ,the spanish,the polish,the afrikanish and the indians,,so everyone stop the bull
Aug. 6, 2009, 7:42 pm
Scott from Flatbush says:
Come on the real issue here isn't race or process it's potential. That space is an amazing opportunity and if the city is going ahead with a rezoning that doesn't take into account the massive amount of land that Pfizer has left unoccupied than we're all missing out on the greatest opportunity to create a truly integrated affordable 21st Century community that Brooklyn has.
Aug. 6, 2009, 9:08 pm
Bill from Williamsburg says:
I am disgusted and appalled at this process. This whole commotion originated with a Vito J Lopez's invitation only event! The Latino/Chassidic & African American communities have been more than disenfranchised during this ENTIRE process. Unless our community demands this process be stopped and framed by US, we will never get what we deserve. We must not allow the City/Mayor/Politicians/Vito J. Lopez to dictate: What we need or When we need it! Politicians must not forcibly determine the future of our communities!
Aug. 6, 2009, 9:38 pm
Divide and Rule from BY Vito Low-PEZ says:
Hello My Name is Vito LOW - PEZ

And this is my message for the 33rd council district:

Divide and Rule

A last-minute campaign mailing is accusing Hasidic Jews and other "powerful interests" of opposing City Council member Diana Reyna . . . Vito Lopez sent out a letter to voters in the mostly Hispanic section of the Brooklyn district warning that their future is at stake because "many powerful interests, like the real-estate industry and the Hasidim community . . ." Fernando Ferrer compared the "disgusting" letter to the racially tinged campaign against him in the 2001 mayor's race" - NY Post, 9/9/03

Is this the man you can trust? the venom and hatred that he has spread and spoke against the Jewish Community for over 20 years, even Councilwomen Diana Reyna who he supported in this letter, is no longer affiliated with him.

We in the Jewish Community are not so stupid to go to bed with Vito Low-pez, the people and housing agenda that he supports.

The Jewish Community for a Better Williamsburg
Aug. 6, 2009, 10:40 pm
walter from Wlliamsburg says:
http://www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c36_a11771/News/New_York.html

read this and you will come to the same conclusion that if Vito Low-pez is not in control he will make all efforts to stop affordable housing.

then comes the kickbacks (contributions) from the contractors, devlopers and unions for the his MACHINE
Aug. 7, 2009, 9:05 am
Goyo from Los Sures says:
Diana Reyna better put up the fight of her life for this Triangle thing. The Latino community will disappear in Williamsburg if we can't get affordable housing in uor backyard.
Aug. 7, 2009, 1:35 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I am in shock that a person like shimon Weiser is allowed to represent the people on CB#1 his weekly speeches in the beerhall is appalling and full of venom against anything and everything, when he talks his spit is all over the place, man talk about the catching the virus flue
Aug. 9, 2009, 11:46 am
Shimon Weiser from Williamsburg UJO says:
So mike you want me to follow like a sheep after all these crooked political wannabees? Mike you want that i should think like these Ironface-less morons in Washington DC, or some idiot in the capital of NY state in albany , or some political wannbee in the City Counci? A 6 year old child knows more about speaking the truth then these idiots
Aug. 10, 2009, 7:14 pm

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