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Boss-backed Broadway Triangle rezoning advances

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The city’s contentious plan to allow residential development inside the largely commercial “Broadway Triangle” was rubber-stamped by the City Planning Commission on Monday, as commissioners said that the project’s ends — affordable housing — justified the sometimes ugly means that were involved in drafting the plan.

The commission voted 11-1 for the rezoning — which promises 1,851 new apartments, 850 of them pegged at below-market rates — despite months of protests over the city’s decision to grant development rights to two politically connected groups. Commissioners said the urgent need for affordable housing trumped complaints from a coalition of 40 community groups that claimed that the community’s voice was not heard in the rush to give control to the two non-profits.

“Affordable housing is an ongoing need in this city [that] I need to support,” said commission Vice Chairman Kenneth Knuckles.

Other commissioners said the rezoning would also encourage the construction of contextual low-rise buildings, create open space and boost local economic development in a dour area bounded by Broadway, Flushing and Union avenues.

Opponents say they were snubbed by the city when no-bid contracts went to the United Jewish Organization and the Ridgewood-Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, two groups tied to the borough’s Democratic Party boss, Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D–Bushwick).

The opponents have sued, deeming the city’s planned rezoning “racially and religiously discrimina­tory” against Latinos and blacks in favor of South Williamsburg’s Hasidic community. The suit, filed last month in Supreme Court, argues that the politically corrupt process cut out dozens of community groups from participating in plans to convert 31 acres of former industrial land in East Williamsburg into a mixed-income community with large portions reserved for below-market-rate housing.

Those opponents support a different plan for the Triangle, one that would allow taller, Hasidic-unfriendly buildings comprising 3,731 units, 1,800 of them below-market rate.

But concerns about the exclusion of neighborhood groups and the city’s possible use of eminent domain to relocate small businesses convinced only one commissioner to vote against the rezoning.

“The process to include all organizations should not be overlooked,” said the lone naysayer, Commissioner Karen Phillips. “We need affordable housing, but we need economic stability guaranteed in the area. With the problems raised by this issue I cannot support it.”

Opponents were disappointed, but not surprised by Monday’s outcome.

“[The commissioners] acquiesced to political pressure,” said Martin S. Needleman, a lawyer fighting the plan, which will now move to an expected approval in the City Council, which typically defers to local councilmembers on land-use issues.

Councilman David Yassky, in whose district the Broadway Triangle is located, supports the project. Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Bushwick) opposes it, though her opposition could partly be attributed to a falling-out she had with her former protege Lopez several years ago.

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Reader Feedback

Resident from Williamsburg says:
Number one: the "coalition" does not have 40 groups. Do a little investigative reporting. Number two: the triangle is industrial, not commercial. Again, check your facts. Three: Controversial? Really? Over two thirds of the community board voted in favor. The borough president supported it. CPC supported it. The Councilperson supports it. It is an excellent plan. If it weren't election year I doubt there would be any opposition at all.
Oct. 20, 2009, 10:02 am
Burger from Williamsburg says:
This is great news for families struggling for survival in Williamsburg. Finally we will have some affordable housing.

Thanks for all the commissioners who voted yes.
Oct. 20, 2009, 10:29 am
Scott from Flatbush says:
Um you're right the coalition does not have 40 groups, it has 41 groups, check their website.

http://www.broadwaytriangle.com/

Also it is controversial, the Ridgewood-Bushwick Seniors are getting the project only because of Veto's support ---He's literally in bed with the developer.

Also How on earth is this an excellent plan? The affordability component falls short not only because of low number of units, but also because it's affordable for the region not for the neighborhood. Plus it falls short of dealing with the elephant in the room, The abandoned Pfizer plant.

In fact it's not a plan at all, it's a typical Bloomberg spot rezoning without stepping back and looking at the larger context.
Oct. 20, 2009, 10:29 am
Jason from Bushwick says:
Sorry Scott, a lot of theese so could groups do not represent anyone besides their own board of directors. And some of them have nothing to show but a letterhead.

If you think that theese 41 groups are a majority, just take a look at the numbers of the recent city council primarys results.
In the 33Rd council district, Steve Levin who was the candidate fighting for the HPD rezoning plan, won with big margins. See the numbers below

ISAAC ABRAHAM 1,979
KENNETH J BAER 790
DOUG BIVIANO 1,157
KEN DIAMONDSTONE 1,237
STEPHEN T LEVIN 5,344
JO ANNE SIMON 3,226
EVAN R THIES 2,028
Oct. 20, 2009, 10:58 am
vandam from bushwick says:
This is Bull S**T! Period! And, NYC is a democratic state???
Oct. 20, 2009, 11:48 am
Jerry from Greenpoint says:
To Jason:

Perhaps you should add up the vote totals for all the other candidates! Levin was the only one who supported the Broadway Triangle debacle, and he only got 5,344 votes out of more than 15,000 cast.

I'd say that speaks volume about the support for the Broadway Triangle rezoning and Levin's patron, Vito Lopez.
Oct. 20, 2009, 11:56 am
Nancy from Greenpoint says:
Isaac Abraham got 1,979 votes because he is a hasidic guy and its not related to his stand on the Broadway Triangle issue.
Oct. 20, 2009, 12:44 pm
tara from greenpoint says:
2/3 of CB1 voted for it because Yassky and Markowitz stacked the board with Hasidim. Theres something like 20% of the board is middle aged Hasidic men and that is NOT representative of the ethnic, economic and age demographic on the board. Let's see how many of these guys stick around now their done with the Triangle vote!
Oct. 20, 2009, 3:27 pm
William from Williamsburg says:
Though not surprising, it is definitely disappointing that CPC would not acknowledge that the process was not just problematic but was an appalling affront to the community. Deals, political pressure, exclusion, no-bid contracts. Calling that "process" trivializes it. Would you say that what Tammany Hall did was just "process"?

I can't argue that it's better or worse than the opponents plan -- there are pros and cons -- but it's still appalling. And it's absolutely deceptive to blithely say that the Community Board approved it 2:1, since they strongly protested how it was done and how no-bid contracts were awarded, and their approval came with conditions that have not been officially acknowledged nor heeded.

It's also deceptive to say that Steve Levin's win was due to community support for the project. Please reference the Courier-Life/Community Newspaper Group's article, http://www.yournabe.com/articles/2009/09/24/brooklyn/brooklynltvadfi09242009.txt. It reports that Steve Levin's numbers "included several thousand votes from members of the United Jewish Organizations," which is one of the beneficiaries of the no-bid contracts (led by Rabbi Niederman). That's not a community mandate, but simply the backing of a self-interested bloc.

And, Steve Levin's district does not include many of the populations that are affected by the Broadway Triangle plan. His district, and the triangle, is north of Flushing Avenue, but does not include Bedford-Stuyvesant, which starts across the street, and it does not include East Williamsburg, a heavily Latino community east of Broadway. It DOES include the bulk of the Hasidic community. So, again, that's not a mandate, but simply fortuitous district boundaries for Levin. Don't distort the facts.

So, the plan is approved by CPC (though BIG KUDOS TO KAREN PHILLIPS FOR STANDING UP FOR PRINCIPLES!!!), and presumably to be rubber-stampled by the City Council. I can only hope that moving forward the city agencies (HPD) involved in implementation of the two projects and future projects make amends for the embarrassing way this was done and be very, very, very inclusive of the other groups and transparent about bidding and other contracting. Steve Levin has an absolute responsibility to handle this in a fair, inclusive way and not carry on in the way this has been done to date.

Mr. Levin: Show that you are truly willing to be your own man rather than an extention of Mr. Lopez and unfairly favor Ridgewood-Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and UJO. Clearly, you'll have a hard time building credibility and confidence among groups that have been excluded, but you owe it to your constituents that you enter this with integrity and separate yourself from past inequities. Reach out. Find ways to involve them in these projects (e.g. marketing the units), and engage them in planning for other properties that may become available within our outside the zoning. Don't be discouraged when you hit animosity or resentment. Politics is hard, but you have a responsibility.
Oct. 20, 2009, 3:43 pm
Vernon from Brooklyn Heights says:
I don't understand how the Hasidim tend to benefit from the proposed rezoning more then any other ethnic group.

As far as i understand, everybody interested in a apartment will be able to participate in the lottery process.

It's rather a victory for all New Yorker's, getting such a quantity of affordable housing in the near future.
Oct. 20, 2009, 5:19 pm
Tara from Greenpoint says:
Everyone in the neighborhood knows that UJO has been very smart about steering applications from their members in past "lotterys".

Also in the past flyers and mailers posted in mainly Spanish speaking areas have given bogus phone numbers - people would call to get an application and the phone would ring and ring, no machine, no nothing. That's how its been. People in the Heights might not know this but EVERYONE in Williamsburg knows about this.

It's an affront for ALL New Yorkers because the developers were selected privately instead of having to bid like anyone else. In other industries - construction, for example - the city agency that engaged in such a practice would be subject to an investigation, people would lose their JOBS over something like that.

Without transparency ANY project, ANY development is suspicious. Without transparency how do you KNOW that NY got the best deal? YOU DO NOT.

And without transparency how are we to know, Vernon, that the amount of affordable housing couldn't have been increased? Don't believe the hype, Vernon.
Oct. 20, 2009, 5:46 pm
Greg from Bushwick says:
To Tara:

Please check this link to see a list of all available apartments.

http://www.nyc.gov/html/hpd/html/apartment/lotte
ries.shtml

Btw there are phone numbers listed for several languages (but not hebrew) are any of them bogus?
English, 212-863-5610

Spanish, 212-863-5620

Mandarin, 212-863-8924

Cantonese, 212-863-8925

Russian, 212-863-8936

Haitian Creole, 212-863-8939

Korean, 212-863-8979

It's the responsibility of those 41 groups to let their members know of all available apartments.
Oct. 20, 2009, 6:06 pm
Tara from Greenpoint says:
UJO had to stop this practice when they were publiucly outed by Los Sures, El Puente and numerous residents who kept raising this issue until the city couldn't avoid or deny it any more, and HPD had to deal with it.

My point is there's always a way to steer around the system and assurances of a "lottery" don't promise that the apartments will be awarded fairly.

We'll see who ends up living there won't we?
Oct. 20, 2009, 9:42 pm
Greg from Bushwick says:
If Los Sures and El Puente will make sure that those who qualify within their community apply for apartments, they will certainly get their fare share.

Btw a quick check on current listings available shows that only 22 of the 700 units will be 3 bedroom. is it fair to say that 99% will not be hasidic housing?
Oct. 20, 2009, 10:41 pm
tara from greenpoint says:
Young families should be content enough with 3 bedrooms. Though my family of 5 had to make do with 2...
Oct. 20, 2009, 10:52 pm
BOB from CLINTON HILL says:
TO TARA.
YOUR COMMENTS YOU KNOW ARE BASLESS AND LIES .I FEEL YOUR PAIN AFTER ALL YOU TRIED TO KILL THE PROCESS AND YOU LOST.THANKS TO ALL CB1 MEMBERS AND PUBLIC OFFICALS WHO SUPPORTED THE REZONING .YOU ARE TRYING A NEW SPIN WHICH SO FAR WAS NOT MENTIOND. I THINK YOUR NAME IS ABRAHAM OR SCLESINGER BECAUSE YOUR NAME IS FACTIOUS
Oct. 21, 2009, 12:05 am
Jim from Williamsburg says:
To BOB from CLINTON HILL : Please go back to school. Your spelling is less then second grade
Oct. 21, 2009, 10:36 am
Vinny from Bushwick says:
Bob from Clinton hill it’s already time to spell right especially an immigrant from London-England.
Oct. 22, 2009, 11:13 am
Normal from Brooklyn says:
To all posters:

Please stop this childish and stupid behavior,
lets discuss issues and not peoples identities or their spelling qualifications.

Thanks
Oct. 22, 2009, 12:13 pm
Almost Insane from Northside says:
I agree with Normal from Brooklyn
Oct. 22, 2009, 2:25 pm

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