Today’s news:

Judge moves to delay B’way Triangle development further

The Brooklyn Paper

The city’s investigations into a nonprofit riddled with alleged fraud has claimed another victim — the nonprofit’s effort to developed a huge city-owned plot of contaminated land called the Broadway Triangle.

A Manhattan judge who is hearing a lawsuit against the development plan alerted attorneys in the suit this week that she doesn’t think the case needs to go forward until the investigation run its course.

Attorneys for the city had asked the judge to lift her stay on development, despite the concurrent investigations into the site’s nonprofit developer, the Ridgewood Buswhick Senior Citizens Council, and the state’s decision to delay funding for housing contracts on two city-owned sites on Throop and Bartlett Streets within the triangle.

“The judge wants to postpone the next hearing because two city-owned sites are potentially frozen by the state and there’s no reason to rush them,” said Marty Needelman, an attorney representing the plaintiffs. “The city said the court should lift the stay on the rest of the rezoning plan. We’re responding by saying the state has not been clear regarding the stay on the Broadway Triangle.”

The court’s move comes at a volatile time for both Ridgewood Bushwick and its nonprofit partner, the United Jewish Organizations, which were awarded the rights to develop housing on a 31-acre brownfield near the former headquarters of Pfizer in South Williamsburg almost two years ago.

The plan to build 1,895 units of housing, much of it between six and 10 stories, advanced swiftly through the city’s land use review process and was approved by Council despite the protests of hundreds of community members who immediately sued to halt the plan.

At the same time, federal investigators were scouring records of the Bushwick-based nonprofit and its founder, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, regarding how government subsidies could be used to fund brownfield redevelopment programs, such as the Broadway Triangle.

Lopez reportedly met with an undercover FBI agent posing as a financial investor interested in pouring money into redeveloping contaminated industrial properties. Lopez informed him that the Broadway Triangle would be one of the largest projects of its kind in Brooklyn, according to the Daily News.

The Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council is now the subject of two concurrent federal investigations, including a public corruption probe receiving assistance from the FBI.

Thanks to the judge’s reluctance to move forward, the Broadway Triangle remains on hold, as it has been since last year.

The Broadway Triangle Community Coalition alleges that both Ridgewood Bushwick and the United Jewish Organizations were awarded the two now-frozen sites before the Department of Housing and Preservation Development issued a request for proposal, which had the effect of shutting out dozens of other bidders.

The suit also challenges the rezoning plan itself, which Needelman described as racially discriminatory toward blacks and Latinos because of its preponderance of multi-bedroom apartments and low density.

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Marty Needelman from Williamsburg says:
Two more points:

1. We're not just challenging the two sites the City wants to give over to the "UJO-Ridgewood Bushwick Partnership," but the proposed rezoning of the rest of the area, limiting the building heights to no more than 8 stories, and giving a preference exclusively to CB 1 residents, and not the significantly affected residents of Bed Stuy; and,

2. We do not oppose the configuration of the 1st 8 floors at the two sites to accomodate the special needs of Hasidica residents, but we strongly object to (a)excluding Bed Stuy residents from the 50% preference, and (b) not permitting building up to say 22 stories, a la the adjoining Lindsay Park Mitchell Lama coops, in order to provide affordable housing opportunities to other residents as well.

Therefore, even if the 2 UJO-RBSCC sites go down the tubes, we still need to maintain the stay of the rest of the rezoning, and ultimately enjoin it permanently, and create an inclusive rezoning plan that consults with the entire community, and addresses the comprehensive needs of the communities surrounding the Urban Renewal Araa.
Oct. 10, 2010, 7:51 pm
Mike from Park Slope says:
Mr. Needleman,

As a student of affordable housing development that has been following this issue, I find your arguments unconvincing.

First, you state that this is not about who develops the affordable housing, but rather in two separate places that it is about the fact that the community preference component does not extend to Bed Stuy CB 3. However, months ago, the City offered to do this very thing and settle this case by extend the preference for affordable housing to Bed Stuy residents. The letter they sent in an effort to settle the case and make sure that hundreds of units of affordable housing were actually built was provided below:

http://www.observer.com/2010/real-estate/city-offered-settle-broadway-triangle-housing-development-suit

Second, your are wrong that it is only zoning and height restrictions that are keeping development in the Broadway Triangle from resembling the Lindsay Park Mitchell Lama development several blocks away. While funding for 20 story middle income affordable housing existed in the 1960s and 1970s when Lindsay Park was constructed, no similar funding now exists, and none has been proposed by the City, State, or Federal government. What this means is that the City's plan reflects the money available to build affordable housing, not merely aesthetic preference.

This lawsuit was initiated because Los Sure and St. Nicholas wanted the development fees associated with developing this site. The lawsuit may not mention these issue, but this is really what is at stake. As a result, an area that has withstood development for a generation will go undeveloped and hundreds of units of affordable housing will not be built.
Oct. 11, 2010, 7:41 am
Luis from Bushwick says:
@ MIKE FROM PARK SLOPE:

THAT IS EXACTLY THE POINT, IF EVERYONE CANNOT PARTAKE OF THIS DEVELOPMENT THEN NOTHING WILL BE BUILT. THE JUDGE SAW THAT AND SO HIS DECICION IS FINAL. LET THEM EAT CROW.
Oct. 12, 2010, 8:14 am

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