Looking ahead: 23 big stories to watch in 2023

collage of big stories for 2023
We’ve reflected on our biggest stories of 2022 — now, it’s time to look ahead to what will be going on in Brooklyn in 2023.

When the dust (and confetti) settles, the new year is a time to reflect on the last 12 months — and to look ahead to the next 12. Sure, we’ve already recounted Brooklyn Paper’s top stories of the year, but what’s on the docket for 2023? Here’s a look at what may be to come in the coming months!

1. Redistricting (again)

Thought we were done with redistricting? Not quite! While new, constitutional maps for the state Senate and Congress were drawn and finalized this year, the Court of Appeals’ decision that the Assembly map was also unconstitutional came too late — so it stayed in place for the 2022 midterm elections. But new maps must be drawn up in time for the 2024 election, and the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission will be holding public hearings to gather feedback on their proposal in early 2023. 

2. City Council elections

Usually, New York City councilmembers are elected to four-year terms. But, this year, redistricting changed the boundaries of all of the city’s 51 council districts and each and every councilmember is up for reelection in 2023 – and it’s bound to be messy. Of particular interest is the race between incumbents Ari Kagan and Justin Brannan. Kagan was drawn into Brannan’s district — and, at the beginning of this month, announced he was changing parties from Democrat to Republican. As a result of the switch, Kagan will not primary Brannan, but will likely face him in the general election. 

nyc city hall
All 51 New York City Councilmembers are up for reelection next year thanks to redistricting, and it’s sure to be a wild ride. File photo by Ethan Stark-Miller

3. Gowanus Rezoning

The massive Gowanus Rezoning was approved by the City Council last year, and, this year, for better or for worse, the nabe started to see the effects of the upzoning. In the spring, federal officials balked when a developer started construction on a yet-to-be-remediated toxic piece of land beside the Gowanus Canal, and the beloved BBQ restaurant Pig Beach will close on Dec. 30 to make way for a new development.

More construction is certainly on the horizon in Gowanus — including thousands of new affordable apartments. 

4. Army Corps’ climate plan

In September, just shy of the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its proposal for shielding New York City from the dangers of climate change — and that proposal includes adding sea walls, sea gates, and more to coastal nabes all over the borough. 

The plan has yet to be approved, and will be accepting public comments until March — but some local groups have already expressed their skepticism about the effectiveness of the plan, especially in Gowanus and the Newtown Creek.

5. Marijuana licenses and lawsuits

Legal cannabis licenses were granted in four of the five boroughs this year — but, due to an ongoing legal battle, not one single license was approved in Brooklyn, frustrating consumers and would-be retailers. It’s hard to say whether or not any licenses will be approved in Kings County next year — but we’ll track the lawsuit and the ongoing issues of illegal dispensaries in the meantime. 

hands with marijuana and jars
No legal marijuana sale licenses have been issued in Brooklyn yet — but that hasn’t stopped illegal dispensaries from cropping up in the meantime.

6. Lester Chang

Republican Lester Chang defeated longtime Democratic incumbent Peter Abbate in Assembly District 49 last month — but within days, some opponents had raised questions about the Assemblymember-elect’s address. With urging from local politicians and the Brooklyn Democratic Party, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the body’s judiciary committee would investigate Chang’s residency and pass its findings on to the incoming Assembly in January. If the committee found that Chang did not meet residency requirements, the Assembly could vote not to seat him — which would likely prompt a special election. Fun!

9. New state Senators and Assemblymembers

A host of new state Senators and Assemblymembers were elected this year, and they’ll be headed up to Albany in January. From the newly-elected Republican Assemblymembers Alec Brook-Krasny and Michael Novakhov in southern Brooklyn to the left-leaning state Senator Kristen Gonzalez in Greenpoint, we’ll keep up with their first year in office.

10. Jeffries in the House!

Similarly, we’ll keep tabs on Brooklyn Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries’ first year as House Democratic Leader. Jeffries was formally chosen during a November vote of the House Democratic Conference, making history as the first African American top Democrat in Washington’s lower chamber.

11. Vital Brooklyn

In the last two months alone, Governor Kathy Hochul’s office cut ceremonial ribbons and broke ground on affordable housing developments in Brownsville and East New York — both a part the state’s Vital Brooklyn Initiative, which aims to address and correct inequities in Central Brooklyn by building new housing and community spaces and investing in community-based healthcare. There’s plenty more on the horizon.

vital brooklyn ribbon cutting
Two new affordable housing complexes have been opened or started in the last few months thanks to the Vital Brooklyn project, and much more is in the pipeline. Photo courtesy NYS Division of Homes and Community Renewal

12. State and county party involvement in local politics

After the midterm elections saw several local Democrats — including longtime incumbents — lose to Republicans, candidates and their supporters spoke up about an apparent lack of involvement by the state and county Democratic parties. Candidates said the county hadn’t done enough work to support local candidates and spread knowledge of the upcoming election — but the party disagreed, claiming they had done plenty in the run-up. Things were even more dire statewide — some Dems called for Jay Jacobs, the head of the state Democratic Party, to resign in wake of the election results.

With more elections coming next year, we’ll keep an eye on how the local Democratic parties change their ways — or don’t. 

13. Borough-based jails

The city hopes to close Rikers Island by 2027 and replace it with four smaller, borough-based jails — including one right here in Brooklyn, at the former site of the Brooklyn Detention Complex, which closed in 2020. Late last year, then-mayor Bill de Blasio announced that six firms would compete for the contract to build the new jail — in the meantime, demolition is underway at the old complex. In the next year, crews will likely begin the process of taking the building down floor-by-floor, and one of two remaining contractors will be selected to design and construct a new jail. 

The plan to close Rikers by 2027 is currently behind schedule — and it remains to be seen how that may impact Brooklyn. 

14. The BQE

The Adams administration recently rolled out an initial list of proposals for re-envisioning the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway — all of which would widen the crumbling cantilever section in Brooklyn Heights back to three lanes in each direction. Locals pondered the proposals at a public workshop and, despite colorful illustrations showing creative plans for increasing public green space over and around the divisive highway, not everyone was impressed. Brooklyn Paper (and our sister publications amNew York Metro and Brownstoner) will be all over the plans — and what planned shutdowns of certain stretches — mean for Brooklyn.

The city is working to reimagine the BQE’s crumbling triple cantilever — and will continue gathering public feedback and refining their designs next year. File photo by Susan de Vries

15. Frank James

Alleged gunman Frank James is expected to plead guilty next month to terrorism charges related to the April 12 mass shooting on a crowded N train in Brooklyn that left 29 straphangers injured including 10 with gunshot wounds.

James, 63, was scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 27 in Brooklyn federal court, answering to charges including 10 counts of terrorism against a mass transit system and one of discharging a firearm in a crime of violence, but on Wednesday his attorneys filed papers with the court indicating James wishes to plead guilty in the first week of January. The court has scheduled a change of plea hearing for Jan. 3. By pleading guilty to all charges, James could still face a life sentence in federal custody. Brooklyn Paper (and BP alum Ben Brachfeld, now transit editor at amNewYork Metro) will be following James’ court appearances closely.

16. Newtown Creek and Meeker Avenue superfund cleanups

The Gowanus Canal Superfund gets all the attention, but it’s far from the only toxic site in the borough. Just this year, the federal Environmental Protection Agency designated a big swath of Greenpoint known as the Meeker Avenue Plume as a Superfund site — and started monitoring the toxic gases that permeate the air there as it works to determine just what they’re dealing with. Just a mile or so away, residents were frustrated to learn that the cleanup of the Newtown Creek Superfund had been delayed — the site has been on the Superfund list for over a decade, but very little work has been done.

We’ll keep track of what the EPA finds and how they plan to keep residents and the environment safe — and any additional obstacles they encounter over the next year. 

17. Reynoso’s maternal health initiatives

Maternal health and lowering maternal morbidity has been one of Antonio Reynoso’s chief causes since he was a New York City councilmember, and, in his first year in office as Borough President, he allocated millions of dollars in capital funding to improving maternity care at three local hospitals. In November, his office launched a multi-cultural, multimedia ad campaign and online resource guide, and announced a new program to distribute free baby and postpartum supplies to new parents at five hospitals and health centers. It’s clear the beep takes the issue of maternal health in Brooklyn — where Black pregnant people are over 9 times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than their white counterparts — seriously, so we’ll be seriously covering his efforts.

reynoso with big check
Brooklyn beep Antonio Reynoso spent his entire capital budget this year on new maternal health initiatives — how will he expand his efforts in 2023? File photo courtesy Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso

18. Asylum-seekers in Brooklyn

A tide of asylum seekers have flowed into the city since the spring, and organizations across the city have been pushing the boundaries of their resources to help. Still, the city’s shelter system is being pushed to its limit, and the Adams administration has said the Big Apple is running out of money to support the influx of migrants. Brooklyn Paper will continue to report on the issue at-large, and aims to talk directly to those seeking asylum in the new year.

19. The bid for a Coney casino

Three casino licenses are up for grabs in downstate New York and the push to bring one to Coney Island gained steam in 2022. In November, three organizations announced a formal partnership with Thor Equities to do just that. If their bid for the People’s Playground is accepted, Thor promises to develop the property, Saratoga Casino Holdings and the Chickasaw Nation would work together to run casino operations, and Legends would be the “development and entertainment partner.” The group say a casino would be a boon to the peninsula’s economy, which relies heavily on summer tourist traffic — but not all residents are willing to press their luck. We’ll see just who hits the jackpot in 2023.

20. Lifeguard shortages

Lifeguard shortages were worse than ever this past summer, and the Adams administration has vowed to prioritize the hiring of new ones moving forward.  A Parks Department employee, who spoke with Brooklyn Paper while working on Coney Island Beach, speculated that this year’s high volume of unattended lifeguard chairs could be due to summer workers instead opting for remote work, or jobs with higher wages. We’ll be watching as the warm weather returns in 2023.

coney island beach
Coney Islanders and tourists alike were frustrated by lifeguard shortages last summer — the city has tried to incentivize new lifeguards, but with the shortage spreading nationwide, we’ll keep an eye on conditions next summer. File photo by Erica Price

21. NYCHA under private management

Six Brooklyn NYCHA complexes were converted to private management under the Rental Assistance Demonstration Program last year — with the city and developers claiming the conversion would lead to better, faster repairs and a higher quality of life — but residents were unimpressed when their issues continued to go unresolved. Months later, $434 million renovations were completed at nine other privatized NYCHA complexes. The RAD program has been widely criticized by NYCHA tenants and advocates, and we’ll keep up with them as life under RAD continues on.

22. Modernization of G line 

The MTA recently approved a $368 million contract to install a modern communications-based train control signal system on the G line, which would make the Brooklyn-Queens line the third in New York City equipped with the technology. The new signaling system will run the length of the train’s route from Court Square in Long Island City, Queens to Church Avenue in Kensington, Brooklyn. BP (and Brachfeld) will look to see whether or not this improves on-time performance (as it has for the L and 7 lines in recent years), and what straphangers have to say about the switch.

g train
At long last, the G line is set to get some attention: the MTA plans to begin signal modernization on the route. File photo

23. What’s next for Century 21?

Demolition permits were filed earlier this year for Century 21’s two neighboring Bay Ridge buildings. The news came on the heels of the flagship’s closure in 2021, after owners filed for bankruptcy in 2020. Rumors quickly swirled that the cherished chain store would eventually reopen its Bay Ridge location, but those tales proved futile as news spread about the coming demo. Speaking with Brooklyn Paper, the executive director of the 86th Street Business Improvement District, Pat Condren, described the plan as a “short term pain for a long term gain,” as he expects the rebuild to pay off down the line with a suite of fresh new businesses in the bustling shopping hub. It’s still unclear which business — or businesses — will take over the sprawling space (an announcement developer ASG Equities promised would come this year). We hope to break that news to anxious locals.

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