Judge halts B’way Triangle plan over bias against blacks, Latinos

Judge moves to delay B’way Triangle development further
The redevelopment of the Broadway Triangle by Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council is stalled, thanks in part to several ongoing investigations of the nonprofit.
The Brooklyn Paper / Bess Adler

A judge blocked Mayor Bloomberg’s bid to build affordable housing in South Williamsburg, siding with opponents who claim the project favors Hasidic Jews and is biased against blacks and Latinos.

Manhattan State Supreme Court Justice Emily Goodman’s Dec. 23 ruling bars the Bloomberg administration from constructing 181 apartments on three city-owned sites near Throop Avenue in an area dubbed the Broadway Triangle.

The housing would have unfairly benefited Hasidic Jews because 43 percent of the units would be three or four-bedroom apartments — residences that would disproportionately go to Hasidic Jewish families, which are generally larger, rather than black or Latino families, which are typically smaller.

“The community preference only serves to perpetuate segregation in the Broadway Triangle,” Goodman wrote. “[The city] failed to consider the impact of the development on racial segregation.”

Goodman also blasted the city’s plan to build low-rise buildings instead of skyscraping towers with more units — a decision that favors religious Jews who refuse to use elevators on the Sabbath, according to opponents.

The residences in question are just a part of the city’s highly contentious plan to build 1,851 apartments, half of which would be set aside for low and middle-income families.

The city rezoned the Broadway Triangle to allow residential development in 2009, but the plan has been stalled since opponents filed a lawsuit the day after the project was approved by the City Council.

“We’ve been waiting for a long time and now our voices have been heard,” said Juan Ramos, chair of the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition, which is made up of 40 neighborhood groups opposed to the plan. “This project was being pushed into the community.”

From the start, critics claimed the project was crooked because the city issued no-bid contracts to two politically connected non-profit developers, United Jewish Organizations and Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, which was founded by project supporter and Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D–Bushwick).

Last January, Goodman took a swing at the project, ordering a temporary stay after two federal agencies and the state launched investigations into Ridgewood Bushwick and its connection to Lopez.

Critics of the project including Marty Needleman, an attorney for opposition groups, claim the latest decision will force the city to scrap its plans and start over — perhaps leading to a bigger and taller buildings with more apartments.

“The city has to let go,” said Needleman, citing federal housing guidelines that bar municipalities from backing projects that segregate communities. “The facts in the law are so clear.”

But the city wants to move forward with its plan and promises to fight the decision.

“We respectfully disagree with the judge’s decision and will seek an immediate appeal,” said Gabriel Taussig, chief of the city’s Law Division.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

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