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.