Looking for a fighter - Critics urge de Blasio to step up

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Local residents who feel they aren’t receiving nearly enough support from City Councilmember Bill de Blasio in their upcoming showdown with developer William Stein at the Board of Standards & Appeals (BSA) this month are letting their local elected official know about it.

In the past few weeks, comments sent to the Carroll Gardens Coalition for Respectful Development’s Web site have been scathing, many criticizing what they feel is de Blasio’s tepid response to the most high-profile challenge to new zoning regulations passed on July 23.

New rules cap the height of construction on certain blocks in Carroll Gardens at 55 feet. Stein’s proposed Oliver House condominium at the corner of 2nd Place and Smith Street would rise in excess of 70 feet if allowed to proceed as planned.

Earlier this month at Community Board 6’s Land Use Committee hearing, local elected officials spoke out vociferously through their representatives against allowing Stein the opportunity to build under the old zoning rules.

De Blasio’s office was mum.

Last week, de Blasio was once again silent as the full membership of Community Board 6 met to vote on whether to support Stein’s application before the BSA.

The councilman told this newspaper that he doesn’t believe allowing Stein to build under old zoning regulations would undermine the effectiveness of the recently passed Carroll Gardens Zoning Text Amendment.

“I think the BSA is in a position to make an objective judgment and that’s all there is to say at this point,” de Blasio said.

Indeed, the BSA is supposed to consider cases based entirely on their merits, but there is a feeling among many that the body routinely comes down on the side of big developers, and that forceful and vociferous support from local elected officials could make a difference.

De Blasio’s letter to the BSA calling on its members to “take the facts of each individual case and overall neighborhood preservation into account when evaluating these cases,” doesn’t sound like forceful advocacy to the ears of critics.

“I just have a little problem understanding how he reconciles feeling strongly about downzoning and yet not taking a strong position on something that would be the largest thing on the block,” 2nd Place resident Rita Miller said.

One of the founding members of CORD says that opponents of overdevelopment like her have worked extremely hard, taking off from work, speaking out at public meetings and writing emails, to get the Carroll Gardens Zoning Text Amendment passed.

“It’s sort of a slap in the face to have all of that hard work diminished,” she said.

This week, Gwen Rocco, acting communications director for de Blasio, reiterated the councilman’s position on the Stein development.

“As Bill has mentioned before, the overall down zoning of Carroll Gardens is a top priority, and the text amendment passed this summer was a key step in that direction,” she said. “Regarding prior plans for projects that do not comply with the text amendment, Bill has respectfully requested that the BSA take the facts of each case into consideration, while keeping neighborhood preservation in mind, when it evaluates these cases.”

Members of CORD are still hopeful the de Blasio will stand with them and other members of the community when the BSA considers Stein’s application on September 24.

“I would like to have him come and support us at the BNA and finish what he started,” Triada Samaras said.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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