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The city’s Broadway Triangle rezoning plan cleared another hurdle this week, as a key Community Board 1 committee advanced the plan in four close votes, a victory for the United Jewish Organization (UJO) and the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (RBSCC).
“This was a vote for removing blight from an area and providing affordable housing,” said Rabbi David Niederman, Executive Director of UJO. “We have been waiting 25 years for anything to grow there. This one is a real win−win for the community at large.”
For nearly three hours, 26 members of Community Board 1’s Uniform Land Use and Review Procedure committee listened and debated the merits of the city Housing Department’s plan for rezoning the Broadway Triangle from manufacturing to low−density residential use. The Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD), and the Department of City Planning, want to enable the construction of 1851 units of housing, with 905 of them affordable. Several lots within the 31−acre site are already owned by city, all of which will be designated for affordable units.
“We wanted to be realistic about what we could propose and what has happened in the community over the years,” said Shampa Chanda, director of citywide planning at HPD. “We don’t want to make a wrong decision and have to change the rezoning.”
Emily Kurtz, Assistant Director for Special Projects with RBSCC, said that the ULURP committee made a major statement supporting a plan that will foster affordable housing in the neighborhood.
“The zoning plan is responsible and reasonable, and by voting in favor of the proposed contextual zoning, the board has ensured that future development of Community Board 1 will fit within the built context of the neighborhood,” said Kurtz.
Esteban Duran, a CB 1 and Broadway Triangle Community Coalition member and an opponent of the rezoning, asked HPD representatives who gave a presentation why a plan concerning higher residential density providing nearly twice as many housing units was not receiving more consideration from the agency. HPD officials responded that a higher density plan would have more environmental impacts to the city’s infrastructure, as new residents could crowd schools, buses and subway lines.
“This issue has been glossed over,” said Duran. “You can tell from the looks on [HPD’s] faces, they’re miserable, they don’t want to be here now. The ULURP committee has been put in a very uncomfortable position.”
ULURP Chair Ward Dennis cast the deciding vote in one of the four components of the rezoning action, after forcing UJO members to recuse themselves from voting. He explained that he voted “Yes” to advance the motion because the committee votes were generally in favor of the rezoning action.
“The sentiment of the committee was in this direction anyhow, so I voted in line with the overwhelming sentiment of the committee,” said Dennis.
Rob Solano, executive director of Churches United For Fair Housing, said he was disappointed in Dennis’ decision. He promised to bring a larger group of community members to the next community board meeting, on July 14.
“If there is a huge community that wants this, then where are they? If they really want this plan, they should be here,” said Solano.
Solano and his colleagues at the BTCC have held several meetings over the past week to discuss their strategy to slow the process and urge the city to favor a higher density plan proposed by several Pratt Institute graduate students. Their plans this summer include lobbying community board members, as well as Councilmember David Yassky (D−Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights) who is expected to vote for the rezoning plan when it reaches City Council and Assemblymember Joseph Lentol (D−Williamsburg) who has not sent a letter of support to HPD.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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