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Playing the role of the wise King Solomon, Borough President Marty Markowitz presided over a land use rezoning hearing on the Broadway Triangle, which has divided the Williamsburg community for the past three years.
The hearing was the latest step in a long and increasingly contentious battle between North Brooklyn community groups and the city’s Housing Department of Housing over the future of the 31-acre South Williamsburg site.
The city’s current plan, backed by the United Jewish Organization and the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, calls for rezoning several industrial parcels for residential use, which would support 900 units of affordable housing in eight-story buildings.
Borough President Markowitz has not expressed an opinion over the rezoning plan, though community leaders on both sides believe that he will likely approve the application before it would proceed to the City Planning Commission.
“The borough president appreciates the public input at the ULURP hearing and looks forward to rendering a decision at the appropriate time,” said Mark Zustovich, a spokesperson for the borough president.
In the meantime, a crowd of nearly 100 community residents, largely split among their support, attended the hearing to voice their opinion about the Broadway Triangle project.
It was a who’s who of North Brooklyn, as community leaders and councilmember representatives spoke for the record on the project proposal, largely repeating arguments made during previous Community Board 1 meetings.
Among them were Churches United for Fair Housing Director Rob Solano, who’s against the plan, and UJO Executive Director Rabbi Niederman, who supports it, who made impassioned pleas for their respective sides, though both agreed that more affordable housing was crucial for the neighborhood, which has faced increasing tenant displacement due to rising rents and gentrification in the region.
“For four years, we have been working and successfully developed a plan that nobody can dispute,” said Niederman.“Again and again, we all want affordable housing and this is what we did.Unfortunately it took so long to happen.Do we want to turn this clock backi”
Solano tried to appeal to Markowitz’s deep reservoir of Brooklyn pride, telling a story about an affordable housing matter settled at All Saints Church and comparing the process that led to the Broadway Triangle rezoning to a building’s flawed foundation.
“It is the people that make the foundation in the community,” said Solano. “Today, we are on the second level.I hope that instead of looking up we take a look down at the foundation which is made of paper.By the time we get to the fourth floor, it will come tumbling down.”
Leah Archibald of EWVIDCO, a local development corporation, urged the borough president to consider the plight of small businesses who may be forced to relocate if the rezoning is approved.She recommended identifying alternative spaces for businesses within the Triangle so they would not have to close or move if the city exerciseseminent domain.
“If this isn’t mitigated, the result will be a loss of industrial jobs in our community at the precise moment when jobs should be retained in Williamsburg,” said Archibald.
Markowitz has 20 days to weigh in on the plan, before it will go to the City Planning Commission, which will have 60 days to make a recommendation on the matter.City Council is expected to hold hearings on the issues within two months.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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