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Williamsburg activists are hoping time is on their side.
With less thanmonth before the City Council takes up the Broadway Triangle rezoning, a group of Williamsburg residents demonstrated in front of the office of their local councilmemeber, David Yassky, in an attempt to sway him from supporting the city’s plan to rezone the 31 acres in Williamsburg, bounded by Broadway and Flushing and Union avenues.
“He sold us out!He’ll sell you out!” chanted about 12 constituents, who strongly oppose the rezoning, while they walked in a protest circle on the corner of Court and State streets on Sept. 24.
The constituents are members of the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition (BTCC), an umbrella group of 40 Brooklyn community organizations opposed to the Department of Housing and Preservation Development’s (HPD) proposal to change the zoning of 31 acres bordered by Broadway and Flushing Avenues to largely residential use.
The coalition has been critical of the negotiation process that led to two North Brooklyn organizations, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and the United Jewish Organizations, to receive no-bid contracts to develop 1,851 units of housing on the site. Many of the demonstrators were members of community-based organizations which argue that they were excluded from a public charette and further negotiations with the city over the site’s future development.
“If you can’t even stand up for your local community residents, what makes you think you can stand up for the entire city?” said Rob Solano, executive director of Churches United for Fair Housing.“If you can’t even deal with the Broadway Triangle controversy in your local district, how can you deal with this issue as a whole?”
Yassky spokesperson Danny Kannerdismissed the criticism, though said the councilmember “fully respects the right of the demonstrators to voice their disapproval.”
“David’s support for the rezoning is based on the hundreds of units of affordable housing, open space, and jobs it will create for the Greenpoint-Williamsburg community,” said Kanner.
As the debate over the rezoning moves from the City Planning Commission to the City Council, BTCC members are lobbying councilmembers on the Council’s Land Use committee, including Queens Councilmembers Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside), Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), John Liu (D-Flushing), and Brooklyn Councilmember Al Vann (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant).
Yassky has already submitted testimony to the City Planning Commission in favor of the plan and has not indicated that he would change his position on the issue.
“The rezoning of the Broadway Triangle is a long-overdue step toward the creation of much-needed affordable housing and a revitalized central business district in this largely underdeveloped section of Williamsburg,” said Yassky following Community Board 1’s Land Use Committee approved the plan.
BTCC leader Juan Ramos said he was “deeply disturbed” that Yassky did not meet with coalition members to explain his position on the plan.
“We are entitled to an explanation of how Yassky can justify a process that led to a plan that limits affordable housing to half of what it could be, provides no open space, and destroys the existing businesses on the site,” Ramos said.
Staff from Yassky’s district office confirmed, however, that the councilmember reached out to coalition leader Rob Solano to speak with him over the phone about the Broadway Triangle rezoning, but Solano demurred.
“He would only talk with me.I said I could not morally represent the entire coalition by myself,” Solano said.
The City Planning Commission is expected to vote on the rezoning on October 7, after the vote was rescheduled from September 23.The change in date will not delay when the City Council will take up discussion of the vote at a Land Use Committee hearing, in late October or early November.
Concurrently, the BTCC filed a lawsuit against Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city’s Housing Department regarding the process by which the rezoning took place.A court hearing for the suit was moved from October 9 to October 19.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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