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Community Board 1 decisively rejected the Rose Plaza developer’s application to rezone 3.7 acres of land on the South Williamsburg waterfront for residential use, giving the project a negative recommendation as it advances through the city’s ULURP process.
After two hours of vigorous debate, the community board voted 31-8, seconding the recommendation of its Land Use Committee, to disapprove Rose Plaza LLC owner Isaac Rosenberg’s proposal to build three residential towers off South 11th Street and Kent Avenue, primarily because of its minimum levels of affordable housing.
The project has been in the planning stages for six years, and the latest version represents a modification of the plan, introduced in summer 2008, which reduced the number of towers from four to three slightly higher buildings (with heights of 25, 18, and 28 stories), but maintaining the same percentage of housing deemed “affordable,” at 20 percent.
“They came up a year and a half later with none of (the recommendations) to bear,” said CB 1 member Jaye Fox. “It shows a clear lack of interest in affordable housing. They need that 20 percent for themselves, it’s not for us, and they’re giving us nothing.”
The development appears to be in the crosshairs of a long-standing conflict between two Hasidic factions within the same Satmar sect in Williamsburg.The community board contains several members of United Jewish Organizations and UJCARE, where Rosenberg, the developer, is a board member.The organizations have split votes on development projects in the past, including the city-owned Broadway Triangle, which the UJO supported. This time, UJO members disapproved of the Rose Plaza development, and they were joined by a majority of the board.
“We live in the community, we vote for the community,” said Rabbi David Niederman, Executive Director of the UJO. “We are living here, we want our children to live here and not be displaced. Ninety percent (of the residents) will be from outside the community. What is left for those inside the community?”
David Weinstock, a UJCARE member, criticized the UJO for its denial of the project and claimed the votes were being cast for political reasons.
“It is taking this project and throwing it into the garbage for no reasons. Denying a person an ability to build the project. This person is a very professional person,” said Weinstock.
CB 1 member Esteban Duran, who pushed strongly to oppose the Broadway Triangle rezoning application, questioned what he believed was a double standard at work, as did Councilmember Diana Reyna.
“I ask you to put your community before politics,” said Reyna, who supported the proposal. “We needed better for the Broadway Triangle, yet it passed 20-13 and we sit here opposing affordable housing, demanding more. If we’re going to apply it to one, we’re going to apply it to all.”
But CB 1 member Del Teague said she was “offended” by the “disingenuous” insinuation that the Land Use Committee made its recommendation for political reasons.
“You can disagree with us, but listen, if it’s true that (the developer) would come back with this, he would have. If they want something from us, let them give more to the community,” said Teague.
Howard Weiss, who represents the Rose Plaza applicant, said that the result was not unexpected, based on the Land Use committee’s recommendation, but vowed to press on in the next step of the ULURP process, a hearing with Borough President Marty Markowitz on December 7.
“They lauded the project, except they did not favor the affordable housing level so they voted no,” said Weiss.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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