It was not the circus that many expected, but Williamsburg residents were still treated to a Broadway−quality theatrical production Tuesday night as Community Board 1 gave the Broadway Triangle its blessing, approving the rezoning action 23−12−1.
Instead, the atmosphere at times resembled a record release party — unlike last month’s meeting, where residents opposed to the rezoning disrupted a presentation by the Department of Housing and Preservation Development.
In preparation for this week’s meeting, CB 1 staff decided to cap attendance to the room’s fire capacity (just under 200) and an NYPD officer enforced a strict head count, leaving several community leaders waiting in a long line in the senior center’s hallway.
“I felt like I was waiting in line at the club last night, trying to get into the CB meeting but not being on the list,” local resident Kathryn Peterson said after the meeting.
The plan for the rezoning of the 31−acre South Williamsburg site has split the community into two major coalition groups, as well as the two Brooklyn councilmembers who represent the neighborhood. The Broadway Triangle Task Force (BTTF) and Councilmember David Yassky support the plan, while the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition (BTCC) and Councilmember Diana Reyna oppose the rezoning.
Both groups got to make their case to the community board in five−minute presentations.
“We’re not asking you to vote on the plan tonight, we’re asking you to vote on your mission,” said El Puente Founder Luis Garden Acosta, who represented the BTCC. “You are the guardians. To allow all these other vested interests to step between you and your office and your mission then we don’t have a community that will provide its own future.”
Brooklyn Unidos member Maria Viera, representing the BTTF, followed Acosta’s remarks reasons why she and other community members supported the rezoning, focusing primarily on the creation of affordable housing units on city−owned land.
“The task force also supports the CB1 land use committee’s recommendations calling for increased green space ration and a relocation fund for manufacturing and industrial business in the Triangle,” she said. “I urge the community board to vote yes today to allow for the transformation of this area which has for too long been a blight on our community.”
Shortly after 9 p.m., after three hours of intense discussions, community board members overwhelmingly supported the rezoning action, despite the absence of votes from Rabbi David Niederman and Simon Weiser, members of the United Jewish Organization (UJO), which is part of the BTTF. Both men reluctantly recused themselves from the vote, citing a conflict of interest since the UJO is one of the coalition members which would benefit heavily from the future construction of affordable housing on the site.
“Yes, the process is very important and in the future it should be transparent. For the moment now, we’re talking about a project that is all affordable, and we would be going back to the drawing board (if we vote no),” said Niederman. “It will take another 25 years to get this going and I urge you let’s not take 25 years from now so we still see the blighted areas.”
Near the end of the five−hour meeting, Rob Solano of Churches United, which is part of BTCC, returned to give a concluding statement aimed at addressing community board members who criticized the behavior of coalition groups at the previous full board meeting.
“(Williamsburg’s Latinos) see the Broadway Triangle as a bigger plan,” said Solano. “When they see the plan get pushed through, they get offended and they lose hope. They lose hope because they know it’s the last chance to do something big for them so they can stay in this community. It’s not just shadows and buildings for them. It’s life.”
©2009 Community News Group
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