The preponderance of vacant lots in Williamsburg has been a long-festering problem, but it is rapidly gaining the attention of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York media as the election for citywide races approaches.
Councilmember David Yassky (D-Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill) has been raising concerns about several stalled construction sites in the northern part of his Council district for several months, a result of the housing crash in late 2008.
Over the past two months, there has been a profile in New York Magazine about the rise of abandoned lots and foreclosures as well as two interviews in WNYC Radio regarding development along the waterfront and the effects of the Greenpoint Williamsburg rezoning agreement.
Other local media and blogs continued the discussion about the public safety and environmental consequences of the housing bust, and candidates in the 33rd District City Council race have taken up the issue during the Democratic primary campaign.
Hoping to seize this groundswell of public attention, on August 6, Yassky sent a letter to Deputy Mayor for Operations Ed Skyler, in order to highlight the extent of the problem.
“My district is littered with thousands of feet of construction fence that have become an unavoidable and dangerous eyesore for the community,” said Yassky in the letter.“The cumulative effect of all these stalled development projects on the quality of life in my district cannot be underestimated or ignored.I am urging the administration to devote its energy and resources to addressing this blight immediately.”
According to Department of Buildings statistics, out of 397 stalled construction sites in the city, 35, or nine percent, are located in the 33rd District and another 15 are located within a few blocks of the district.In Williamsburg alone, there are 33 stalled lots.
A spokesperson for Mayor Bloomberg said that they have received the letter and are formulating a response in writing, while also noting that the Council has introduced legislation to address the issue.
“The DOB has created a specific unit to enforce safety rules at stalled construction sites and they do inspections to make sure public safety is maintained,” said mayoral spokesperson Mark La Vorgnia.“We can’t prevent them from occurring when developer financing goes south, but we can require that safe conditions are maintained and strongly impose fines on a developer.”
Apartment and Lofts President David Maundrell says any action on vacant properties in Williamsburg is overdue.Maundrell has hosted a panel event of local real estate professionals to discuss trends in the Brooklyn real estate market while also addressing festering blight in their neighborhoods.
“The city has a responsibility to provide the neighborhood with a good quality of life and this is a step in the right direction of getting things done,” said Maundrell.
Though Yassky will be out of his Council office this winter, his staff hopes that they can help lay the foundation to transform neighborhood blightwith the help of city officials and private developers.
“It is extremely important that private developers maintain their construction sites, stalled or otherwise,” said Tim Roberts, Yassky’s chief of staff. “If they do not act, as many clearly have not, it is critical that the city ensure the basic safety of our neighborhoods by securing these dangerous development sites.”
©2009 Community News Group
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