Attorneys for a coalition of 40 North Brooklyn community groups filed a lawsuit against Mayor Michael Bloomberg September 9, contending that the city violated the Federal Fair Housing Act in its negotiations regarding the development of Broadway Triangle, four hours after a City Planning Commission hearing on the issue.
“We want the world to know that the mayor is implicated in a very political deal between Hasidic Jews and [Brooklyn Assemblymember] Vito Lopez, and has left a divided community,” said Marty Needelman, an attorney representing the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition and the lead petitioner in the case.“We are doing this now because it is before the primaries and we do not want this process to proceed. The City Council should not address it until a new Council is in place.”
The lawsuit charges that the respondents, which include Mayor Bloomberg, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and its Commissioner Rafael Cestero, violated the federal Fair Housing Act and the City and State Human Rights laws “by the racially and religiously discriminatory impacts of the proposed rezoning proposal” and failing to comply with the city’s land use and review process (ULURP).Calls to the mayor’s office were not returned by press time and an HPD spokesperson, when asked to respond to the lawsuit, said that the department does not comment on ongoing matters of litigation.
The 31-acre site is slated for extensive zoning changes to allow for residential development. A plan sponsored by HPD, which would call for about 900 units of affordable housing in four- to six-story buildings, had been previously advanced by both Community Board 1 and Borough President Marty Markowitz.
Many of Needelman’s legal arguments were on display at a City Planning Commission (22 Reade Street) hearing earlier Wednesday morning, where more than two dozen speakers gave testimony in support and opposition to the Broadway Triangle rezoning plan.Two themes emerged among those who testified against the rezoning, which involved the displacement of industrial businesses and the exclusion of African-American community groups from the plan residing in Community Board 3.
“The fact is that the area south has been surgically removed from the plan,” said Ron Shiffman, a representative of the BTCC who proposed an alternative development plan to CB 1 earlier this summer. “There has been an attempt to not include CB 3, even though one of the main sponsors is located in another community board.”
Ernie Wong, owner of Shanghai Steel (78-82 Gerry Street), a sheet metal fabrication business located within the Triangle, expressed deep reservations about the city’s eminent domain process, which he believes will threaten his business’ long-term profitability.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen.I don’t have any clarity of how my business is going be,” said Wong.“If I move further, it would be less likely that [my food vendor clients] would come to my business for service.”
A similarly diverse group of North Brooklyn community members ranging fromAIDS workers, Catholic parish and Hasidic leaders, housing organizers, and city planners, as well as representatives from Assemblymember Vito Lopez (D-Williamsburg) and Councilmember David Yassky (D-Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights) testified in support of the plan, emphasizing the community’s pressing need for affordable housing.
“We have to address planning, development and overdevelopment, and the most important thing every human being should have is a roof over their head,” said United Jewish Organization Executive Director Rabbi David Niederman.“Children should not have to double up and share a bed.”Niederman’s group is one of two organizations that has been granted permission to develop housing on the site.
Assemblymember Lopez, who has strongly advocated for the plan as is, submitted a statement noting the wide number of supporters who have favored the rezoning.
“Through an intensive process, we’ve been able to achieve overwhelming involvement from community groups,” said the statement.“Community Board 1 has continually voted for contextual rezoning and overwhelmingly supported this plan, as has Borough President Markowitz and an overwhelming number of elected officials including Councilmember David Yassky, Senator Martin Dilan and Assemblymember Joseph Lentol.”
Councilmember Diana Reyna, who has made her opposition to the Broadway Triangle the cornerstone of her re-election campaign, pressed the City Planning Commission to reverse the community board’s recommendation and halt the advancement of the ULURP process.
“Like the waterfront rezoning, the city must consider all groups,” said Reyna. “The city should not give away land worth millions of dollars.We must insist on a transparent process.”
©2009 Community News Group
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