Taking a wrong turn downtown - New report is critical of development; says many have been displaced

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A report released last week slammed Downtown Brooklyn’s redevelopment, alleging its 2004 rezoning has displaced scores of residents and small businesses.

But the Downtown Brooklyn redevelopment czar countered that the report is inaccurate and fails to measure up to the facts on the ground.

Titled “Downtown Brooklyn’s Detour,” the report was prepared by the Pratt Center for Community Development (PCCD) for FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality).

“There has been huge amounts of negative impacts [from the rezoning] that have not been reported and we only see the theoretical positive impacts,” said FUREE Executive Director Ilana Berger.

“This is not the way a majority of people who work, shop and live in Downtown Brooklyn actually experience it,” she added.

Among the report findings include that to date over 100 small businesses have been shuttered and residents displaced, which negatively affects both the economic and historic character in and around the Fulton Mall.

The report also alleges that while the rezoning was originally intended to transform the area into the city’s third-largest central business district, it has instead become a Mecca for luxury residential developments.

At the same time there has been a “glut in the office real estate market,” according to the report.

“Contrary to what was anticipated in the Downtown Brooklyn Plan EIS (Environmental Impact Statement), development in downtown Brooklyn has mostly displaced small businesses – including basic services that residents need – in favor of luxury housing,” said PCCD Director Brad Lander.

But Joe Chan, president of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, the development corporation charged with overseeing the area’s revitalization, said the report misses the bigger picture.

“There is a significant amount of growth happening in Downtown Brooklyn right now. The level of growth is historic and unprecedented, bucking the challenges that many other downtown areas are facing in credit and real estate markets,” Chan said.

“At present there are scores of projects, totaling billions of dollars in investments, that are underway and creating jobs both in construction and ultimately permanent jobs that will further enhance Downtown Brooklyn’s status as one of the region’s business and employment centers,” he added.

Chan also said the report was wrong in that the commercial office market in Downtown Brooklyn has seen a significant amount of leasing and subleasing activity in the last quarter.

This includes the arrival of the borough’s first major media outlet in El Diario-La Prensa, the largest Spanish language newspaper in the region, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges, one of top ten grossing corporate law firms in country, Chan said.

“This recent commercial market activity not only demonstrates the need for more commercial office space in Downtown Brooklyn, but also demonstrates the area can serve as office locations to an incredibly diverse range of commercial tenants,” he said.

Chan also said the Fulton Mall remains economically healthy and the increased density of residential developments can only help the business climate.

“There will be opportunity for the growth of small businesses and it’s always been contemplated that the retail base is a mixture of small and large business,” he said.

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