Bill mum on Smith St. - De Blasio’s silence at hearing confuses many

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At last week’s Community Board Six Landmarks and Land Use Committee hearing, two of the most forceful and direct pieces of testimony delivered against developer William Stein’s efforts to circumnavigate the Carroll Gardens Zoning Text Amendment didn’t come from the community – they came from the offices of elected officials.

That’s why City Councilman Bill de Blasio’s silence on the subject has left critics of overdevelopment more than a little bit bewildered.

De Blasio was one of the chief proponents of the Carroll Gardens Zoning Text Amendment, and Stein’s efforts to build 70-foot tall upscale condominium complex at the corner of Smith Street and 2nd Place is the first major challenge to new rules that limit construction at 55 feet.

New York State Assemblywoman Joan Millman’s aide urged members of the Landmarks/Land Use Committee to be “consistent” when making their decision.

State Senator Martin Connor aide Oscar Jonas impressed residents even more, passionately declaring “This is about self-determination of a community. People have invested here. Residents have a right to air, light and space.”

Returning from vacation this week, de Blasio told the Courier, “I think the BSA [Board of Standards & Appeals] is in a position to make an objective judgment and that’s all there is to say at this point.”

The councilman said he disagreed with critics like Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association member John Hathaway, who suggested that allowing Stein to build under the old zoning regulations would “set a precedent” and undermine the effectiveness of the Carroll Gardens Zoning Text Amendment.

“I have enough experience to see that the BSA can act with some objectivity,” de Blasio said.

While the Department of Buildings has determined that Stein only completed 20 percent of the Oliver House’s foundation at the time the Zoning Text Amendment took effect, de Blasio stated that “for better or worse he [Stein] did a substantial amount of work.”

Opponents of out-of-scale development like CORD organizer Triada Samaras worked closely with de Blasio’s office in pushing the Carroll Gardens Zoning Text Amendment forward.

“We’ve been very happy that the office has been working with us,” Samaras said this week. “CORD is hoping for his support at the BSA. We need his support.”

De Blasio said that Millman’s call for consistency was the correct one in this instance, and that he will be sending the BSA a letter “to that effect.”

According to the councilman, the top priority right now is continuing to fight for the successful rezoning of the rest of Carroll Gardens.

“I’m very frustrated,” de Blasio said. “At this point, I don’t understand why it hasn’t occurred.”

Updated 3:43 pm, October 19, 2011
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