Community groups opposed to rezoning proposal expressed concerns about HPD’s opaque planning process. On December 7, 2009, the City Council’s Land Use Committee modified and approved the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s proposal to redevelop the seventeen-block Broadway Triangle Urban Renewal Area in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The City created the Broadway Triangle URA in 1989, and HPD’s proposal included redrawing the boundaries of the urban renewal area and rezoning nine blocks in order to facilitate the development of 1,851 residential units, 844 of which would be affordable.
The rezoning would impact nine blocks generally bounded by Lynch Street to the north, Whipple Street to the south, Throop Avenue to the east, and portions of Union and Harrison Avenues to the west. The area’s northern blocks would be rezoned from M1-2, M3-1, and C8-2 to an R6A district. The area’s southern four blocks between Walton and Whipple Streets contain most of the City- and privately-owned vacant land and would be rezoned from M1-2 to an R7A district. C2-4 overlays would run along Harrison, Throop, and Union Avenues.
The proposal requested the disposition of 35 City-owned properties in order to develop 488 units of affordable housing. The City currently owns 26 of the 35 properties and would acquire the remaining properties from private owners. HPD has already issued site authorization letters to the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council to facilitate the development of three assemblages of City-owned lots, accounting for 181 affordable units. The Inclusionary Housing program would be used to encourage affordable housing development on privately owned lots.
At the City Planning Commission’s hearing, members of the Broadway Triangle Coalition, a group representing more than 40 community-based organizations, testified that the planning process lacked transparency, noting HPD did not use a competitive bid process when it issued site authorization letters to the UJO and BRSCC. Local business owners expressed concern about the use of eminent domain to acquire properties. The Commission voted to approve the proposal, with only Commissioner Karen Phillips voting no.
At the Council’s Planning, Dispositions & Concessions Subcommittee hearing on November 19, 2009, opposition remained from community groups. Council Member Diana Reyna, whose district borders the rezoning area, said she opposed the plan because HPD did not consider the proposal’s impact on Brooklyn Community Board 3. She said the plan would remove CB 3 from the urban renewal area and that CB 3 should have been consulted.
Chair Daniel R. Garodnick laid the vote over, and when the Subcommittee reconvened he announced that the proposal had been modified to include preferences for open space on two of the City-owned lots. Before recommending approval, Garodnick said that he shared his colleagues’ concerns about HPD’s site authorization process and noted that HPD had agreed to post more information about its policy on its website. He said HPD would also post a list of properties that have received site authorization letters in order to create a more transparent process. The Subcommittee unanimously approved the proposal.
The Land Use Committee approved the project by a 12-6-1 Broadvote. Before the vote, Reyna described the proposal as a misrepresented plan that did not create enough affordable housing, open space, or economic development, and that it would displace hundreds of jobs in the rezoning area. Council Member Jackson abstained, and Avella, Barron, Ignizio, Liu, Mendez, and Palma voted no.
The Council referred the modified proposal back to the Commission for review.
Comm.Bd.: BK 1,App’d, 23-12-1
CPC: App’d, 11-1-1
Council: Broadway Triangle Rezoning (C 090415 HUK – urban renewal plan); (C 090413 ZMK – rezoning); (N 090414 ZRK – text amend.); (C 090416 HAK – UDAAP) (Dec. 7, 2009).