Thursday, January 05, 2012

Judge blocks city’s Broadway Triangle project in Williamsburg, calling it discriminatory 

A judge slammed the breaks on the city's controversial plan to build housing at Williamsburg's Broadway Triangle Wednesday. Opponents went to court to block the massive housing project, charging it illegally favored Hasidic families over blacks and Latinos. "The Court agrees," Judge Emily Goodman wrote in an injunction halting the project, saying the development  "will not only not foster integration of the neighborhood, but it will perpetuate segregation in the Broadway Triangle."

The city tapped the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg - two nonprofits with close ties to Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez, who made Broadway Triangle a pet project - to build about 1800 apartments on the mostly-barren 31-acre stretch near the Bedford Stuyvesant border.

Opponents objected that the plans for large apartments in low-rise buildings, and a special preference for residents of Williamsburg and Greenpoint that didn't include nearby Bedford Stuyvesant, illegally favored Hasidic residents who often have large families and can't use elevators on the sabbath. A demographer predicted that only three percent of residents in the new housing slated for Broadway Triangle would be black.

"The judge recognized what our clients have been saying really for two years, before the [plan ever passed], that there were serious discriminatory impacts here," said Taylor Pendergrass of the New York Civil Liberties Union, one of the attorneys for the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition. "The city ignored those concerns for years."

City officials have dismissed the discrimination charges, saying all they did is change zoning rules to allow low-rise apartment buildings, just as they've done in other neighborhoods across the outer boroughs. "We respectfully disagree with the judge's decision and will seek an immediate appeal," said city attorney Gabriel Taussig. "The court mistakenly discounted evidence submitted by the City. After a two-year long temporary restraining order, we are grateful the judge has finally made a decision which now allows us to refute these outlandish claims before an appellate court."

The project has been on hold since soon after it passed two years ago due to the litigation, and federal investigators have eyed the project as part of their probe into Lopez's nonprofit empire.


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