Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Critics charge city’s Broadway Triangle's two new private apartment buildings being unfairly filled with Hasidic families in Williamsburg 

A new fight is erupting over a plan to develop private land at Williamsburg's Broadway Triangle, with critics citing two new buildings allegedly filled with Hasidic families.

Last year, a federal judge blocked the city's controversial plan to build housing on the 31-acre spot, finding it illegally favored Hasidim over blacks and Latinos.

But the injunction halting work at the site only appeared to apply to the 20% of city owned land in the area.

Meanwhile, private developers are building apartment buildings at the politically-charged site.

Two of those projects--70 Union Ave. and 246 Lynch St.--have been filled with Hasidim, critics charge.

"There were those who said that we were only speculating about what would happen with the city's rezoning but this is just proof that unless further action is taken this is going to happen over and over again," said Marty Needelman, a lawyer for the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition.

The group sent Hispanic and African American volunteers to apply for apartments at the two loications - and they were turned away, told there were no applications.

The group charges the Bloomberg administration's controversial zoning plan has allowed the building owners to cater to the dramatically-expanding Hasidic community.

"We want a rezoning that serves the entire community and does not continue patterns of racial segregation that the city has promoted and allowed," Needelman said.

In 2009, the Bloomberg administration tapped Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and the United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg to build about 1,800 apartments on the mostly desolate stretch near the Bedford Stuyvesant border.

Those two nonprofits have close ties to scandal-scarred Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who made the Broadway Triangle a pet project.

Lopez has long maintained close ties to a large branch of the Williamsburg's Hasidic community, a group that has staunchly supported him.

Needelman and other opponents vehemently objected that the plan 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.

In response, they suggested the city allow buildings higher than seven stories, where Jews could live on the lower floors.

But city officials have also 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.

"The allegations about the City's plan are wildly off-base," said Law Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Thomas. "The proposed development plan will help meet the community's affordable housing needs while preserving the neighborhood's mid-rise physical scale."

"If private landlords are acting in a discriminatory manner, as is alleged, that is not to be tolerated, and concerned citizens should make a report to the authorities responsible for enforcing laws against discrimination."


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