Friday, June 16, 2017

Community Board Approves Controversial South Williamsburg Redevelopment 

The contentious battle for the Broadway Triangle looks to be ending soon, as members of Community Board 1 issued a recommendation of approval for the proposed redevelopment of 200 Harrison Avenue on Tuesday.

The plan, located on a two-block section site known as the Broadway Triangle, will include 1,146 mixed-income residential units, 65,000 square feet of neighborhood retail, a half-acre of public open space, and 405 parking spaces. 

The privately owned, 4.2-acre site, which was once owned by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, is situated between Harrison and Union Avenues, from Walton Street to Gerry Street.

The approval comes just days after Harrison Realty aka the Rabsky Group, who are developing the project, announced they will pay the prevailing wage to building service workers, build 287 permanent affordable housing units, and hire local workers for both the construction and operation of the development.

"The Community Board's vote to advance this project is an important step in helping meet the overwhelming need for mixed-income housing in this community by creating nearly 300 new affordable apartments on a long-vacant site. We appreciate the tremendous support this vision has received from residents of community district 1 and look forward to continuing the public review process," said Tom Corsillo, spokesperson for Harrison Realty.

The project has been a contentious issue for local officials and community advocates, who have been fighting over the vacant plot, citing discrimination issues. Community members sued the city for an earlier 2009 rezoning plan they claim favored the Hasidic community over Blacks and Latinos. The case has yet to be resolved in the State Supreme Court.

City Council Member Antonio Reynoso (D-Williamsburg, Bushwick) has vowed to block the project citing affordable housing and community input in the project, though the lot sits just a couple of blocks outside of his district.

"It is important to stress that we all want affordable housing. I still feel strongly that when a site is rezoned from manufacturing to residential, the developer should be required to exceed the minimum MIH (mandatory inclusionary housing) requirements because of the value increase to the site created through the rezoning," said Reynoso.

Reynoso went on to state at the CB 1 meeting, "For anyone who would criticize our attempt to stop a project that includes affordable housing, I would say that we don't have to accept a bad plan just because affordable units are included. We can do better, we can do more, we can fight to make our voices heard and ensure that the community is part of the planning process. I encourage you again to say "no" to this proposal."

City Council member Stephen Levin (D-Northern Brooklyn, Williamsburg) will have the final vote on the rezoning plan when it heads to the City Council for an official vote as part of the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP). That's because the project is on the Levin side of Reynosa's bordering district, and also between the heavily Hispanic and Hasidic neighborhoods – thus making the type of affordable housing such an issue.

Levin did not return multiple calls and emails from KCP for comment at post time.

DNAInfo did quote Levin as saying following the CB 1 vote, "We get too bogged down in that zero-sum mentality that everybody loses. There has not been any affordable housing built south of Broadway [in Community Board 1] in probably over a decade."

The Satmar Hasidic sect that populates that area of Brooklyn is extremely large and growing both throughout South Williamsburg and into Bedford-Stuyvesant. It also is well-connected to the de Blasio Administration.

Construction for the development is projected to begin by January 2018, with an expected opening in 2019.

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