Greenpoint Gazette

ULURP Committee Conditionally Votes Yes on Broadway Triangle Rezoning

BY Juliet Linderman

After hundreds of protesters disrupted HPD’s presentation of the plans for the Broadway Triangle Rezoning at last month’s Community Board 1 public meeting, HPD finally had their chance to fully present their rezoning proposal to the community at Tuesday night’s Universal Land Use Review Process (ULURP) meeting. At the end of the evening, the 26 ULURP committee members cast their votes, and by a very narrow majority the plans were approved, with five conditional requirements. The plans will go to a vote in front of the full community board at a public hearing, to be held on July 14.
The plans, presented by HPD’s Shampa Chanda and Jack Hammer, include a complete rezoning of the area known as the Broadway Triangle, a 9-block, 50-acre industrial area that stretches across Williamsburg, Bushwick and Bed-Stuy. The plan—which will convert the triangle from an industrial zone to a residential one—establishes the area as R6A and R7A zones. Both residential zoning codes, R6A mandates a base height for residential buildings at 40-60 feet, with a maximum height of 70 feet, while an R7A zone calls for a slightly taller base height of 40-65 feet, with a maximum height of 80 feet. The rezoning will ultimately establish 1,851 new units of housing for community members, roughly 900 of which are required to be affordable—just shy of a fifty per cent ratio. There are nine properties within the Urban Renewal Area that have been proposed for acquisition —a mixture of private and city-owned parcels, six of which were approved in a previous 1989 rezoning initiative—that will ultimately be converted into residential housing.
Though the majority of the ULURP committee community board members present at Tuesday’s meeting did, in fact, approve all elements of the rezoning plans—including a zoning text amendment and Urban Development Action Area Project (UDAAP) agreement— they did so after much discussion, some reserve and caution. They voted yes to the plans, with five conditions including limiting off-site affordable housing; requiring the city to take comprehensive measures to assist those required to relocate in the face of property acquisition and eminent domain; requiring open space mitigation; forbidding sole source disposition to any non-profit or private entity, thereby requiring all-city owned properties to be disposed of using a competitive and transparent RFP process; requiring all future plans regarding the rezoning of the Broadway Triangle are to be brought before the community board; and finally, a promise that the community board will do their very best to grant special variance permits to businesses grandfathered into the rezoning who are allowed to maintain their current property but not allowed to expand.
Some community board members, including ULURP committee member Esteban Duran—a vocal member of the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition (BTCC)—favor an alternative plan calling for high-density, high-rise buildings potentially yielding upwards of 3,000 residential units, 1,800 of them affordable. Proprietors of the alternate plan have criticized HPD’s plan for its lack of attention to issues such as displacement, job creation and the generation of open and park space. Duran believes that, if the board wasn’t pleased with the plan as-is, the ULURP committee should have voted it down and provided HPD with their recommendations.
“My overall impression is that the city’s plan is incomplete,” Duran said. “In terms of the conditions, they are an attempt to provide the city with a glimpse of what the concerns are in the community, but in the end, once you vote for it, you are approving it. Saying no sends a stronger message and I think there are gaping holes in this plan.”
One of the central “holes” speaks to the uncertain future of Broadway Triangle business owners, who have concerns about their futures after their properties are either negotiated away from them, or seized under eminent domain.
“I am very disappointed, because it’s a private developer who gets it—HPD is just helping them. It’s a private investor, a private organization,” said Sarah Gelb, owner of Excellent Bus Service. “I’ve worked for 28 years for what? That they should come in and take everything away? It’s not fair.”
In their discussion the ULURP committee made a concerted effort to, in establishing their conditions, address the fate of business owners. ULURP Chair Ward Dennis—who cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the plan—emphasized the importance of the inclusion of such conditions.
“I am happy we could finally have a substantive discussion without polemics and politics,” Dennis said. “I felt I voted in line with what the overwhelming sentiment was. But, the conditions or objectively attached to the resolution, and they are often looked at very carefully by the Borough President and the City Council.”
ULURP committee member Jaye Foxe, who initially recommended the inclusion of conditions, said she is, above all else, concerned with moving forward with a feasible plan for affordable housing as soon as possible, regardless of the politics at play (of which she is very aware).
“All I care about is that HPD hears our modifications, and that they might make them,” Fox said. “I want to see affordable housing that can be built, and that will actually happen. I’m not interested in no development, and therefore no affordable housing. This has been kicking around for a decade!”
The plans will go before the full board on July 14th.

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