After the plans for Roze Plaza, a development slated for the Williamsburg waterfront, were rejected—with a specific set of modifications attached—by community board 1’s ULURP committee last Tuesday, the plan resurfaced at Tuesday night’s full board public hearing where CB1 members voted 31-9, with no abstentions, in favor of rejecting the plan.
The Rose Plaza development is designated for 470-490 Kent Avenue, the Certified Lumber site, adjacent to Shaffer Landing. The plan calls for three high-rise towers, each with retail space on the bottom floor and approximately 801 units of residential housing, 160—or 20 per cent—of which will be affordable. In addition, Rose Plaza aims to establish 33,000 square feet of public open space, including a waterfront esplanade; 496 below-ground parking spaces for residents of the development and a 9,000-foot extension on N. 11th Street, stretching to the river’s edge. The developers approached the ULURP committee of CB1 nearly two years ago with a plan for Rose Plaza, which was rejected for various reasons. Now, the plan is back on the table, but even after “revising” the plan, the lack of community incentives still seemed to override any of the benefits the plan offered, and did not compel CB1’s support.
Like the members of the ULURP Committee, several members of the full board voiced their concern about the Rose Plaza plans, criticizing the development for its lack of affordable housing, the height of the towers—slated to be 18, 25 and 29 stories—and the sheer volume of the project.
“I personally find this insulting. The developer has done nothing to address the affordability issue and clearly haven’t looked into the affordable housing programs that were suggested to them at the meeting two years ago,” said CB1 member Jaye Fox. “It shows a clear lack of interest in attempting to provide affordable housing. They are asking us to enrich the pockets of one single developer—give him a bonus on his property that he has owned for thirty years in exchange for squat. I am so angry at the fact that they pulled this on us. This is outrageous and insulting to the intelligence of this community board.”
Though the plan was cleanly rejected by the majority of board members, the discussion of land use inevitably led back to ULURP and CB1’s recent approval of Broadway Triangle, a highly controversial rezoning plan on a 31-acre parcel bordering Williamsburg, Bed-Stuy and Bushwick. While Rose Plaza is a single, 3.7-acre site belonging to a private developer, the Broadway Triangle is a massive, sweeping project involving industrial and city-owned land. The existing plan for the Broadway Triangle
“Six months ago, we approved a rezoning in another section of CB1—Broadway Triangle. The private developers there stand to gain any windfall profits when the land is rezoned. I think there should be more attention paid to it,” said CB1 member Estaban Duran, who is a vocal opponent of the Broadway Triangle rezoning plan. “But when it comes to denying the Rose Plaza application outright when they are providing open space and the waterfront esplanade, it goes against voting in favor of the Broadway Triangle. Why is it that we are voting no on this plan on the basis that there’s not enough affordable housing when six months ago the community was here voting yes on Broadway Triangle?”
In response, ULURP Committee Chair Ward Dennis explained that the Broadway Triangle and Rose Plaza are two completely different entities, and cannot be compared on a superficial level.
“The committee’s resolution is not an outright ‘no,’ it’s a ‘no’ with modifications. The Broadway Triangle was a ‘yes’ with modifications. For me, there’s a very big difference between a private owner coming in and asking for a rezoning variance for their personal benefit and a largely city owned plot that does include private owners, but isn’t same,” Dennis said. “Broadway Triangle, the absolute minimum affordable housing works out to 30 per cent. The Rose Plaza application comes out to 20.”
The final vote was 31-9 to send the plan back to the drawing board—in the hopes that the next time it is presented, it will include more affordable housing, more multi-room dwellings and a comprehensive plan to fund the businesses forced to relocate as a consequence of construction, as well as a traffic study on Kent Avenue.