A long awaited hearing to determine the fate of one of the most contested pieces of land in New York City, the Broadway Triangle, finally got underway on Wednesday morning, July 13th.
After a series of delays dating back to late 2009, Judge Emily Goodman is ready to hear the lawsuit filed against New York City and the Department of Housing and Preservation Development (HPD), by the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition (BTCC), which represents more than 40 community groups.
Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A attorney Marty Needelman, who is representing the BTCC in the case, claims that the redevelopment plans for the Broadway Triangle, which includes 1,895 units of affordable housing, and the vetting process to determine the site developers, were both exclusionary and discriminatory.
“If you look at the breakdown of these apartments, all of the three and four bedroom units public housing in this area are occupied by whites, meaning Hasidic Jews,” said Needelman. “We don’t have an objection to these units, but there should be lots of other one and two bedroom units so that other people can live here. There needs to be a reconfiguration of these apartments.”
Two local nonprofits, Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg (UJO) were given site control over the Broadway Triangle. The lawsuit alleges that the two groups were chosen as a result of their close political ties to and Kings County Democratic Leader Vito Lopez and excludes every other community group in the affected neighborhoods, including all of Bed-Stuy and much of the Hasidic community not connected to UJO. “If the plans are allowed to move forward, then there is a huge discriminatory component to this issue,” said Juan Ramos, chair of the BTCC. “When you look at the selected groups that were allowed to get sole bids, they all had specific interests.”
Ramos said that several organizations looked to work with the two groups, including Churches United for Fair Housing, but were quickly rebuffed. “They didn’t have the same relationship with the Assemblyman [Lopez],” said Ramos.
In response to a request for comment about the hearing, a Lopez spokesperson said “Assemblyman Vito Lopez has been one of the foremost supporters of affordable housing within his district and within the state of New York. It is imperative that the case be resolved because it affects more than 1,000 affordable housing units that the community desperately needs and has been asking for for years.” The rezoning of the Broadway Triangle, which was approved by the City Council in December 2009, has been on hold pending the result of the lawsuit.
HPD, in accordance with agency policy, would not comment on pending litigation, but forwarded our inquiries to the NYC Law Department, which is litigating the case on behalf of the city. Gabriel Taussig, Chief of the Administrative Law Division at the Department, issued the following statement: “Because we believe that there is no merit to plaintiffs’ lawsuit, we are vigorously opposing their application for a preliminary injunction, and we will demonstrate that the challenged actions were in all respects lawful.”
The hearing is expected to take about five days. Needelman said he hopes that the city’s rezoning plan is removed and that all relevant groups can have a say in the plans for the 31-acre development.
“We need to go back to square one and start over on this,” said Needelman. “It’s important for everyone in the community to have a say on this because this directly affects our sustainability.”