Rendering of a proposed apartment development (photo by courtesy of Meredith Hoffman of DNAinfo)

We almost thought that nobody in this town cared about the potentially illegal excluding of the public from the vote of Community Board 4 on the rezoning of Rheingold Brewery. But thankfully, it seems that City Council member Diana Reyna does. In early August we analyzed the last extraordinary meeting of Community Board 4 where the vote and an approval of the rezoning of Rheingold Brewery took place. The issue was that Community Board 4 seems to have excluded the public from this meeting, which contradicts the essence of a democratic society and NY State laws, according to which a public body has the ability to take action only in a public meeting.

District manager Nadine Whitted told us on the phone earlier in August that CB 4 meeting was closed to the public because “it was only a vote and a public hearing already took place in June.” We assume that CB4 mistakenly believed that the public hearing, which is a space where public can raise questions and voice opinions, was sufficient to deny the public the right to attend any CB meeting. “Every meeting of Community Board has to be public, regardless if it’s a vote or further deliberations,” told us Robert Freeman, Executive Director of NYS Committee on Open Government.

Now DNAinfo also took interest in the case, and spoke with the City Council Member Diana Reyna. “We are working with the community board to make sure there were no rules violated,” said Reyna’s spokesman to DNAinfo. “And if that’s the case we’re open to having another community board meeting to make sure the public is aware of the vote.” Reyna’s spokesman also told DNAinfo that nobody was turned away who appeared at the CB4 meeting. However, the lack of publication in the news, media and on CB4 website is also illegal.

In the meantime, Department of City Planning is already considering the rezoning approval of CB4. The Department will determine whether the approval will be given.

The proposal deals with a major development in Bushwick – the rezoning of the old Rheingold Brewery site located off Flushing Ave J train stop, near Woodhull Hospital from M-1 to R-6 and from M-3 to M-1 in order to create an apartment complex with two added streets, open space, and a retail area. A development that will undoubtedly change the face of Bushwick forever. We feel strongly that the public should have had their say.