Natasha Ishak

[email protected]

It was a full house on Wednesday at Brooklyn’s Hope Gardens Multi Service Center where another public presentation from the Department of City Planning (DCP) took place. The department gave a 45-minute presentation about their draft plans for the upcoming rezoning in Bushwick, meant as a follow-up from the previous event they had held in April.

According to Project Manager Sarit Platkin, who oversees the DCP’s rezoning project for Bushwick and gave the presentation, there were three key driving forces behind the department’s rezoning plan.

First, the department wants to resolve the issues that they felt were brought on by the R6 zoning which they described as “a one-size-fits-all approach across the entire neighborhood.” The designation has allowed developers to build six-story, multi-family buildings, and out of context tower additions. The department also wants to push development in areas where there have not been any commercial overlays. Lastly, Platkin said, the current zoning in Bushwick does not require affordable housing.

The last point appeared to be the main focus on both sides of the meeting. A big part of the DCP’s current rezoning plan objective is to incite industrial job growth and require affordable housing through new mixed-use zoning in areas of the neighborhood.  

But many residents at the public presentation took issue with the department’s label of “affordable.”

“Most of the seniors I know aren’t on a fixed income and they’re on social security,” one resident pointed out during the open Q&A session. “I’m not making 40, 50 thousand dollars a year, so a senior on social security, what are they making? And how is that affordable to them?”

Another issue was the lack of acknowledgment residents felt in the department’s current proposal regarding separate neighborhood initiatives which were included in the plan. One such program was the Vital Brooklyn initiative which launched in 2017. Local organizers and community hospitals had pushed for the initiative—which received $1.4 billion in state funds—for years.

“There’s nothing in that proposal that supplants or interrupts the work that the members of the Vital Brooklyn initiative is doing,” Ahmed Tigani, a senior advisor at the Mayor’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, assured residents. “If we acknowledge that there’s work being done and there are people who are trying to invest and grow the neighborhood, it helps us in our analysis across the board.”

 Protesters at community board meeting last year. Photo courtesy of @micasaresiste.

Despite tensions, the meeting remained civil for the most part. More so than how the last meeting went.

“This has been over four years of work, working closely with the Bushwick Steering Committee, the Community Board. We were excited to share this robust set of strategies tonight which as I said earlier is kind of a snapshot in where we are in time today with a long road still ahead,” Platkin said after the public meeting was adjourned.  “We’re very excited kind of going forward with kind of the overall plan and next steps, too.”

Still, many residents remain skeptical of the affordability of the proposed housing scheme within the rezoning plan. One resident who spoke to Bushwick Daily said that the insufficient dialogue that has been done over the affordability of the city’s rezoning plan was a big concern.

Edwin Delgada, a Bushwick-based entrepreneur who grew up in the neighborhood, said he “did not set high expectations” coming into the meeting. But he believes there is still time to make sure that the Bushwick rezoning plan is done right.

“The Bushwick community, and pretty much every other community of color in New York City, has been abandoned by those in office for a very, very long time. And it’s unfortunate through these rezonings we continue to see the city falter at being able to makeup for that lost time,” Delgada said. “There’s still a chance to go back, add the things that are missing, and actually make this plan something that is fruitful for everyone.”

Next, a public scoping hearing will be coming up in June, where the department will share its initial analysis of the rezoning’s possible environmental impact. The department could not confirm whether the assessment would include a racial impact study as has been proposed by the community.

The rezoning plan is scheduled to enter public review in the winter of 2020.

Cover image courtesy of the DCP.

For more news, sign up for Bushwick Daily’s newsletter.