Last Updated: 1:50 PM, September 25, 2009
With less than one week before a runoff election between comptroller candidates David Yassky and John Liu, a group of Williamsburg residents demonstrated in front of Councilmember Yassky’s downtown Brooklyn district office (114 Court Street) over his position on the city’s plan to rezone 31 acres in South Williamsburg.
“He sold us out! He’ll sell you out!” chanted about 12 constituents, while they walked in a protest circle on the corner of Court and State streets on Sept. 24.
The constituents were members of the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition, an umbrella group of 40 Brooklyn community organizations opposed to the city’s plan to rezone a 31-acre site in South Williamsburg for residential use. Yassky, whose district includes the proposed site, known as the Broadway Triangle, has publicly stated his support for the rezoning plan, which will provide 1,895 units of affordable housing.
Under the proposed plan, two North Brooklyn organizations, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and the United Jewish Organizations, are slated to develop housing on the site following a charette with the city’s housing Department.
“If you can’t even stand up for your local community residents, what makes you think you can stand up for the entire city?” said Rob Solano, executive director of Churches United for Fair Housing. “If you can’t even deal with the Broadway Triangle controversy in your local district, how can you deal with this issue as a whole?”
A spokesperson for Yassky, Danny Kanner, dismissed the criticism while saying that the councilmember “fully respects the right of the demonstrators to voice their disapproval.”
“David’s support for the rezoning is based on the hundreds of units of affordable housing, open space, and jobs it will create for the Greenpoint-Williamsburg community,” said Kanner.
The demonstration marks a change in strategy for community leaders who oppose the Broadway Triangle, as the debate over the rezoning moves from the City Planning Commission to the City Council. BTCC members are lobbying councilmembers on the Council’s Land Use committee, including Queens Councilmembers Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside), Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), John Liu (D-Flushing), and Brooklyn Councilmember Al Vann (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant). Yassky has already submitted testimony to the City Planning Commission in favor of the plan and has not indicated that he would change his position on the issue.
“The rezoning of the Broadway Triangle is a long overdue step toward the creation of much-needed affordable housing and a revitalized central business district in this largely underdeveloped section of Williamsburg,” said Yassky following Community Board 1’s Land Use Committee approved the plan.
BTCC leader Juan Ramos said he was “deeply disturbed” that Yassky did not meet with coalition members to explain his position on the plan.
“We are entitled to an explanation of how Yassky can justify a process that led to a plan that limits affordable housing to half of what it could be, provides no open space, and destroys the existing businesses on the site,” Ramos said.
Staff from Yassky’s district office confirmed, however, that the councilmember reached out to coalition leader Rob Solano to speak with him over the phone about the Broadway Triangle rezoning, but Solano demurred.
“He would only talk with me. I said I could not morally represent the entire coalition by myself,” Solano said.
The City Planning Commission is expected to vote on the rezoning on October 7, after the vote was rescheduled from September 23. The change in date will not delay when the City Council will take up discussion of the vote at a Land Use Committee hearing in late October or early November.
Concurrently, the BTCC filed a lawsuit against Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city’s Housing Department regarding the process by which the rezoning took place. A court hearing for the suit was moved from October 9 to October 19.