Empire Blvd. Forum Focuses on Affordable Housing and Zoning

By Rachel Holliday Smith on August 17, 2014 8:19pm 

 On Friday, Eric Adams attended a meeting at a Crown Heights church to discuss his thoughts on the possibility of rezoning Empire Boulevard.
On Friday, Eric Adams attended a meeting at a Crown Heights church to discuss his thoughts on the possibility of rezoning Empire Boulevard.
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DNAinfo/Rachel Holliday Smith

CROWN HEIGHTS — Despite a location change and scheduling mix-up that excluded observant Jews, residents packed a Franklin Avenue church Friday night to hear Borough President Eric Adams discuss possible land use changes in the area, specifically on Empire Boulevard between Flatbush and Rogers avenues.

For more than an hour, an audience of more than 100 people listened to Adams answer questions written on index cards by attendees, a large contingent of which included members of Movement to Protect the People, who wore matching green shirts.

The group has been particularly outspoken against Adams on the rezoning issue, posting flyers about the forum in the area this week that read “Say NO to Eric Adams!” and claim he supports building luxury housing on the boulevard.

Without naming MTOPP directly, Adams began the meeting by passionately addressing those who “put out intentional lies” about his position.

“All the sudden I’m turning my back on the community that I have fought for for 32 years?” he asked the crowd. “That makes no sense. That’s what this meeting is about  so we can get all of this out in the open.”

Many of the questions addressed affordable housing, which Adams repeatedly promised to require developers to create.

“If a developer is reluctant [to building affordable housing], that’s fine. Then don’t take city subsidies, don’t have changes in zoning, build according to your footprint,” he said.

Specifically, Adams said he supports a 50/30/20 plan for affordable housing, or, requiring developers to build 50 percent market-rate units, 30 percent middle income units and 20 percent for low income residents.

High-rises also concerned residents, with several questions on whether rezoning would create new tall buildings.

“Why is Eric Adams selling out Sterling Street to have developers build high rises on Empire Boulevard?” asked one attendee. “There goes our property value.”

“Upzoning is contextual, that’s No. 1,” Adams said. “When you upzone, you’re not talking about building 13-, 14-story towers” if the current neighborhood already has mostly six- and seven-story buildings, he said.

Adams repeatedly emphasized that his opinion was only one of the pieces of the Uniformed Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP, required by the city before any zoning changes can be made.

“I cannot decide what happens in your community without your input. That is a charter mandate,” he said following several minutes of heckling by one audience member, the only such interruption during the meeting. “The ULURP process has a community board component. I am one position in the ULURP process. Can we really understand that?”

Currently, the rezoning of Crown Heights is being studied by the City Planning Commission at the request of Community Board 9, according to a letter from the board to the CPC in April.

Only after the study is concluded will any decisions be made on rezoning in the neighborhood.

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