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Controversial Bushwick Rezoning Approved by City Planning Commission

By Meredith Hoffman | October 23, 2013 1:15pm
 The developer Read Property Group would be finished with the new buildings by 2016, a representative said.
The developer Read Property Group would be finished with the new buildings by 2016, a representative said.
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DNAinfo/Meredith Hoffman

BUSHWICK — A developer's proposal to transform an industrial swath of Bushwick into a mini-neighborhood with sleek high rises received approval from the City Planning Commission — even though hundreds of residents have mobilized against the plans.

The plan — known as the "Rheingold rezoning" for its location at the former Rheingold Brewery site — allows for for 70-and-80-foot towers, 977 apartments (many of them luxury units), retail, added streets, a school and additional open space by the Flushing J train stop near Woodhull Hospital. 

"The Rheingold rezoning application was unanimously approved by all commissioners that voted," a spokesman for the agency said, adding that the approval vote Wednesday required no modifications to the developer's plan.

Bushwick's Community Board 4 and of local residents have fought to revise or to block the plan. The community board voted to approve the rezoning but only if developers added more affordable housing and made other modifications to their plan.

"I think they want to push this [rezoning] forward before the administration changes and don't want anything to stop it," the board's chair Nadine Whitted said in response to the agency's unanimous vote.

"I'm a little surprised...But I still have hope," said Whitted, noting that the City Council has the ultimate vote in approving the rezoning.

Whitted — who was previously criticized by residents for holding a "private and illegal" rezoning vote in a closed community board session — said she was now working with those residents in the newly formed Northwest Bushwick Community Group to demand affordable housing and to voice other concerns.

The group, acting as an "advisory panel" for local Councilwoman Diana Reyna, plans to meet with the developer Read Properties to address the plans.

The group can provide feedback but has no official say in the rezoning, and Reyna declined to comment on whether she would vote for the rezoning.

As for residents who first protested the community board's vote, the City Planning Commission's decision was abrupt and disheartening.

"The [commission] voted swiftly and unanimously. While not entirely unexpected we had hoped to hear some considerations or further modifications," said resident and Northwest Bushwick Community Group organizer Brigette Blood, who attended the agency's vote Wednesday. "This was not the case this morning."

Blood said that she hoped the commission would condemn the community board's closed vote in their report. A spokesman for the commission said the full report was not yet available.

Blood, a member of the advisory panel, said the panel was not her "idea or goal," and that she realized it had "little agency...despite the grievous reality of the potential development and rezoning."

But Blood said that she hoped the panel and its meeting with the developer would at least provide a way to respond to the "realistic needs of Bushwick."

"Our communities' growing conversations about development, housing and zoning and our furthering these dialogues, formally in the panel and our meetings and informally in our streets and homes, holds our group's real hope," Blood said of the new organizing movement in Bushwick. "Community solidarity and our growing coalition is the most hopeful development that the Rheingold [rezoning] has built in our neighborhood."

Read Properties did not immediately respond to a request for comment.