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Prospect-Lefferts Residents Call to End 421-A Tax Incentive for Builders

 A rallier holds a sign reading
A rallier holds a sign reading "421a equals gentrification" at a protest of the 421-a tax abatement in front of 626 Flatbush Ave. in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens on Tuesday.
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DNAinfo/Rachel Holliday Smith

PROSPECT-LEFFERTS GARDENS — They want to cut the tax cut.

Residents, tenants advocates and candidates for a local assembly seat shouted down a controversial tax abatement program Tuesday morning outside a building project they say doesn’t deserve to be rewarded for creating mostly market-rate apartments.

The crowd of about 50 people rallied in front of 626 Flatbush Ave., a 23-story tower on Flatbush Avenue and Fenimore Street in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, where builder Hudson Companies is among those receiving the state's 421-a tax abatement incentive. The break is given to some new-construction builders in exchange for a portion of their housing being reserved for low- and middle-income renters.

But protesters said just 20 percent of the building's 254 units — or 51 units — set aside for low- and middle-income renters isn't enough to justify the building's tax incentive. They urged elected officials in Albany to let the 421-a program end when it expires this summer.

“Fifty units is barely a drop in the bucket. In June of this year, we need an end to 421-a,” said Donna Mossman, a founding member of the Crown Heights Tenant Union. “Give New York City tenants what we really need: stronger rent laws.”

“Unfortunately, over the years, multi-millionaires have taken advantage of this tax subsidy. That’s your tax money, my tax money that they’re using to build this high-rise and you and I cannot afford to live in it. That needs to stop now,” said Linda Williams, a Flatbush resident and member of New York Communities for Change.

Two candidates looking to join the state assembly, Diana Richardson and district leader Shirley Patterson, also joined the rally, as did the Flatbush Tenants Coalition, Make the Road New York and Movement to Protect the People, an activist group who has disrupted attempts by the local community board to move forward with rezoning in the neighborhood.

“Four twenty one-a is gentrification! We don’t want no relocation!” the ralliers chanted as a brass band played nearby and passing shoppers, B41 bus riders and construction workers looked on.

A spokeswoman for the Hudson Companies, Alison Novak, did not respond directly to the protesters' criticisms of the 421-a program, but said the company is "proud to be developing 626 Flatbush, one the first 80 [percent market-rate]/20 [percent affordable] buildings east of Prospect Park." In a statement, she reminded residents the lottery for the building's affordable units is open until May 25 and prioritizes residents of Community Board 9.

The state legislature must decide whether to renew the 421-a incentive by June 15.