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East New York Community Board Rejects City's Rezoning Plan

By Camille Bautista | November 20, 2015 12:38pm
 East New York's Community Board 5 voted against the city's plan to rezone the neighborhood. Viola Plummer, chairwoman for the board's Land Use Committee, outlined recommendations and conditions the community had for the proposal during the Nov. 18 meeting.
East New York's Community Board 5 voted against the city's plan to rezone the neighborhood. Viola Plummer, chairwoman for the board's Land Use Committee, outlined recommendations and conditions the community had for the proposal during the Nov. 18 meeting.
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DNAinfo/Camille Bautista

EAST NEW YORK — Brooklyn Community Board 5 shot down Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to rezone East New York on Wednesday, along with two citywide proposals aimed at increasing affordable housing.

After nearly a year of back and forth between locals and the Department of City Planning, the East New York board rejected the city’s rezoning bid that is expected to drastically alter the neighborhood.

Members voted 0-17 with six abstentions following tense exchanges between community residents and the board.

Prior to the vote, elected officials were given time to voice their opinions on the city’s plan and DCP representatives gave a brief recap of a presentation seen several times by the community members.  

In a shift from previous meetings — including a packed Oct. 28 gathering in which residents lined up to express their concerns — Wednesday’s attendees were not given a chance to provide input or ask questions on the proposals.

“If you’ve come to our community meetings in the past, you’ve noticed we’ve given the community an opportunity to speak and, trust me, you have spoken volumes,” CB5 chairman Andre T. Mitchell said, commending residents on their active participation over the last 10 months.

“No disrespect, but no questions. This is nothing new and we have seen this plan numerous times,” he added before the vote.

The planned rezoning of East New York serves as a litmus test for the rest of the city as the first of 15 neighborhoods targeted by the de Blasio administration.

The city looks to add or preserve 200,000 affordable housing units over the course of a decade.

During the course of several public hearings and forums, locals have called on the mayor to secure jobs for longtime residents, expressing fears of displacement and concerns on affordability. 

Before the vote, CB5’s Land Use chairwoman detailed the committee’s conditions sought for the proposal, including the acquisition of a local Police Athletic League building for community use and the elimination of a planned storage facility on Pitkin and Pennsylvania avenues.

The suggestions were met with enthusiastic applause.

“We and the land use committee, from every night until 9 or 10 and after, we walked, we looked,” said Viola Plummer, land use committee chair.

“Our commitment to the motion, whether it’s yes or no, is that those conditions are counted in the vote.”

Heads of the board’s social services and economic development committees also laid out their visions for the proposal, which was created in collaboration with local organizations, stakeholders, residents and the Coalition for Community Advancement, members said.

Recommendations included continued investment to hire from within the community, initiatives to focus on higher education and the neighborhood’s senior population, and the strengthening of local businesses.

“We always get caught up in the social and housing aspects, but what about the economic future?” asked Albert Scott, co-chair for CB5’s economic development committee. “We’re preparing for our future.”

The East New York rezoning proposal includes amendments that mandate or require affordable housing and encourage mixed-use developments on corridors like Fulton Street and Pitkin Avenue.

Another amendment on Wednesday’s agenda would allow the use of an 80,000-square-foot, city-owned site for commercial purposes, housing, and a new school for the neighborhood, according to DCP representatives.

In addition to voting against the neighborhood rezoning, the board voted no to the city’s two proposed zoning text amendments — Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability.

East New York would be the first neighborhood affected by these proposed changes, DCP officials said.

SEE WHAT COMMUNITY BOARDS ACROSS THE CITY THINK OF THE PROPOSED ZONING CHANGES: 

De Blasio Zoning Plan Unites Civic Groups in Opposition

► Mayor's Affordable Housing Rezoning Voted Down by Queens Community Boards

► City's Zoning Proposal Approved by Park Slope and Carroll Gardens Board

The MIH proposal would require developers to make portions of any new residence available below market rate, as well as requiring them to be “permanently affordable.”

Under Zoning for Quality and Affordability, zoning regulations would be updated to encourage contextual building design and increase the maximum height for structures, as well as create room for senior and affordable housing.

The board and community recommendations from Wednesday’s vote will be compiled in a report that will be “forwarded to the necessary levels,” Mitchell said.

Councilman Rafael Espinal, who represents East New York and Cypress Hills, told the crowd that while the process has ended in the community board, more work will be done by elected officials in conjunction with the community.

“We have a unique opportunity here to say what we want to be done in our neighborhood, to create a plan that actually addresses the concerns we have,” Espinal said.

The proposed rezoning will now go before the Borough President and City Planning Commission before a City Council Vote.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will host a public hearing on the East New York rezoning on Monday, Nov. 23 at 6 p.m., at the Brooklyn Borough Hall Court Room, 209 Joralemon St.