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City Council Passes East New York Rezoning Plan

 Councilman Rafael Espinal (left), who represents a majority of East New York that is expected to be rezoned, called the proposal passed by City Council on Wednesday an
Councilman Rafael Espinal (left), who represents a majority of East New York that is expected to be rezoned, called the proposal passed by City Council on Wednesday an "anti-gentrification plan."
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DNAinfo/Camille Bautista

CITY HALL — After months of deliberations and negotiations, the City Council voted to pass Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to rezone East New York on Wednesday.

As the first of 15 areas targeted by the administration to bring thousands of affordable housing units to the city over the next decade, East New York’s plan would set precedent for other neighborhoods.

The proposal, which includes goals for housing, business growth, new community facilities such as schools and centers, park improvements and more, sailed through the Council with a 45-1 vote with no abstentions.

Colleagues showered praise on Councilman Rafael Espinal, who represents the majority of the area slated for rezoning, saying he set an “historic” model and a “very high bar” for other neighborhoods with the capital funding commitments secured for his community.

But protesters against the plan said they were forced out of the meeting, and barred from getting back in.

Espinal said he negotiated with de Blasio's administration to fight for a “better plan” that is “anti-gentrification.”

“This is the most comprehensive plan the city has ever undertaken,” Espinal said.

“This is the beginning of a new day for us. I am confident that this plan will make our neighborhood the greatest and the most diverse neighborhood in Brooklyn."

The vote follows modifications from the council, which included an increase in the amount of funding the city promised for capital improvements — a bump from $150 million to $257 million — as well as the removal of a 300,000-square-foot housing site from the rezoning.

READ MORE: East New York Rezoning Plan Passed by Council Committees as ‘Unicorn Deal’

“This is the first step in the right direction in moving money to communities like this,” said Councilman Donovan Richards, chair of the subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises.

“You did not gentrify your neighborhood,” he said to Espinal. “You harnessed it and captured a lot of the affordability that would have been lost if we did nothing here in the first place."

The mayor also extended his congratulations to Espinal, saying in a statement that the councilman took the opportunity to "correct years of under investment in East New York." 

“The East New York neighborhood plan represents a new contract with our communities," de Blasio said.

"For the very first time, protecting tenants and building truly affordable housing have become the priorities they need to be in a rezoning. The commitments we are making — from a new school, to renovated parks, to investments in good jobs — are real."

Opponents of the plan sat in the balcony Wednesday. As the meeting began, one audience member began to have a seizure, according to members of New York Communities for Change.

The area was cleared as Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito went upstairs to check on the woman, who was able to walk from the balcony with EMTs.  

Following the incident, protesters outside the chambers chanted, “Let us in!” as the meeting commenced.

New York Communities for Change, some councilmembers and other critics of the plan had pushed for deeper levels of affordability in the East New York proposal.

Councilwoman Inez Barron, who represents a small portion of the rezone area, was the lone dissenter voting against the plan, saying it could invite gentrification and was not affordable enough for East New York residents.

“This plan does not go deep enough in that 25 percent of my community earns less than $15,000 and will not be reached by this plan,” Barron said.  

The Coalition for Community Advancement, an advocacy group that presented its own alternative proposal to the city, celebrated aspects of the plan including Arlington Village’s removal from the rezone area, a Workforce 1 Center that would bring jobs to locals, and accountability measures from the administration to track commitments to the community.

Still, in a statement, members said the Coalition has no choice but to “lament” how the plan fails East New York residents. New housing won’t be affordable enough for at least a third of locals, they said.

“Before, they at least lived in the second of two cities, the one far away from all the milk and honey hoarded in skyscraping silos; now they simply have no New York City as there no will longer be an affordable place for them here,” the Coalition said in a statement.