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Community-Driven Rezoning Aims to Stall Displacement in Bushwick

By Gwynne Hogan | June 21, 2016 3:31pm
 Residents gathered Monday night to learn more about a
Residents gathered Monday night to learn more about a "community plan" to rethink development in Bushwick.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

BUSHWICK — Community leaders and advocates hoping to preserve neighborhood character while spurring the construction of affordable housing are working to hammer out a neighborhood rezoning plan to present to the city next year.

Spearheaded by local City Councilmen Antonio Reynoso and Rafael Espinal, along with neighborhood advocates at Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and Make the Road New York the "Bushwick Community Plan" aims to address wide-spread fears about displacement in the neighborhood, organizers said.

"This community has seen rapid changes that have largely been outside of the community control for the last decade," said Scott Short, of Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, who's been involved in the efforts. Their plan will aim to restore some of the control back to the community, he added.

On Monday night organizers and city agencies who'd been working together for the past two years presented their findings thus far and aimed to get more community feedback so they can continue to hone the plan.

Two of the biggest issues they hope a change in zoning will address are the preservation of neighborhood character along the quieter, residential streets as well as increased density along main thoroughfares where more affordable housing can be built, organizers said.

Current zoning restrictions have no height limits along the neighborhood's residential streets, which gives incentive to developers to snatch up adjacent properties, demolish the current housing and build residential towers out of context with the older buildings.

The group's plan would encourage larger development of affordable apartment buildings along the neighborhood's commercial strip as long as the housing is obtainable to Bushwick residents who earn $36,000 a year on average.

They've identified areas along Myrtle Avenue, Broadway, the western part of Knickerbocker Avenue and Flushing Avenue as potential areas for increased density and bulked up affordable housing requirements, Short said.

Espinal, who represents the eastern part of Bushwick, has been on the front lines of Mayor Bill de Blasio's controversial rezoning of East New York, the first neighborhood rezoning to pass through the city's land use process.

Espinal said in the case of Bushwick, he's looking forward to "handing our report to [the Department of City Planning] which is a lot different than what happened in East New York."

While the city has officially named five neighborhoods it plans seeks to rezone in order to spur increased density and more affordable housing, Bushwick has not yet made the official roster.

While Bushwick elected officials and activists have propelled the planning process thus far, they've already roped in multiple city agencies like the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Preservation, the Parks Department and Department of City Planning to be part of the conversation.

The glossy display Monday night didn't impress Bushwick resident Abran Reyes, a Mexican construction worker who'd lived in Bushwick since 2008 after he was priced out of Williamsburg where he'd lived for around a decade.

"Everything looks nice, it seems nice when they present it like this...But it's time for them to act," Reyes said in Spanish, who added he's watched many friends and relatives move out of the neighborhood to the cheaper area of Broadway Junction in East New York. He is also struggling to keep his apartment.

"[Now] it's nothing more than promises...in a few years they'll have gotten us out of Bushwick," he said.