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7 North Brooklyn Stories to Watch in 2017

By Gwynne Hogan | December 27, 2016 4:02pm
 City planners watched on quietly as the ruckus ensued.
City planners watched on quietly as the ruckus ensued.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

► 1. Pfizer Rezoning and Broadway Triangle 

Developers at the Rabsky Group a partnership between Simon Dushinsky and Isaac Rabinowitz — have revived an earlier plan to redevelop large adjacent pieces of vacant property that used to be owned by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, into a 1,147-unit apartment complex in the Broadway Triangle area of Williamsburg. The plan, which is still in its planning phase, has already been met by staunch opposition from local activists.

Community groups, along with City Councilman Antonio Reynoso who represents an area just across from the development site, shut down two public hearings hosted by the city — the first one permanently and the second one briefly. The fight has pitted Reynoso against the councilman who actually represents that district, Stephen Levin.

Those opposing the plan point to a pending lawsuit that's preventing the city from redeveloping other vacant properties inside the Broadway Triangle region. They argue the city should settle the lawsuit and make a rezoning plan for the whole Broadway Triangle area, before they allow private developers to rezone the specific section of the triangle.

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2. Superfund Cleanups

State and federal governments and community groups continue to tackle North Brooklyn's toxic legacy in a series of cleanup efforts in areas like Newtown Creek, as well as at smaller sites like the NuHart Plastic Building and a contaminated area around Meeker Avenue. But possible changes with the upcoming presidential administration that could be more polluter-friendly could stall cleanup efforts on federally regulated sites like the Newtown Creek, some activists worry. The Newtown Creek's federal cleanup is mostly funded by ExxonMobil, whose CEO Rex Tillerson was recently tapped as Secretary of State by President-Elect Donald.

Credit: DNAinfo/Serena Dai

►3. Bushwick Inlet Park and Other Fights for Green Space

In late November, the city finally closed a $160 million deal to buy the last piece of land it needed to piece together Bushwick Inlet Park, a 28-acre waterfront park promised to North Brooklyn residents during the 2005 rezoning. But now that the land belongs to the city, there's still years of work ahead before that waterfront green space becomes a reality.

Remediation efforts are underway and planning phases will address what the park will actually look like. A trio of of tech-savvy millennial have pitched an idea for a piece of the parkland called "Maker Park" with a tech lab and re-purposed industrial structures, but their idea has been shot down by long-standing park advocates and the city.

There are other parcels that advocates are pushing to turn into green space, like the BQ Green, an idea to build a park over a section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway trench in South Williamsburg. Then there's the stalled Box Street Park, which was supposed to have been done by this year, but construction still hasn't begun.

Credit:DNAinfo/Meredith Hoffman

►4. Greenpoint Hospital Site

The city was supposed to put out a request for proposals for the redevelopment of the Greenpoint Hospital into affordable housing a year ago but still hasn't released one, in part because of a Department of Homeless Services dirty laundry facility on the site. As time ticks on, the abandoned nurses' quarters on the site sinks further and further into neglect, which enrages local community advocates who've been pushing for affordable housing and preservation of the historic architecture at the site for decades. With Mayor Bill de Blasio's emphasis on affordable housing, many North Brooklyn residents thought the Greenpoint Hospital site, which the city already owns, would be an easy victory for the mayor. But as de Blasio begins the last year of his four-year term, they've grown skeptical that anything will ever happen there.

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►5. Bushwick Community Plan

Ever since the former Rheingold Brewery site was rezoned for a huge residential project in 2013, a coalition of local activists, elected officials and community groups have been working on their own rezoning plan. Though it's still in the planning phases, one of their many goals involves preserving the residential character of side streets so towers can't go up in the middle of them, while allowing bigger buildings along main throughfares. They're also trying to build affordable housing and help stave off displacement for many rent-stabilized tenants. Advocates will hammer out their plans in the coming months and soon bring them to the city for a formal approval process before they can be implemented. 

Credit: DNAinfo/William Matthis

►6. Ever-Changing Live Music Landscape

We've said goodbye to some favorite North Brooklyn venues this year like Palisades, Secret Project Robot and Aviv. But many have also taken root this year like the newly reopened Market Hotel, though it is currently dealing with liquor license issues, and the Brooklyn Night Bazaar. Several other large venues have announced they'll open in 2017 including Brooklyn Steel, from the owners of Bowery Presents and Elsewhere, run by the folks behind the closed Glasslands venue.

While the diverse live music scene continues to flourish in North Brooklyn, unlicensed venues that thrive in warehouse industrial zones of the Bushwick and East Williamsburg have gone even further underground in the wake of a massive fire at an illegally converted venue called Ghost Ship in Oakland, California. Some Brooklyn-based venues have scrubbed their social media accounts of their addresses and now advertise shows with fliers that say "ask a punk," if you want their location.

Credit:DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

►7. Promoting and Protecting Manufacturing Areas

For years, North Brooklyn residents have warned that outdated zoning rules which were designed to protect manufacturing zones have allowed for the proliferation of hotels, bars and restaurants, because those are considered permissible uses under the current zoning. For nearly a year, the city has been studying the North Brooklyn industrial zone to figure out ways it can preserve manufacturing jobs and protect manufacturing zones. The city is expected to release the results of their findings early in 2017 which may lead to policy changes.