INWOOD — Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez took aim at critics of the Inwood Library redevelopment plan in a Twitter post last week, accusing them of resorting to "racially charged" rhetoric to kill the proposal.
Rodriguez, who addressed dozens of residents at Tuesday night's library planning meeting at the 4790 Broadway branch, was greeted by critics carrying signs and banners opposing the project.
Hours after the meeting ended, Rodriguez took to Twitter to accuse opponents of being interlopers from other neighborhoods, pointing in particular to Citizens Defending Libraries founder Michael White, according to Rodriguez's spokesman, Russell Murphy.
"Mr. White is the person that tweet was referring to, a Park Slope resident who is bent on injecting himself into a conversation about community resources miles from his home, with unfounded notions that have been refuted at every occasion, yet are still bandied about by more than just him," Murphy said. "It is irresponsible and fear-mongering does not have a place in this conversation."
The tweets are reminiscent of the Twitter war Rodriguez sparked late last year, when he compared opponents of the Sherman Plaza to Trump.
We need to be clear about the needs of Uptown: affordable housing first & foremost; and when it's 100%, it's our responsibility to listen pic.twitter.com/yrEoUVgZPf— Ydanis Rodriguez (@ydanis) January 31, 2017
But White said Rodriguez's comments are an attempt to distract from the fact that the majority of opponents of the plan who came to Tuesday's meeting are locals.
"In terms of community opposition, I know of myself as the only person who doesn't have an address in Councilman Rodriguez's district," White said, in response to Rodriguez's tweets. "So we held up some banners, and it takes at least three people to hold up those banners. The other people were from the community," White said, adding that he lived on 160th Street many years ago, before moving to Gramercy Park and ultimately Brooklyn.
Residents had challenged Rodriguez over what they called a divisive project they said was pitting those in the community against one another — and faulted elected officials and city officials for not answering their questions about land ownership, building height and the pace of the project.
"You’re missing the big picture issue, which is the systematic rent-stabilization, income inequality between the very rich and everyone else, and it’s frustrating, because the library is one of the very, very few community assets," said Allegra LeGrande, a climate scientist who lives in Inwood.
"We’re community members who love each other. We want to live with the co-op owners, and the people who are living in the rent-stabilized units, and the people who are on the North side and South side of Inwood, and we all want to be together. It is pitting us against each other in a very unfair way by saying it’s the library or else."
LeGrande said she would also like to see other options explored in the community, such as parking lots and other empty lots, and convert those into affordable housing.
“Let’s mix it up, let’s all live together and we all use the library, but it must remain public," said Tine Byrsted, an attendee who lives in Inwood, adding that she didn't want to see "one kind of people" living in the community.
There were some who openly voiced their support for the project who don't live in Inwood.
Maximo Javier, whose relatives live in the neighborhood, said he believes the project is needed in the community.
"I know the area very well, and my cousin has come to this library for many years, and they have also lived at 210 Sherman, and what they would like is more affordable housing and this library to continue," Javier said, adding that although he doesn't live in the community, his family — who don't speak English — asked him to speak on their behalf. He said his family wasn't at the workshop.
Elvio Veras, who lives in Harlem, said at the meeting, "We have the opportunity to get the housing, that allows us to live better, then we shouldn’t oppose it. We need this library and this project."
Rodriguez said, during the meeting, that he’s confident the community will be able to put together a good project that’s a “win-win situation.”
“We might not agree on everything, but I know that we want the best for our community,” Rodriguez said.
Daniel Hernandez, of HPD, said the project ownership will now be determined through a request for proposals seeking interest from for-profits and non-profit developers.
He confirmed that the land is typically sold to developers and controlled in the public interest through a series of documents, such as deeds, loans and “everything else they’ve committed to.”
HPD said it will now organize all the feedback from the meetings, along with the response from the survey, which they confirmed will be accepting comments from the public for another month before HPD, the NYPL and Robin Hood Foundation return to the community in March to present the findings. They will also present the report before the Community Board.
HPD said they will then use the feedback from the public and CB meeting to modify the report and create the request for proposal that will be released to developers and Community Board 12 in June.