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Activists Shut Down Hearing on Pfizer and Armory Developments in Brooklyn

By  Rachel Holliday Smith and Gwynne Hogan | July 11, 2017 9:55am 

 Protesters of two large development joined forces to shut down a public hearing on both of their rezonings at Brooklyn Borough Hall Monday night. 
Brooklyn Borough Meeting Shut Down
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DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Activists unhappy with plans for two controversial Brooklyn projects shut down a public hearing on the developments Monday night, saying both proposals will exacerbate gentrification in the borough.

Opponents of both the Bedford-Union Armory plan in Crown Heights and the Pfizer site proposal in Williamsburg flooded a forum held at Borough Hall on the zoning changes requested for both projects before disrupting the hearing as officials began the proceedings.

Chanting “the people united will never be defeated” in Spanish, the crowd walked out of the hearing en masse following a statement read by a coalition of activists who have been fighting both the Pfizer project and the Armory redevelopment for years.

“With all due respect, on behalf of hundreds of people that came out today to this gathering, we firmly object to this hearing even taking place,” Juan Ramos, activist and leader of the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition, told Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna, who led the hearing.

“We firmly oppose the proposed development at the Pfizer site and Bedford Armory, both of which stand to displace and disadvantage thousands of community residents,” he added.

The optional hearing was scheduled by Borough President Eric Adams before he weighs in on both projects in an advisory role as part of the citywide Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) needed to approve zoning changes at both developments.

Officials canceled the hearing after the activists stormed out, but Reyna encouraged Brooklynites to email Borough Hall comments, which will be reviewed by Adams before he makes his recommendation on the Crown Heights and Williamsburg projects.

"The people are speaking. They've lived through this for 40 years. We're expecting that they're going to be in touch with Borough Hall,” Reyna said after the hearing.

Both the Armory and Pfizer site projects have become lightning rods in their respective neighborhoods, drawing protests every step of the way as each moves forward in the city-approval process.

The Williamsburg project, to be developed by The Rabsky Group, would rezone land formerly owned by the pharmaceutical giant to build 1,146 apartments with 25 percent set aside for affordable housing. In Crown Heights, developer BFC Partners is seeking to redevelop the vacant Bedford-Union Armory into 330 apartments, 56 condominiums and a large recreation center.

In a statement, a spokesperson for The Rabsky Group, Tom Corsillo, said while the developers are "disappointed a small group of people insists on stifling public discourse," the developer "will continue to make the case that this project, which will create 287 new affordable apartments, and create well paying jobs and open space, is right for the long-vacant site."

The Pfizer site project has laid bare simmering tension between Williamsburg’s Jewish and Latino populations, and has led to anger and protests from activists for years.

At the Armory, residents have been calling on the city to shut down the redevelopment for months, and the project has publicly lost support from Crown Heights Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo and Borough President Adams.

As part of ULURP process, Adams is due to make his recommendation on the Pfizer project this month, according to the procedure guidelines.

He will also submit a formal recommendation on the Crown Heights Armory project, although he must receive recommendations from the local community board before doing so. Community Board 9 in Crown Heights voted the project down unanimously late last month, but it has not yet submitted a formal letter to Borough Hall, staff there said.