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BP Adams Bowing to 'Anti-Semitic Bullying' in Opposing Development: Builder

By Gwynne Hogan | July 21, 2017 2:41pm | Updated on July 24, 2017 7:34am
 Protesters have been shut down two public meetings held to discuss the Pfizer rezoning.
Protesters have been shut down two public meetings held to discuss the Pfizer rezoning.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

BROOKLYN — The developer behind the controversial plan to build a 1,146-unit apartment complex in the Broadway Triangle slammed Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams Friday for bowing to what they dubbed "anti-Semitic bullying," by opposing the project.

Adams came out against the Rabsky Group's plan to redevelop 200 Harrison Ave. — open land once owned by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer — contrary the community board's recommendation, and instead aligned himself with community groups who've protested the project since last fall, arguing it perpetuates segregation in the neighborhood.

The project has reignited ethnic tensions between Latinos and Orthodox Jews, as it makes its way through the city's land use process.

 The development would include some affordable housing and public green space.
The development would include some affordable housing and public green space.
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Department of City Planning

"It is difficult to understand why Borough President Adams, who prides himself on being someone who respects the law and enforces order, is in this case, putting those values aside to go against the most local representatives of the community and follow the lead of people who deploy some of the most thuggish, vitriolic behavior," said Lee Silberstein, a spokesman for the Rabsky Group.

“As this process continues to unfold, we hope that the vulgar, hateful, anti-Semitic bullying is condemned, and not the project,” he said.

On Friday, Adam's office recommended the city deny the Rabsky Group's plan to build the colossal eight-building complex, saying the developer shouldn't be allowed to go forward unless they build 24 more affordable apartments, chip in funds to fix the Flushing Avenue G train stop, commit to working with the Department of Transportation on street improvements and define in writing how many bedrooms will be in the apartments they build, among other recommendations released in a letter on Friday. 

"[The project] represents a chance to evaluate the direction of development in Williamsburg and ensure that we are creating opportunities for everyone to afford to raise healthy children and families in this neighborhood," Adams said. "Any rezoning that the City grants must affirm the standard of diverse, not segregated, opportunity.”

Since the Rabsky Group began to push for the rezoning last fall, rowdy protesters — wrangled by North Brooklyn community groups like Churches United for Fair Housing, St. Nicks Alliance, Make the Road and Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A — have shut down and disrupted a slew of public meetings.

Opponents argue that the rezoning would perpetuate housing segregation in an area with a long history of tensions between Orthodox, black and Latino communities, who straddle threes sides of the Broadway Triangle region, bounded by Broadway, Flushing Avenue and Union Avenue on the border with Bed-Stuy.

They argue that Rabsky Group hasn't disclosed how many bedrooms each of the 287 affordable apartments in the project will have, and worry the development could end up favoring large Orthodox Jewish families.

Rob Solano, head of Churches United for Fair Housing, applauded the borough president's letter, and said he hopes that the project is rejected at "every step of the ULURP process."

"It will continue the trend of exclusionary housing development in the most segregated neighborhood in our city," he said. "This plan is anti-black and anti-Latino and we are appalled that this project is still even being considered."

The Williamsburg-based developer Rabsky Group has repeatedly denied claims that the development will further divide the neighborhood, saying the city will run the lottery for its affordable housing.

Pillars of the Orthodox Jewish community —like Rabbi David Neiderman of United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, an umbrella group for Orthodox residents — have seen the opposition as thinly-veiled anti-Semitism.

The borough president's role in the rezoning process, like the community board's, is only advisory. The project now moves to the City Planning Commission, which will hold a public hearing on July 26 and then write their recommendation on the project within 60 days.

Read the Borough President's recommendation here: