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Advocates Say Makeup of Pfizer Project Apts Will 'Perpetuate Segregation'

By Gwynne Hogan | October 11, 2017 10:36am
 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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Rabsky Group

CIVIC CENTER — Half of the subsidized apartments in a sprawling apartment and retail complex planned for a long-dormant part of the Broadway Triangle will be three and four bedroom units, further stoking anger among opponents of the project, who fear it will favor the area's Orthodox Jewish population.

After months of pressure from neighborhood residents to reveal the sizes of the subsidized apartments proposed, developers at the Rabsky Group made a commitment before the City Council Tuesday for around 71 subsidized apartments of each size—one, two, three, and four bedrooms—for a total of roughly 287 units.

Attorney Raymond Levin wouldn't give a breakdown of the rest of the 859 market-rate apartments.

Opponents to the project insisted that the large apartments were further evidence the developer wanted to build housing for Orthodox residents.

"We never heard the unit size until today and now we hear that 50 percent of the units are three and four bedrooms?" said Shekar Krishnan, an attorney at Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation, North Brooklyn tenant advocacy firm opposing the project. "The need for four-bedrooms is miniscule in this area and it does not come from black and Latino families in this community."

"The rezoning on its face would perpetuate segregation. The bulk of the housing...will not benefit families of color," Krishnan said.

Representatives for the developers couched their breakdown of apartment sizes on seven-year-old census data that shows that in three Williamsburg and Greenpoint zip codes there were 4,000 white families, 3,278 Latino families and 1,152 black families who had more than five members living in the same rental apartment.

Lee Silberstein, a spokesman for the Rabsky Group which is owned by Williamsburg investors Simon Dushinsky and Isaac Rabinowitz, have maintained that opposition to the project was anti-Semitic.

"He's being held to a different standard because he's an Orthodox Jew," Silberstein said.

He took issue with comments made by attorney Marty Needleman, another oppoent of the project, who'd insisted during the hearing that Rabsky would favor Hadism because of a "money connection" to the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn. 

“It is perpetuating stereotypes of the Jews as Shylocks” he said. "It's disgusting."

The City Council has around 35 days left to review the Rabsky Group's plan and either approve, disapprove, or request modifications to it.