Last Wednesday, July 13, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Emily Goodman scheduled the long postponed hearing on the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition’s (BTCC) motion for a preliminary injunction to bar implementation of the city’s controversial rezoning of the 31-acre area that sits on the border of Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant.
The hearing comes after delays dating back to 2009 and the judge will soon decide the fate of the area, which has been in the center of a battle between community groups and city lawyers.
The BTCC filed a lawsuit in 2009 alleging that the redevelopment project favors certain members of the Hasidic Jewish community over black and Latino residents to occupy the potential 1,895 units of affordable housing that will be built if the project continues on to construction.
The lawsuit alleges that Mayor Bloomberg engaged in a political deal with Kings County Democratic leader Vito Lopez and his allies at United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg (UJO), that excluded every other community group in the affected neighborhoods, including all of Bed-Stuy and much of the Hasidic community not connected to UJO.
The coalition alleges that the plan would have “shocking racial and religious discriminatory impacts in violation of City, State and Federal law, and would continue a long history of shocking discrimination in the area.”
This past Monday and Wednesday, BTCC Chair Juan Ramos and Rob Solano of Churches United for Fair Housing testified on behalf of the coalition, as did other expert witnesses.
“We feel so far we’ve proven some of our points,” Ramos said. “We expect what we’ve been asking for – to put a stop to this project and restart it to involve more of the community,” he said, while noting that the BTCC does not want to exclude those communities currently involved with the plan.
The city wants the space, which is bordered by Throop, Flushing, Harrison and Union avenues and Lynch Street, to accommodate more than 800 units of housing for low and moderate-income families.
But the BTCC fears that these low-income units would only be for the two groups – the UJO and the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, which were both given site control when they were chosen as a result of their alleged ties to Vito Lopez.
In effect, the plan not only leaves out blacks and Latinos, but those Hasidic Jews not part of the UJO.
“It would be a much more diversified experience if the triangle was rezoned to include everyone,” Ramos said.
A stay on the construction of the city’s re-zoning plan, including transfer of the largest city-owned sites to Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizen Council and UJO, has been in effect since December 2009, immediately after a split City Council approved the re-zoning.
“The hearing is finally making public the shocking facts surrounding the dirty deal that led to the proposed rezoning that was totally geared to meet the plans of Ridgewood Bushwick and UJO, at the expense of everyone else in the affected communities in Williamsburg and Bed Stuy,” BTCC lawyer Marty Needleman said.
Needleman also claims that the city minimized the number of affordable units to be built. The coalition is calling for more affordable apartments in a new plan.
The city began presenting its defense before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Emily Goodman on Monday. The city is expected to call three additional witnesses and concluding arguments should be made on Wednesday, July 20, soon after which Goodman is expected to make a ruling.