Groups march to protest Pfizer rezoning
by Meghan Sackman
Oct 03, 2018 | 1872 views | 0 0 comments | 126 126 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A coalition of north Brooklyn activist groups marched to protest segregated housing and gentrification last Wednesday.

The BRASH Coalition, which includes organizations like Churches United for Fair Housing (CUFFH), Los Sures, United Neighbors Organization and Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, marched from the Williamsburg waterfront to the Broadway Triangle.

Along the way, they denounced a plan, set in place since last October, to develop eight new buildings with 1,200 apartments in the area where the Pfizer factory once existed.

Opponents believe the Broadway Triangle project will have the same effect as the 2005 Williamsburg waterfront rezoning, which resulted in segregated housing and displacement of the Latino community.

Alex Fennell, network director at CUFFH, believes more people need to see the connection between the Williamsburg rezoning to what’s happening more than a decade later.

“If the city refuses to study the racial impacts, the demographic impacts of rezonings, we will never have integrated developments,” Fennell said. “If we pretend race isn’t an issue, that these rezonings don’t affect low-income families of color at an overwhelming rate, then we’re never going to have development that is equitable.”

She wants community members to be considered and involved in the process.

“We want the city, as a first step, just to study it, just give us the information,” Fennell said. “Let us know what’s happening so that we can come up with the steps as a community to make sure that the development that moves forward is equitable, inclusive and integrated.”

BRASH filed a lawsuit against the city and developer, Rabsky Group, and were granted a restraining order to slow down the process. They sued on the grounds that the city violated the Fair Housing Act by not performing required racial and environmental impact reports.

But after a six-month delay in the rezoning, it was announced in July that the lawsuit had been dismissed and the plans for the Pfizer development would continue.

Attorneys with the coalition group have already filed an appeal and continue to move forward with the litigation.

“People have been talking for 20 years about Williamsburg’s gentrification, but what gets glossed over a lot is the fact that this is a very racialized process,” said Adam Meyers, a senior staff attorney at Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A. “It’s not simply a matter of higher-income people as opposed to low-income people, but it’s this complete displacement of the Latino community that’s been living on the southside for 50 years.”

Robert Camacho, a Brooklyn resident of 56 years and a BRASH organizer, elt strongly about the possibility of his own community being pushed out of their homes.

“We’re trying to stop the mayor and the city from taking deeply affordable housing from us,” Camacho said. “Affordable is a funny word, especially when the mayor uses it. He knows what’s going on and that what could be affordable for you may not be affordable for me, and Latinos and blacks are getting pushed out because of it.”

Camacho said he just wants to be considered and included in the decision to rezone and redevelop an area he has lived in his whole life.

“We don’t want them to push us out,” Camacho said. “We want to be part of the process.”

Barbara Schliff is director of housing resources at Los Sures. She said the Pfizer site rezoning won’t provide sufficient affordable housing.

“We presented another possible alternative plan which was not even considered,” she said. “We lost the lawsuit, now we’re appealing it, but we’re going to make sure they listen.”
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