Ward Dennis reads the four rezoning actionsBrooklyn- We've had a couple of days since Tuesday night's epic Community Board One (Greenpoint/ Williamsburg) vote over the Broadway Triangle. I kept waiting for Ward Dennis to part the Red Sea, leading CB1 members to the promised land, but it never happened. Instead, everyone got sucked into the Triangle debate like Bruce Campbell at the end of Evil Dead 2.
Time for some perspective, and what better way to do that than with a Winners/ Non-Winners list. I'm reluctant to use the word "Losers" because no one really lost this week. Except for the National League. Again.
Winners:*The Plan 1895 units, 8-story buildings, 31 acres... on a possible South Williamsburg brownfield. Well, ok then. There are a few things standing in the way of this plan becoming a reality: Borough President Marty Markowitz, Councilmember David Yassky and his colleagues, Mayor Micheal Bloomberg, and the city's financial situation. It is unclear how strongly Bloomberg actually cares about this development plan, though he could certainly use the electoral support of...
*Rabbi David Niederman and United Jewish Organizations
The good Rabbi spoke throughout the meeting, hammering away at the lack of affordable housing and jobs in the Hasidic community.
When you have a name like Jack Hammer and you work for the Department of Housing and Preservation Development (HPD), you're always a winner.
*Chris Olechowski In his 2009 debut, Chairman Chris ran the board meeting efficiently, fairly and cut people off when their time elapsed. Though heated interchanges resulted in the hallway, and there remains some bickering between Chairman Chris and Duran for letting supporters of the Broadway Triangle rezoning speak at the last minute, many in press row ere surprised with how well Olechowski handled himself publicly.
*Vito Lopez Nobody except Luis Garden Acosta seemed to want to reference Assemblyman Lopez by name at the meeting but the board's vote reaffirms much of the respect that a significant part of the community (seniors, some Latinos, many Hasidic Jews) have for the Democratic Party leader and the nonprofit, RBSCC, he founded. Even though Lopez has been immersed in petitioning drives and council campaigns for much of this week, this vote did not go unnoticed.
Perhaps the most eloquent voice of the opposition to the rezoning, Solano lobbied hard behind the scenes for community board members to vote against the Broadway Triangle. Then in public, Solano and his group Churches United for Fair Housing put pressure on public officials to support their side. His leadership has been impressive throughout the process and that did not go unnoticed either.
Non-Winners:*The Process Everyone kept talking about transparency Tuesday night, and even UJO members acknowledged there should have been more of it. The question about why the UJO pulled out of the charette meeting remains unanswered, and HPD took a beating from community members for not communicating with other city agencies, particularly Parks, concerning open space within the Broadway Triangle. When your city agency is less popular than the Department of City Planning in Williamsburg, you know you have a problem.
*St. Nicholas NPC Tough week for St. Nicks. First, District Manager Gerry Esposito's campaign staff releases an article accusing the nonprofit of picking sides in the 34th District City Council race. Then, the vote which handcuffs their ability to build housing on the Broadway Triangle doesn't go their way. Now, more bickering between community board members and St. Nicks staffers over statements made at the end of public session excoriating board members for their vote. Tracking.
*Evelyn Cruz Congressional liaison Evelyn Cruz tried to speak several times during the meeting but was cut off and had to settle for interviews in the hallway and a brief statement exhorting the city for "broken promises and failing to meet its rezoning obligations." I haven't seen her this frustrated before.
You can't win if you don't play. One of the questions a few of us had in press row was "Where is Evan?" Turns out he resigned from the board, effective on July 15, just in time for the vote. Thies has spoken publicly against the plan and he lobbied behind the scenes for fellow board members to vote against the rezoning, but missing the final vote where he could have made a statement publicly against the Democratic Machine did not look good. These opportunities do not come up very often.
Going into this meeting, Marty and the other members of the Broadway Triangle Task Force kind of knew that the vote wasn't going their way, and Marty has vowed to challenge the rezoning in court. His strategy of emphasizing civil rights discrimination may not be as successful as fighting the city's attempts to invoke eminent domain over industrial operators like Shanghai Steel and Service Smoked Fish. Marty's strengths are in the courts, but so far, this battle has been playing out in political offices, where public opinion matters more than legal precepts.
*Reform-minded CB1 members who voted "Yes" anyway
Few of the yes voters have been able to defend why they voted the way they did, and this is why David Yassky will ultimately support this rezoning action. Here's Jaye Foxe's explanation of her vote:
What I meant by that, by the way, is that I'm no fan of HPD's process, but the vote was on a zoning action, which I thought was basically good on it's merits. This is unlike DCP's plan for the Big Rezoning in '05, which I thought was basically bad, in the form in which it came to us for a vote.
I'll have more on how this vote went down the way it did next week.