Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Goodbye ULURP Tuesday

http://991.com/NewGallery/Pink-Floyd-The-Dark-Side-Of-238561.jpg http://www.constructionnews.co.nz/articles/feb09/images/Sullair_TrimPile_1.jpg
The Broadway Triangle and Jack Hammer, together again.

We're coming live from 211 Ainslie in Williamsburg tonight for a special edition of A Short Story. It's not worth a full running diary, more of an ambling diary. Sorry guys. We've got a much smaller crowd than the Community Board one full board meeting of two weeks ago. Press Row has moved twice to get closer to the ULURP Knights of the Square Table, because Community Board One's Ward Dennis speaks more softly than a 2nd grade spelling bee contestant who forgot her word.
I see several BTCC members, mostly St. Nicks and UNO folks, as well as some Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council staffers too, but not nearly as many as two weeks ago. Council liaison Rami "Scrap" Metal is wearing a white shirt with French cuffs, at least five powers better than I have seen him dressed in the past two months. Behind me is Rabbi David Niederman is leaning over two constituents, speaking in Yiddish so we don't understand what he's saying.
Some minor business to go through first (198 Varet Street's application was approved as is a property on 360-366 McGuinness Blvd in Greenpoint), before we get to the Broadway Triangle action at roughly 7 minutes after 7 PM.

"I'm going to ask all committee members to act with decorum and if you don't, I'm going to ask you to leave. -Ward Dennis.

Shampa Chanda of HPD begins her presentation, which is very map heavy. Basically, she's explaining where several vacant or manufacturing-zoned lots are within the 31-acre site and how the city will seek to add 1851 units of housing and 905 units of affordable housing.

Hey, it's Michael Rochford from St. Nicholas NPC! Mike arrives at 7:15 PM. Mike Roch, Jack Hammer, and Del Teague are all in the same room right now. Oh my God, Jack Hammer is going to take the floor and give a presentation! I think I just had an aneurysm. For three minutes, Jack reads more or less verbatim from the presentation, and every minute was riveting.

Marty Needelman arrives at 7:40 PM amd the room is filling up now. I count 20 members of the Hasdic community. Slightly under double that number are BTCC members. This crowd is more evenly balanced for and against the rezoning action, but eight of the Hasidic members are actual votes on the ULURP committee.

There are several questions about Pfizer, but EWVIDCO's Karen Knieves' question on relocation funds and business expansion is the most interesting one. NAG's Peter Gillespie adds his views about this later and slaps HPD's wrists a bit over not having enough open space and not preserving local businesses within the triangle. Here's the HPD answer regarding businesses operating within the Triangle from Jack Hammer.

We've sent out letters to each of the affected owners, sent out notices, had a CB public hearing, and we've had some private conversations with owners. They will get notice at other public hearings and we anticipate discussing these maters on an individual basis from property owners who come forward.

Only the urban renewal properties are eligible for acquisition. Anything proposed for a zoning is subject to acquisition. It's not a question for us. The property will be zoned residential. Our focus in terms of assistance is on the properties proposed for acquisition. The plan here is to rezone the area, acquire the property and rezone the site for residential development. The proposal is for residential development not for business expansion.

Esteban Duran asks his question: In drafting of the EIS, did you or did you not receive 3800 letters from community members regarding the rezoning?
HPD's Shampa Chanda: Yes we did. We looked at DEIS alternatives.
HPD's Patrick Lynch: We did look at R8A and R9-A. These zoning districts allow more density. Allows more total units overall, 3731 and 1800 affordable units. The higher density alternative results in more impacts, new impacts relating to zoning and community facilities such as schools and urban design. The buildings are a lot taller and building heights increase.

Esteban: I want to know why the higher density alternative, which will double the number of affordable housing, is not getting more consideration. Why are we proceeding with less density when the higher density plan gets more results?
Esteban interrupts her and Ward threatens to hold Esteban out of order. The crowd starts to grumble.

Shampa Chanda: We wanted to be realistic about what we could propose and what has happened in the community over the years. We don't want to not make a wrong decision and not have to change the zoning.

More questions:
Question: Number of new construction jobs? A: We don't know, we'll get back to you.
Question: Open space created? A: They don't really answer this.
Question: Any limit to # of off-site units there can be? A: It's completely up to the market.
Question: Geographic limitations to affordable housing? A: Yes.

A little girl whispers to her mother: "This is boring!" Rami's head is in his hands again. He's crying slightly. "It smells so bad in here. You don't realize it until you go outside."
Well it's been a long day.

It's 8:15 PM and Ward warns that we only have 45 more minutes.
CB's Karen Leader asks an interesting question about HPD giving site control and committing 7.6 million in funding towards development in Williamsburg. She's got a follow-up too:
"Why is the city committing resources to a site that doesn't have proper zoning and you still haven't moved on rezoning projects issued in 2007."
Oh and she has one more-
"How come you haven't named a developer for Greenpoint Hospital yet you're rushing to get the Broadway Triangle process through?"

CB1's Jaye Foxe asks about sole source disposition and explains herself:
"Whatever the city does it should be part of a transparent, open RFP process. We can reduce community infighting, if we all just asked if this could happen."

Thirty minutes to go. Jaye, Heather, Peter, Karen, Jose, and Esteban have been pushing HPD hard tonight. The Hasids have been quiet. So has Teresa Toro. Evan Thies is not here, but Jo Anne Simon's campaign manager Kelly Donnely is. Some of the Hasids are mumbling to each other in English now. Ward has dropped the hammer tonight. This meeting is totally under his control. Sigh.

Here comes the vote. Ward goes through four items, asks ULURP members to vote on each item separately. Yes with modifications or no with modifications to each item.
1. First Motion carries: 14-10
2. Modifications to the urban renewal area Motions carries: 13-9-1
3. UDAP disposition, UJO identified as sole source. Ward says UJO members must recuse themselves from voting as well as staff people. Everyone perks up. Motion fails 9-10-3.
The yes vote did not carry, so we're saying no to the resolution. Not approve the disposition.
Darn. That fails too.
Kids, we've got six minutes. Figure your stuff out.
Ward casts his vote, a yes vote, breaks the tie, and the motion carries.
4. Inclusionary housing within the zoning area, with same conditions as before. Motion carries 15-9.


Ward: "Thank you all very much."

Time for interviews. Check the papers Friday for the wrap!


Anonymous said...

Aaron -- I couldn't make the meeting and immediately went to your report this a.m. for the summary. This was excellent reporting, suspenseful and provacative (i.e. the little girl who said this is boring, truly summed it up, but your reporting certainly wasn't boring....).

I appreciate this summary and look forward to the interviews.

Anonymous said...

Yes. I had a similar situation, and checked the blog the first chance I got. Keep up the good work!

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