Tuesday, July 14, 2009

U-L-U-R-P D-A-Y.... Nights! Part Two

At hour three, Press Row is getting restless
8:04 PM Chairman Chris passes the mic to ULURP Chair Ward Dennis who rolls through his report. Meanwhile Juliet starts scrolling through U-L-U-R-P-D-A-Y Nights Part One.
"I don't want to read this. This literally just happened," says Juliet.

Meanwhile, Jeff Mann has figured out where Evan Thies is.
"He resigned from the Board a few days ago," says Jeff. "When the police were taking roll of community board members at the door, Evan Thies was not on that list
." I guess Evan won't be voting tonight.

Ward gives his report and starts talking about the ULURP vote from last month.
I want to say first off I think the committee did a tremendous job looking at the city's proposal and judging it on its merits. On the other hand we have a process that has not been in any way ideal. It was not transparent, or open or inclusive. What it boils down to is a good rezoning proposal and a bad process. I think the committee did a very good job and we arrived on a consensus consistent with past positions on the board on affordable housing, open space, and industrial development. Contextual zoning is not trying to supersize the zoning. There are five areas where the plan was lacking, including industrial retention, open space, and keeping as much inclusionary housing as possible within the area.
The committee voted to approve all four actions of the rezoning with the conditions. Ward reads the four actions. (Note: I will try to get the electronic link for these actions up as soon as I can). Scrap Metal is leaning against the wall. I notice him and he adjusts his tie. Good call not wearing that suit. It's so hot in here we're actually baking a pizza on Juliet's laptop.

8:26: More squabbling about two HPD letters and the ULURP vote. The crowd is tiring and Press Row is beginning to lose interest in the discussion. We've wandered away from what's important and Ward Dennis or Chairman Chris need to reign this back in. Press Row perks up as Ward clears up a technical point in the vote that's pretty important. And CB1 member Simon Weiser (aka "SiWi) is at the center of this issue.

"Any board members have a conflict of interest would have to recuse themselves from the vote. Conflict of interest rules state that you have to acknowledge this. If you vote in a resolution that you are not supposed to vote on, that vote can be challenged and the entire vote can be thrown out," says Ward.
Rabbi Niederman makes a clarification and states that Simon Weiser resigned from the UJO and is in eligible to vote. This is like the rule for vampires, wh0 have to ask for permission from a guest before entering a room. Maybe HBO should make their next vampire show about the fight for more affordable housing in North Brooklyn. I doubt the buildings would have any windows.
What kind of vampire is SiWi? Vote in the comments
Fortunately a lawyer from Borough President Marty Markowitz's office, who for the record is against vampires, is on BP's office is on hand.
"For the matter in question, you may not vote on the matter but you may participate in discussion with the communit board on the matter. The matter is that the conflict of interest law is very very gray. (applause from the BTFF half of the room) Everyone in this room has an interest. If you have a conflict of interest, you must recuse yourself. I would be happy to let anybody know do this outside. I'm not going to do this in a public venue because it is not the place of the office of the borough president."

8:42 PM WGNews and Arts Reid Pillifant calls me. He finally got into the room. Reid has a healthy man-crush on me, kind of like the man-crush I have on Greg Hanlon, the man-crush Ben Muessig has on Mike McLaughlin or the man-crush Jeff Mann has on himself. Sorry I couldn't save a seat for you, Reid. Maybe you can sit on Luis Garden Acosta.

8:46 PM I receive the following text from Rami Scrap Metal: "I just started eating a cookie that Lincoln Wrestler [sic] gave me and as I started eating it Teresa Toro stared me down until I gave her half of it. I want food.

8:47 PM We have some back and forth before the final vote, but I feel we're getting close. Esteban makes a comment:
This vote on the broadway triangle should not be before us. We have not had sufficient time to have our input. The presentation from AIA did not get input from us beforehand. The issue is the affordable housing that is being built here is not inclusive. I joined the community board after the rezoning in 2005. We can't trust that the rezoning will give us the promise of open space. Thank you for your time. Please vote no on this (applause from the BTCC half of the room).

A Hasidic CB 1 member answers back that the project is ready to go and the zoning is there and the community is going to get what they want, as Jaye Foxe follows with her comments saying that lower-rise contextual zoning is more feasible. This is a crucial vote and a bad sign for the BTCC (and a good sign for the BTFF. Confused? So am I.).

"As much as this is not a project that is ready to go, I'm concerned that once we get into 15 story developments the cost is astronomically higher. That just bothers me... I just think that lower rise contextual zoning is more feasible," says Foxe.

Heather Roslund talks and then Rabbi Niederman tees off. He's had an unusually public role tonight. "This is a commitment to a hundred families who tomorrow will have a home to live. Yes the process is very important and from future it should be transparent. There are a hundred families, 50 percent from CB 1, whose lives are at stake now and need a roof on top of their head. This is what I believe is at stake over here. For the moment now, we're talking about a project that is all affordable, and we would be going back to the drawing board (if we vote no). It will take another 25 years to get this going and I urge you let's not take 25 years from now so we still see the blighted areas."

Evelyn Cruz is trying to speak but Ward shuts her down.
"The value to open process and the respect to public government..." says Evelyn.
"Evelyn I'm sorry we can't recognize non-board members..." says Ward.

EWVIDCO's and CB1 member Karen Knieves gets the last comment
"The whole point of community board is to represent the community as a whole. There is no job generation in this plan. We should get this opportunity now to get a comprehensive plan to help this community now. I'm sorry, that's the way I feel. Loss of jobs, you're displacing more manufacturing jobs and you're not creating jobs."

8:55 PM: Ward motions to call to question. Vote fails, we continue discussion. Don't worry, it's not much longer.

9:05 Ward calls the vote as Vinnie "The Chairman" Abate makes an appearance. Vinnie stayed the whole meeting, sitting in the back, avoiding the maelstrom, but he comes back to the front of the room.

The Chairman's still got it.

Gerry Esposito speaks for the second time tonight to take the vote. We'll have the full roll call tomorrow.
23 Yes-12 no- 1 abstension
Solomon Bondy: Yes
Ward Dennis: Yes
Esteban Duran: Emphatically No!
Jaye Foxe: Yes Regrettably! (corrected)
Karen Knieves: No
Rabbi Niederman: I would like to recuse myself, but if I could vote, I would vote yes.
Dealice Fuller: Yes
Gillespie: No
Paul Pullo: Yes
Roslund: No
Teague: Yes
Dewey Thompson: Yes
Toro: No
James Vicente: No
Simon Weiser: I Recuse, but I would vote yes.
I miss the others, but
23 Yes-12 no- 1 abstension
Based on the vote, motion carries.
Applause from half the room and people begin filing out.
Before and After. Can't win 'em all Marty.
9:15 PM Press Row departs the table and circles around Marty Needelman, Rob Solano, Evelyn Cruz and Luis Garden Acosta getting comments in the lobby right outside the meeting room. Solano gives a brief statement about the result
"This is one battle in a long war. What happened tonight was a discussion. What drives me crazy is if you were against the process and you said, 'well I'll vote for it.' says Solano. Needelman says that the city is abdicating to this kind of deal and vows to fight on, possibly with a legal challenge. Garden Acosta says none of this would have happened if the Assemblyman for this district was not also the chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party.
It's interesting that Luis and Needelman are looking towards Assemblyman Vito Lopez while Solano is focusing more on Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Councilmember David Yassky for the reasons behind the passage of the Broadway Triangle rezoning. Meanwhile Esteban Duran seems more disappointed in his fellow board members who voted yes.

9:18 PM SiWi bursts through the double doors to start pointing at Needelman and Solano, as they engage in a screaming match about his recusal. An argument ensues, but it's civil. Then Rabbi Niederman walks up to the crowd saying, "I am very proud of my record for the community as a whole. We will continue to provide housing to anyone who wants it." believing that Needelman has been criticizing him (he hasn't, or at least I wasn't aware of it).

"No one questioned your record, Rabbi, we've only questioned the process." says Needelman.
"You were behind the open charrette. Why did you pull out? That's the piece I don't understand," says Garden Acosta. "David... what happened?"
Niederman gets flustered and turns to chew out Needelman. It's Rabbi on Rabbi right now and Solano is antsy.
"I don't care about your 30 year history with Marty, Rabbi."
"I'm not... I'm not..."
Rabbi Niederman has had enough. He takes his blackberry out and walks down a long hallway back into the community room. Jeff Mann goes to talk with them and I spot SiWi giving Jeff Mann an elaborate handshake. I think they're both definitely vampires. All Jeff eats is sushi. And blood.

9:37 PM: Inside the Community Room where the meeting was held, David Dobosz starts shoutin during the middle of public session. All I catch is "We need to stop these divisions in the community and stop letting these issues divide us!" He is red as a beet. I spot NBDC's Rich Mazur sitting in the back of a vacant community room, save for a few board members, typing dilligently away on his blackberry.

"Hi Rich"
"Hi Aaron."
"What was that about?
"He's upset about the way the meeting was run and the divisions in the community."
"He shouldn't take this personally."

9:45 PM A number of other community members take the podium during public session for their two minute speeches, including EWIDCO's Leah Archibald, Shanghai Steel's Ernie Wong, St. Nick's and UNO's Alison Cordero, Evelyn Cruz, and a few others, but I'll let Rob Solano wrap this up because he had the most eloquent explanation to community board members of what unfolded Tuesday night:

South 4th and Bedford is very different today than it was when I was growing up, but one thing is the same. The Latino community has stood strong. It's not you. They see the Broadway Triangle as a bigger plan. When they see the plan get pushed through, they get offended and they lose hope. They lose hope because they know it's the last chance to do something big for them so they can stay in this community. It's not just shadows and buildings for them. It's life.


Anonymous said...

Where can you find the proposed city plan?

Anonymous said...

When a contentious vote comes up, Evan Thies resigns.
Great leadership.

jsfox said...

Yo, Aaron--one correction. I was "Yes, Regrettably". Not "incredibly" as you wrote. :) 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. -Jaye

Kathryn Peterson said...

I felt like I was waiting in line at the club last night, trying to get into the CB meeting but not being on the list.

Thanks for this posting- it was like actually being at the meeting if the CB1 meeting was part of the Colbert Report so it was actually even better.

Glad to find your blog, keep up the good work!

Teresa Toro said...

I hope the fact that I shook Rami Metal down for half of his cookie doesn't violate the NYC Conflict of Interest guidelines. (Thanks again Rami.)