Brooklyn pol demands faster action on Bushwick rezoning
City says 'stay tuned'
Exclusive: City Councilmember Antonio Reynoso is demanding the Department of City Planning move faster to release its Bushwick rezoning plan and blamed his fellow elected officials for their failure to win over local critics in rezonings around the city.
The request comes nearly five months after a grassroots coalition submitted the Bushwick Community Plan, a list of proposals and recommendations for such a rezoning. Reynoso, who represents the neighborhood, spearheaded the initiative alongside Councilmember Rafael Espinal.
The department hasn’t announced when a draft would be made public, but Reynoso told the Brooklyn Eagle he wants to see a draft plan in March and a public scoping session for community feedback before summer.
A DCP spokesperson said to “stay tuned” for an update later this year.
The 74-page community plan was released in September 2018, and Community Board 4 gave its stamp of approval in January. The plan includes specific requests to downzone many of the neighborhood’s side streets, upzone transit corridors and demands significant investments in parks, affordable housing and economic development.
The recommendations were forwarded to the DCP, where they are currently under review “in the context of developing a broader comprehensive strategy for the neighborhood,” according to a DCP spokesperson.
Anti-gentrification activists recently released a statement in opposition to the Bushwick Community Plan, calling it an “illegitimate report” that will cause displacement and further gentrification in the Brooklyn neighborhood through rezoning.
If adopted, the zoning changes outlined in the plan could result in some legally binding changes in the neighborhood, such as additional schools to keep pace with population increases from higher density. Those changes will be enumerated in the draft Environmental Impact Statement drawn up by the DCP, the next step in the process.
But many of the community’s requests can’t be secured through the DCP’s plan, relying instead on good-faith bargaining between the community and the agency, Reynoso acknowledged.
“Some of these things are guaranteed if they’re part of the EIS,” said Councilmember Reynoso, “But other things aren’t, and [the City Council] have been extremely unsuccessful in making that binding.”
Reynoso said that many of the suggestions outlined in the Bushwick Community Plan, from investment in parks to health infrastructure and small business protections, would have to be secured by “handshake agreements” with city planners and lawmakers.
This is the chief concern of Mi Casa No Es Su Casa and G-REBLS, two Bushwick activist groups protesting the plan, who fear that the city will ignore most of the recommendations set forth in the community plan.
“This could be the best plan in the world, but it doesn’t mean they have to listen to it,” said Ariella, one of the G-REBLS founders, who asked to be identified by first name only. “When has it ever worked out?”
Opponents of the Bushwick Community Plan point to the recent rezonings of Inwood and East Harlem, during which they say the city favored developers over long-term residents.
Reynoso, however, placed the failure of those plans squarely on the local elected officials in those communities.
“Why is it all these other districts’ communities feel their voices haven’t been heard?” he said. “To be honest, it comes down to their elected officials — I’m asking the community to put their faith in me.”
When a Bushwick rezoning plan is finally proposed by the DCP, it will have to undergo the Universal Land Use Review Procedure, which means approval from the borough president and ultimately the full City Council. The council historically takes their voting cue from the council members representing the relevant neighborhood. Reynoso said that he won’t vote against the wishes of Bushwick’s CB4.
“It’s my responsibility to get this as close as possible to what they want,” he said. “If the city won’t move and the community board won’t budge, I won’t support the plan.”
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