Bushwick rezoning opponents look beyond Brooklyn for strategies
Community activists in Bushwick are pushing for a complete shutdown of engagement between their local representatives and the Department of City Planning, hoping to stop a planned rezoning of their neighborhood from taking shape.
Mi Casa No Es Su Casa, an anti-gentrification group, has started a petition for the purpose, which they say has garnered more than 350 signatures. Previously, the group has shut down community board meetings, disrupted city feedback sessions and projected anti-gentrification and anti-rezoning slogans across swaths of Brooklyn. Now, they’re looking to keep fighting the process, however they can.
The group hosted a town hall inside a Bushwick church on Sunday to discuss methods of resistance with residents and community leaders from across the five boroughs.
Roughly 30 attendees listened as a panel of speakers addressed both the specific rezoning of Bushwick and the greater processes of rezoning, displacement and gentrification at work in New York City.
Tom Angotti, professor emeritus of urban policy and planning at Hunter College, spoke to the history of rezoning over the last century and the forces of capital on commodified land.
“Every neighborhood is on target” for rezoning, Angotti told the group.
Pati Rodriguez, a spokesperson for Mi Casa No Es Su Casa, voiced her rejection of the community-developed Bushwick Community Plan and the city’s following Bushwick Neighborhood Plan. Both plans claim to offer tools to keep gentrification in check, mainly through preservation and downzoning. Rodriguez, however, isn’t buying it.
“Zoning has never saved a community,” she said.
Rodriguez called on local Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, who has supported the idea of rezoning, to speak out against the process.
Economist Lynn Ellsworth encouraged those gathered to think about the next steps in opposing the rezoning process, drawing on knowledge from previous efforts in neighborhoods like East Harlem and Inwood.
While the #Battle4Bushwick — as Mi Casa No Es Su Casa has branded the fight — has seen meetings shut down and disrupted, panel members admitted that the process of civil disobedience often forces stakeholders and decision makers behind closed doors, eventually keeping activists out.
Ellsworth suggested filing Article 78 lawsuits, used to appeal agency decisions, to attempt to “throw a spanner in the works” and slow down the process until a new mayoral administration is in power, in hopes of a more sympathetic system.
Above all, Ellsworth emphasized, “You have to scare the sh-t out of your City Council member.”
She encouraged everyone present to get involved politically, run for office themselves or support opposition candidates for those who are in favor of the rezoning. Councilmember Reyonoso, who has put himself at the forefront of the rezoning process, will soon be term-limited out of his post, but recently announced his intentions to run for Brooklyn Borough President.
Chino May, a member of Take Back the Bronx, an activist organization fighting rezoning in New York’s northernmost borough, spoke of building a broad movement of people power in opposition to rezoning through organizing and protest. He encouraged those present to take lessons from each of the fights against rezoning across the city, calling each an experiment in how to fight against what many see as an inevitable outcome for neighborhoods across New York.
According to the DCP, they hope to have the plan certified by winter 2020.
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