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Back in July, we wondered what was in store for the former Unity Democratic Club at 203 Ralph Avenue in Bed Stuy. We hadn’t seen any signs of life there in years. In July, the old sign came down and the landlord appeared to be sprucing up the place for a new tenant, or perhaps to advertise the space for lease.

Well, now we know: The building is actually the one at the center of the dispute between City Council Member Darlene Mealy and her office landlord. To recap in case you have not been following: She is months behind on her rent, and owes $7,500, according to her landlord quoted in the Post. The landlord changed the locks, and she had him arrested. He retaliated by draping three banners on the building’s fire escape proclaiming her to be a deadbeat tenant.

The banners read: “Councilwoman Darlene Mealy is a deadbeat tenant. She owes five months rent for 203 Ralph and refuses to pay. Her monthly rent is $1,250. She offered me $1,000. This is another prime example of one local elected official who has failed me, you and this community.” (more…)

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Brooklyn District 45 City Council Member Jumaane Williams has proposed that community boards review all hotel developments in their areas, even as-of-right projects. Williams chairs the City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings.

The purpose of the law is to preserve the character of neighborhoods, Williams told The Real Deal. “This legislation is needed to protect character of neighborhoods across this city, as communities change faster than zoning. Whenever a hotel, with a large number of transient occupants, is built, consideration must be given to its impact on the people living in that neighborhood,” he said.

Current zoning allows developers to build hotels in industrial neighborhoods where residential construction is not permitted. Above, an industrial building at 55 Wythe Street in a protected Williamsburg industrial zone is slated to be replaced by a hotel. Hotels have also been sprouting up in residential areas of Brooklyn, such as Sunset Park. Real estate execs said the proposed legislation would slow construction.

What do you think?

New Hotels Would Need Community Board OK Under Proposal [TRD]

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Yesterday mayor elect Bill de Blasio announced Goldman Sachs exec Alicia Glen will be his deputy mayor for housing and economic development, a key appointment for a pol who has pledged to end the economic divide in New York City. Questions were immediately raised about her current position working for one of the highest-paying companies in the city.

“I don’t care about any stereotypes or assumptions,” The New York Times quoted de Blasio as saying in response to questions about her Goldman employment. “I care about who shares my values and can get the job done.”

Glen was assistant commissioner for housing finance at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development under Mayor Giuliani. At Goldman, Glen “runs a division that focuses on good works,” as the Times put it. Goldman’s Urban Investment Group helps finance projects in neighborhoods that have difficulty attracting loans and investment. Projects have included a program to reduce recidivism among ex-convicts; Citi Bike; and development of manufacturing, retail and office space at Brownstoner’s 1000 Dean Street in Crown Heights.

De Blasio Taps a Goldman Executive as Deputy Mayor of Housing [NY Times]
Photo by Colby Hamilton for DNAinfo

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Probably nothing sums up controversial, disgraced former state pol Vito Lopez’s modus operandi better than the sign that tops the entrance of affordable housing complex Rheingold Gardens on Bushwick Avenue, pictured above. “Thank you Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez” it says, over “Rheingold Gardens,” as if that were part of the name of the building.

A lengthy and exhaustive look at Lopez’s impact on his home base of Bushwick by the BK Bureau may actually understate his accomplishments there. Lopez and the nonprofit Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (which he founded) owned, managed, built or protected via legislation most of the affordable and rent stabilized housing in Bushwick as well as arranged health care, senior services and, in some cases, jobs for area residents.

When recent college graduates with arty professions started moving into the loft area, Lopez was quick to align his interests with theirs, passing the Loft Law, to help them legalize and stay in their apartments. Not everyone in Bushwick liked the guy or the appearance of machine politics, but he got a lot done. Now that he’s gone, by coincidence or not, the second stage of Rheingold Brewery development isn’t primarily low income and affordable housing but rather the usual private development common in Northern Brooklyn, with 20 percent set aside for affordable housing. That law, by the way — Lopez made it.

After court challenges about discrimination, Lopez project the Broadway Triangle development appears dead, but the Ridgewood Bushwick Council continues, with plans to build two 24-unit affordable apartments to passive house standards.

Vito Lopez’s Bushwick Legacy: A Mix of Scandal and Progress [BK Bureau]
Photo by Google Maps

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As Gowanus transforms with major developments — from Whole Foods to luxury hotels to Lightstone Group’s 700-unit apartment complex and the EPA’s long-anticipated cleanup of the canal — local politicians are inviting residents to map out a vision for change in the area at a series of public meetings starting Monday, December 9. The blogger behind Pardon Me for Asking, which was the first to report on the upcoming events, said she doubted the public could have much influence over development, though, citing Mayor Elect Bill de Blasio’s longstanding support for the Lightstone project.

At the meeting, called by State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, State Assemblywoman Joan Millman, Council Member Steven Levin and Council Member Brad Lander, the Pratt Center for Community Development will present findings from previous invitation-only meetings. The goals of the series of meetings are to facilitate consensus, influence de Blasio’s thinking on the area, air a variety of viewpoints and, finally, outline a community-based plan for a “safe, vibrant and sustainable Gowanus area,” said Pardon Me For Asking.

The events will “tackle major questions,” said a story in DNAinfo, including “whether residential development should be allowed in the industrial neighborhood, how to protect Gowanus from flooding and how to preserve the area’s thriving manufacturing and artisanal businesses.”

The first meeting will take place at The Children’s School at 512 Carroll Street from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. What do you think should happen in the area?

Rendering by Lightstone Group via DNAinfo

Harlem was long considered the epicenter of black political power in this city, but now Brooklyn, with three newly elected black candidates, has become the new home for much of the city’s black politics, according to the Daily News.

Public advocate elect Letitia James, the first black woman elected to citywide office (above); Ken Thompson, soon to become Brooklyn’s first black district attorney; and Eric Adams, who will become the borough’s first black president, are all natives of central Brooklyn. (more…)

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A group of 10 Brooklyn politicians are asking Atlantic Yards’ new backer, Greenland Group, to speed up delivery of 2,500 affordable apartments in exchange for their approval of Greenland taking a 70 percent interest in the project. The project was delayed by a lack of funding and lawsuits, according to The New York Daily News.

“Despite the overwhelming need, it’s unfortunate that there really is no oversight and no one is holding Forest City Ratner accountable,” the News quoted Public Advocate-elect and City Council Member Letitia James as saying. The group of 10, including City Council Members Brad Lander, James and Stephen Levin, U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries, and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, are holding a press conference today at 1 pm on Degraw Street, according to an announcement the group sent out.

Work started on the first residential tower, B2, this year. The modular tower, which is six months behind schedule, will be 32 stories high with 181 affordable, low-, moderate- and middle-income units. It is next to Barclays Center at the intersection of Flatbush and Dean Street. Above, men at work on the B2 tower in October.

Officials Call on Atlantic Yards Developers to Hurry up Affordable Housing [NY Daily News]
Photo by Atlantic Yards Report

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Could mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio be more pro-development and real estate industry-friendly than his campaign speeches would suggest? That’s how it looks, according to a story in The Real Deal that came out in print earlier this month and was just published on its website.

When de Blasio was on the City Council, he supported the Toll Brothers’ development plan for Gowanus (which they dropped and is now the controversial Lightstone project). He also supported Atlantic Yards. In both cases, his main interest seemed to be building more affordable housing.

The story also points out that, as of September, de Blasio had accepted about $460,000 from real estate interests. Donors included Brookfield Office Properties’ John Zuccotti, prominent real estate lawyer Edward Mermelstein and Midtown Equities’ Jack Cayre. Fund raising “bundlers” or “intermediaries,” according to TRD, included Silverstein Properties’ Janno Lieber, Forest City Ratner’s Robert Sanna, Related Companies’ Jay Kriegel, and Toll Brothers’ David Von Spreckelsen.

Other proposals from the candidate include:

*Improving efficiency at the Department of Buildings.
*Easing restrictions on air rights transfers.
*Shortening the pre-certification process for ULURP.

He also came out more in favor of rezonings than competitor Lhota, saying they are an “economic and environmental imperative.”

Are you in favor of more development if it also means building more affordable housing?

De Blasio: More Pro-Development Than You Think? [TRD]

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City Councilman Brad Lander and seven other Carroll Gardens residents, including developers and architects, testified against the proposed contract with Aguila Inc. to run a homeless shelter in Carroll Gardens at a city hearing this morning. Another 12 submitted written statements, and the Coalition for Carroll Gardens submitted 500 signatures against the contract.

“They felt good about it,” said Coalition for Carroll Gardens chair Steven Miller of those who attended the meeting. He said he expects the city will take about six weeks to review the testimony.

Critics of the proposal have argued that the building at 165 West 9th Street, above, which consists of 10 apartments and one commercial unit, is too small to house 170 homeless men, which would not be allowed under the current certificate of occupancy. Aguila and the Department of Homeless Services have said they would not house any homeless people in violation of city rules or laws.

In January, the owner filed an Alt-1 to change the C of O from J-2 residential to R-1 residential (hotels and dormitories) in January. The permit was approved in March, and is now on hold with a notice to revoke dated today.

City Ignores Community Board Rec on Carroll Gardens Homeless Shelter [Brownstoner]
Closing Bell: Brad Lander to Give Update on Controversial Homeless Shelter Tonight [Brownstoner]

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State Assemblywoman Joan Millman is in the midst of brokering a deal to bring Citi Bike to an unused vacant streetside strip of tarmac in Carroll Gardens, DNAinfo reported. The empty lot at 336 Union Street runs along Smith Street and housed the outdoor Brooklyn Indie Market until 2010. Last week, the three unused kiosks left over from the market and covered in graffiti were removed, said the story. Millman reached out to the owner of the lot, who agreed to the plan, and also proposed it to Citi Bike officials. It would be unusual to locate a station on private land, but the lot appears to be the perfect size and shape for a station, and it wouldn’t take up precious on-street parking spaces. So far, Carroll Gardens doesn’t have a station. Do you think this would be a good spot for one?

Official Asks Citi Bike to Roll Out Station at Vacant Smith Street Lot [DNAinfo]
Photo by Nikhita Venugopal for DNAinfo

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A series of articles in the New York Times over the weekend examined Bloomberg’s controversial legacy. Under his 12-year tenure, 37 percent of the city was rezoned, including the Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfront. Other changes: The building of Barclays Center, 450 miles of new bike lanes across the city, the Citi Bike bike sharing program, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and an additional 170,000 units of housing. Critics say Bloomberg’s policies ushered in the gentrification of Brooklyn. As New York prepares to elect a new mayor, candidates are pushing for mandatory inclusionary zoning, which would increase the amount of low-cost rentals and condos that actually get built alongside privately developed new construction. Click through to the Times story to see interactive graphics that show before and after shots of the Williamsburg waterfront. Do you think Bloomberg’s policies were a positive or negative for Brooklyn? And what should the new mayor do?

Bike Lanes, Rezoning: How Bloomberg Reshaped New York [NY Times]
Return of Rent Control: Candidates Push for Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning [NY Observer]