Curbed is reporting that a group of elected officials, led by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, want to change the zoning at Long Island College Hospital to prevent buildings higher than 50 feet, in case SUNY Downstate does sell. This will prevent high-rise developments “too out of character with the neighborhood,” said Curbed.
Photo by University Hospital of Brooklyn via DNAinfo
Yesterday local politicians and the grassroots group Riders Alliance gathered to rally for better G train service at the Metropolitan Avenue G stop. They asked for a comprehensive study of the line as well as free transfers at the Broadway G to the Hewes or Lorimer stops of the J line and also from the Fulton G stop to the Atlantic Avenue station; now riders must exit the system and pay again for these transfers. DNA Info reported that prior to the rally, the Riders Alliance collected more than 200 signatures on a petition calling for more regular service, screens showing the train arrival times and free transfers. The alliance also sent a letter to the MTA with a list of suggested improvements. And here’s a letter that Senators Daniel Squadron and Martin Dilan sent to the MTA. As Senator Squadron said in a press release, “as the Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods surrounding the G continue to grow, their lifeline must grow with them.”
In Push for Better G Train Service, Politicians Get on Board [DNA Info]
Photo via Sen. Daniel Squadron’s Twitter
This afternoon local politicians joined nurses, caregivers and community members to rally in support of the Long Island College Hospital in Cobble Hill, part of the SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Though the hospital was just acquired by SUNY in 2011, it was recently threatened with closure. According to a press release out earlier today, “the elected officials are arguing that the potential closure of any campus is unacceptable, and that SUNY must develop a stabilization plan that provides a long-term solution to preserve critical diversity in medical education, quality healthcare and good jobs for Brooklyn and the entire state.” Here’s a letter on the matter from Brooklyn’s congressional representatives and another letter signed by Borough President Markowitz. The hospital faces significant financial hardship and, as the Brooklyn Eagle pointed out, the property alone could fetch over $100 million in a sale. There is no projected date for when the hospital could close, but the SUNY board may vote on the matter in the near future.
Photo by Daniel Squadron
The Department of Transportation has formally responded to Assemblyman Joseph Lentol’s request for a dedicated bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge connecting Brooklyn to Queens via Greenpoint and Long Island City. In late November, the DOT revealed it was undertaking a feasibility study, and that is pretty much what they told Lentol, but with more details: The DOT investigation is being conducted by the Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs unit. It will examine “traffic conditions on the roadway, the structure of the movable bridge and the connections on the Brooklyn and Queens sides of the bridge,” according to a press release on the matter sent out by Lentol’s office. The investigation will be completed by March 2013. The bridge currently has a lane that both pedestrians and cyclists share. Lentol has said he hopes that decreasing the three lanes of car traffic to only two would slow cars on the bridge. “I have long advocated for traffic calming measures on McGuinness Boulevard and this proposed bike lane would undoubtedly slow drivers down, while making the Pulaski Bridge safer for pedestrians and cyclists who travel along this road everyday,” he said.
Photo by New York Shitty
Turns out not everybody’s happy about the decision to go ahead and build apartments on the north end of Brooklyn Bridge Park on an empty lot at John Street. Local politicians and community members are concerned about flooding in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, reported The New York Daily News. The location and much of the park was submerged under four feet of water during the storm, according to the News. However, the 13-story building will be designed with flood protection in mind, including a raised ground level and mechanicals on a top floor, said park officials. Retail and 110 parking spaces are planned for the ground level. “We now know what a big bad storm can do to Dumbo, and it ain’t pretty,” the Daily News quoted Council Member Steve Levin of Greenpoint as saying. “We need to re-evaluate how we build along the water and this would be a great place to start.” Revenue from building fees and taxes will help go toward park costs. Condo plans for another park location have been criticized as private giveaways of public park resources. Meanwhile, the New York City Council has proposed legislation to require anti-flooding designs in new and renovated buildings.
Local Pols Question Plan to Build Lux Condo in BBP Flood Zone [NY Daily News]
In Sandy’s Wake, City Council Proposes Anti-Flooding Regulations [TRD]
Brooklyn Bridge Park Seeks a Residential Developer [Brownstoner]
Image via BBP
We linked to a story about nine-year-old Brooklyn rapper Amor Lilman yesterday, but after viewing the video, thought you’d want to see it too. This guy’s a star. So are the dancers. Even Borough President Markowitz gets into the act.
Flatbush Rapper, 9, Force Behind “Pull Ya Pants Up” [NY Daily News]
The New York Daily News has the rundown on how exactly embattled state Assemblyman and ex-Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez traded favors for loyalty and power. The story focuses on other pols, but Lopez also has delivered affordable housing, health care and other services to voters. Historically, this kind of machine style politics has not found favor with professionals moving into a neighborhood, according to Suleiman Osman in his book “The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn.” Above, the Rheingold Gardens affordable housing complex has a large sign over the entrance thanking Lopez. Below, the home of the latest Bushwick-Ridgewood Senior Citizens Council service aimed at Bushwick voters. What’s your opinion of this style of politics? And what are the other options? (more…)
Walmart’s controversial plan to open its first New York store in East New York is no more, Crain’s reported. The huge retailer and developer Related Cos. could not come to terms. The talks “broke down over financial issues,” said the Journal. Instead, ShopRite grocery, a New Jersey-based cooperative with union employees, struck a deal Friday to move into the space. The planned Gateway II shopping center will be 630,000 square feet. United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500 applauded the development. ”ShopRite will bring quality food to this area of Brooklyn as well as good jobs with an economic impact that will be felt throughout the five boroughs. I welcome this company’s newest location with its history of responsible business practices, supporting its workers and the communities they serve,” the Journal story quoted Christine Quinn, city council speaker, as saying. For its part, Walmart said it “remains committed” to opening locations in New York City.
ShopRite Deal Means No Walmart [Crain's]
Brooklyn Walmart Taken off the Table [WSJ]
ShopRite Takes Walmart’s Rumored Location [TRD]
Rendering of Gateway II Mall Via TRD
The most high-profile of the local Brooklyn primaries last night was too close to call, the Brooklyn Paper reported. In the fight for Williamsburg’s Democratic district leader, Chris Olechowski was leading by 200 votes over one-term incumbent Lincoln Restler (pictured above) at midnight last night. Olechowski was supposedly hand-picked by embattled Assemblyman and former party boss Vito Lopez to take out Restler, seen as a reformer and longtime Lopez critic. Insiders claim Lopez got the Orthodox Jewish community to come out in force to vote for Olechowski, who has said he opposes gentrification. Restler has made a name for himself fighting for parks, community gardens and centers, and access to fresh food for underserved communities, among other things. Restler has been endorsed by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, State Senator Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights), and Representative Nydia Velazquez (D–Williamsburg). In other races, Walter T. Mosley won the Democratic primary for state Assembly in the 57th Assembly District, making it likely that he would replace Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries in that role. Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz won the Democratic primary in Sheepshead Bay in a close race against challenger Ben Akselrod, according to the Brooklyn Daily. For more information on all the races, check out the Board of Elections Website.
Photo from Lincoln Restler
The Art Deco Pitkin Theater in Brownsville, abandoned and disintegrating for many years, has been restored and is now home to the Brownsville Ascend Charter School and, soon, big-box retailers. Borough President Marty Markowitz and a festively dressed crowd of proud and excited parents and execs turned out Thursday afternoon to celebrate the ribbon cutting of this symbol of the past and the future of the neighorhood. Markowitz spoke about the dramatic changes in Brownsville, which he personally experienced, having worked down the block when he was a boy at the auto supply company AID when Pitkin Avenue was one of the busiest commercial strips in all of New York City. ”With Ascend, I do hope the culture of violence will disappear from our streets,” he said. “I hope the day will come soon when it is easier to buy a book on Pitkin Avenue than to buy a gun.” (more…)
Yesterday afternoon the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project held a site tour of safety proposals for Park Avenue between Navy and Steuben streets. MARP released a proposal for safety measures (after lots of community feedback) and submitted the plans to the Department of Transportation yesterday. Students from nearby Banneker Academy, Council Member Tish James, Assemblyman Joe Lentol, representatives from the Ingersoll Houses, Walt Whitman houses, Transportation Alternatives, and local residents gathered for a site tour. The tour highlighted the avenue’s major safety concerns: massive potholes, no street striping, and poor sanitation to name a few. “It’s an eyesore, it’s underutilized, and it’s being used inefficiently,” said James. “We need to think outside of the box and focus on how to trasform Park from a dumping group to something productive for this community.” Click through for some photos of our 17-block trip under the BQE, as well as all the details about MARP’s extensive proposal. MARP also started a petition to push for the much-needed improvements.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz yesterday called for a rule change that would decrease car parking requirements for market-rate buildings downtown while increasing bicycle parking. At the same time, he also recommended more affordable housing in the area as well as a study to encourage developers to build for seniors.
More Details on Downtown Parking Revisions [Brownstoner]
Parking Minimums May Be Cut Downtown [Brownstoner]
Hakeem Jeffries and Nydia Velázquez both handily won their Democractic party Congressional primaries yesterday, striking a blow against homophobia and North Brooklyn party machinery, respectively. Jeffries, who won by more than a 2-1 margin, had this to say at his victory party: “I’m going down to Washington to stand up for our children, to stand up for job creation, to stand up for civil rights, to stand up for senior citizens, and to stand up for our president, Barack Obama.” Not surprisingly, Barron did not go down graciously, blaming his defeat on “the white media,” “the Wall Street elite,” and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, according to The Times. Velázquez received 58 percent of the vote, while her three challengers split the balance. “Clearly the voters and constituents sent a clear message, that they are the ones who decide who represents their communities,” said Velázquez in reference to North Brooklyn party boss Vito Lopez’s attempt to block her from an 11th term.
Today State Senator Daniel Squadron, along with other elected officials, including Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, are rallying to protest a court decision that jeopardizes tens of thousands of NYC residents under rent protection. The court decision in question allows landlords with J-51 benefits (a tax-incentive program through HPD for landlords, who in turn have to provide certain benefits to their tenants) to “retroactively” terminate and repay those benefits. In repaying the benefits, landlords can take away rent-stabilized apartments from their tenants, despite a previous court ruling involving Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village that said rent must be stabilized for the full term in exchange for a tax break. This means that about 4,000 apartments in 25 developments across the city in danger of losing rent stabilization. Independence Plaza North (IPN) residents are appealing the court decision threatening the rent in their building. Elected officials will speak to the wide effects of this particular court decision. They will hold the rally today, 11:15am, outside Independence Plaza North, near Greenwich and Duane Street in Tribeca. Check back here later today for photos.
Today the City Council’s land-use committee held a meeting to discuss a number of bills involving Landmarks Preservation Commission operations, including some that preservationists believe could severely damage the very essence of the city’s Landmarks Law. The meeting involved a great deal of political theater, as at least 20 Councilmembers made appearances, and several spoke on the bills that they had sponsored. Near the beginning of the meeting, which lasted more than two-and-a-half hours, the Landmarks Preservation Commission released an official statement on a number of the bills, which read, in part: “[T]hese bills, taken together, would significantly alter the discretionary, flexible and nuanced process that the Charter and the Landmarks Law left in the hands of a capable and expert agency. Establishing rigid timelines and processes with respect to RFEs [Requests for Evaluations] would make it extremely difficult for the Commission to address changing conditions, set and adjust priorities and respond to true emergency situations.” And after that, the fun began! On the jump, commentary given by several of the Councilmembers introducing the bills, including a snipe from Councilmember Jessica Lappin asking the LPC, “how is that going to overwhelm you?” (more…)
Some local politicians, including State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, and City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, held a rally yesterday morning calling for the passage of state legislation to reform the Rent Guidelines Board, which will hold its annual vote on raising rents on rent-stabilized apartments starting this week. From the press release: “The legislation (S741A / A6394B), sponsored by Senator Squadron and Assemblymember Kavanagh, would require City Council confirmation of the Mayor’s appointees to the RGB, bringing necessary checks and balances to the system and making the appointment process more democratic. The bill would also make more New Yorkers eligible to serve as public members and ensure that diversified views are represented on the RGB by including new professions among those qualified for appointment. Qualification for appointment would include experience in public service, philanthropy, social services, urban planning, architecture, social sciences, non-profit, finance, economics, or housing; currently, only experience in finance, economics, or housing qualifies someone for appointment.” Here’s part of Squadron’s statement at the rally: “By requiring Council approval of appointments to the RGB and broadening qualification for membership, we can create necessary accountability, ensure a variety of voices are represented on the board, and better protect the affordability that has made New York the vibrant and diverse city it is today.”
Representative Edolphus Towns, whose district includes a huge swath of Brooklyn—including Downtown, Bedford-Stuyvesant, East New York and Clinton Hill, among many others—is reportedly not seeking a 16th term. According to the Times, there won’t be an official statement on the matter until sometime today, which also notes that Towns was “facing a vigorous primary challenge in Brooklyn’s 10th Congressional District from Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries.” In addition to Jeffries, Councilmember Charles Barron will also be vying for Towns’ seat.
Towns Is Said to Decline to Run Again for Congress [NY Times]
On Friday Councilman Vinnie Gentile organized an event to protest the soon-to-air Oxygen TV show “Brooklyn 11223,” a reality series about three female friends in Bay Ridge. Politicker, which reported on the protest, noted that politicians Carlo Scissura of Marty Markowitz’s office slammed the show for the way it portrays women. As shown in the video above, Gentile notes that the show even has the wrong Zip Code in its name (11223 is Gravesend’s Zip) and says “the producers…degrade all women and certainly denigrate women who call themselves Brooklynites and Bay Ridge-ites.” Here’s the show’s official description: “This ain’t Jersey. It’s Brooklyn. Brooklyn 11223 is a new docu-series taking viewers into the small, close-knit community of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Nothing is more important in this Brooklyn neighborhood than loyalty, respect and family. Vividly shot in a lush documentary style that showcases the urban streetscapes of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn 11223 follows the story of childhood friends Joey Lynn and Christie and their respective group of friends as they spend their summer learning about themselves, the bonds of friendship and the price of betrayal.” Click through to see a trailer for it.
Local Neighborhood Rallies Against ‘Jersey Shore’ Knockoff ‘Brooklyn 11223′ [Politicker] (more…)
It’s unclear whether anything newsy will come out of Marty Markowitz’s state of the borough address tonight since the borough president has already leaked details of the speech to several media outlets. According to the articles, Markowitz’s address will touch on bringing high-tech manufacturing to East New York or Brownsville as well as preserving and renovating a couple of high-profile buildings. The Daily News reports that Markowitz will propose a contest a la the one that’s bringing Cornell to Roosevelt Island that would result in a “high-tech manufacturing zone” in an area with a lot of unemployment, such as East New York or Brownsville: “His first choice would be Apple, a company the beep has courted for years with no success. …But even if Apple continues to snub the borough, Markowitz said a contest similar to the one for an applied sciences grad school with city land and cash available could help lure another high-tech company, perhaps Samsung, LG, or Hewlett Packard.” Meanwhile, Markowitz will announce that a dilapidated building from 1786 on the Erasmus Hall High School campus in Flatbush will be preserved and renovated so that the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry can operate out of it, according to NY1. Part of the building will also become a museum. Markowitz will also announce that he’s going to earmark $1 million for the renovation of the Crown Heights armory at Union and Bedford, according to the Post. The borough president made headlines last year for riding a tricycle into his state of the borough address in order to criticize the proliferation of bike lanes in the city.
Markowitz to Propose Contest for High-Tech Manufacturing in Brownsville, East New York [NY Daily News]
Historic Erasmus High School Building To Be Preserved Under New Plan [NY 1]
Markowitz Donating $1M Towards Reviving Crown Heights Armory [NY Post]
Photo by myrtle_avenue_brooklyn
The redistricting action in North Brooklyn may not be as kooky as some other parts of the state (see today’s Observer post for some rich examples) but there were some changes to Joe Lentol’s turf worth mentioning. Most notable, is the loss of Fort Greene Park (as well as a strip of several blocks between Dekalb and Willoughby). Joe Lentol’s loss is Hakeem Jeffries’ gain, but only for a little while, since the 57th District leader now has his sights set on a run for congress. Check out a larger version of the new District 50 map here. And, for comparison’s sake, here’s the old map.