Tensions Flare at Community Board Meeting Introducing the Bushwick Rezoning Plan

The Ulmer row houses at 683 to 693 Bushwick Avenue

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Long in the works and under much scrutiny from local residents and activist groups, the draft plan to rezone Bushwick will be released by City Planning later today.

But first, it was presented to Community Board 4’s Land Use Committee Tuesday night. A small audience of around 50 packed a room at CB4’s headquarters on Bushwick Avenue. Council member Antonio Reynoso was present, along with board members, activists and residents.

A DCP rep laid out the details of their draft plan in an hour-long presentation. It includes allowing higher density near transit areas, meaning stretches of Broadway and Myrtle Avenue, that could result in buildings up to 16 stories, as well as in what City Planning calls “neighborhood corridors,” which here include parts of Central Avenue, Wilson Avenue and Irving Avenue, that would allow buildings reaching up to nine stories; preserving side streets, limiting heights at three to five stories; and a mix of uses in the manufacturing areas, where residential will be introduced in certain sections.

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As for landmarks, three districts and six individual landmarks that were suggested by the community will be evaluated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission starting this month. In other areas, the DCP rep said, City Planning will explore contextual zoning to limit the height of new buildings.

Opportunities for housing on city-owned land that is 100 percent affordable will be examined as part of the rezoning plan, as well as the development of affordable units on publicly owned land. Options for permanently affordable housing will also be included on neighborhood corridors and near transit areas.

The draft plan comes seven months after local residents, along with City Council members Antonio Reynoso and Rafael Espinal, submitted the Bushwick Community Plan to City Planning. Launched in 2014, it was an effort to design a comprehensive plan for development in Bushwick. Community-led rezonings are relatively rare but include the 2007 rezoning of Bed Stuy and the 2013 rezoning of Crown Heights West, intended to preserve residential blocks and manufacturing space.

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In broad strokes, what City Planning is proposing is not much different from what was in the Bushwick Community Plan. Either way, huge changes are in store for the neighborhood. The next step in the process is the full community board meeting on May 15.

Many people in the small audience were very upset over City Planning’s proposal, including the activist and Prospect Lefferts Gardens resident Alicia Boyd, who got in multiple arguments with members of the community board. At one point, a board member threatened to kick everybody out of the meeting, which only increased the tension.

When a representative from City Planning, attempting to quiet down some of the chaos, championed the increase in affordable housing that would be part of the proposed rezoning plan, one of the community board members responded with comments felt throughout the room.

“You’re five years too late,” said CB4 Vice Chair Martha Brown, who added she has lived here since 1955. “This affordable housing you’re speaking of is a dream.”

As people filed out the meeting under a cacophony of noise, some who remained were chanting, “CB4 show DCP the door!”

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