Borough Hall Packed to the Gills for Hearing on Mayor’s East New York Rezoning Plan

Some members of the public watched the hearing from an overflow room, where people were sent once the court room filled to capacity

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Brooklynites jammed Brooklyn Borough Hall on Wednesday for the City Planning Commission’s public hearing on the mayor’s controversial plan to rezone East New York.

Borough Hall was packed to capacity. Even additional overflow rooms — projecting the hearing on monitors — were full to the point that guards stopped letting people into the building.

Some 200 individuals squeezed into the hearing room as first city representatives and then members of the public gave testimony to the panel of City Planning Commissioners.

East New York Public Hearing

The proposal — more, taller buildings in East New York

“It is not our intent to displace anybody,” Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development Vicki Been began.

Here’s the gist of the proposal: Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to upzone East New York — giving developers permission to build taller (and therefore bigger) in the neighborhood. This would stimulate economic development in the area, according to the administration, and also help create more affordable housing — one of the Mayor’s favorite things.

But not everyone wants a rezoned neighborhood

“This plan is not for us,” members of local coalitions opposed to the rezoning shouted after Been’s speech. Throughout the rezoning’s ULURP process, community members and residents of East New York have opposed the mayor’s plan.

The rezoning is a Trojan horse, according to some of the most vocal members of the low-income community, and they refuse to accept its gentrification-laden gifts. Opponents have said they fear the plan will accelerate gentrification and displacement, among other issues. 

The hearing progressed with commissioners from various city services — Small Businesses, Parks and Recreation, the Department of Transportation — simultaneously explaining and promoting how their agency would be involved with the plan. As the meeting wore on, though, the audience became visibly burdened by the numbers and program titles. The early zest to just enter the courtroom was gradually diminished by the dull details of enacting a rezoning proposal.

East New York Public Hearing

Some members of the public watched the hearing from an overflow room, where people were sent once the court room filled to capacity

What community testimony revealed

The courtroom was revitalized, however, once members of the public began testifying.

“The city should not play games with people’s lives,” attorney Adrien Weibgen declared to raucous applause, going on to demand harsher punishments for landlords who harass rent stabilized tenants.

Two and a half hours into the hearing, 120 speakers were still waiting to speak, and the audience once again appeared bored, and also began thinning.

What comes next

The City Council must vote on the proposal before the end of February.

The vote is step four in the six-step Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, a seven-month process used to approve or reject proposals that require a zoning change.

The first step was the city certifying the Mayor’s proposal as complete. The second step was Community Board 5’s vote on the plan — they  rejected it. Borough President Eric Adams also disapproved the plan Wednesday.

Once the COC has weighed in, expect more hearings and more public testimony before the City Council puts forth its (mostly final) decision.

East New York Public Hearing

A line formed around the block for entrance to the public hearing

East New York Public Hearing

Maritza Silva-Farrel, spokeswoman for anti-gentrification group Real Affordability for All opposes the proposal

East New York Public Hearing

“Right now I don’t see it helping me out,” East New York resident Rachel Rivera said of the proposal. Rivera says she experiences landlord harassment daily

[Photos by Hannah Frishberg]

Related Stories
What Is ULURP? And Why Do We Have It?
East New York Is Not the Next Crown Heights: Residents Fear Rezoning Will Push Them Out
De Blasio’s East New York Rezoning Plans Not Affordable Enough, Group Says in New Report

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