Pol Vows To Freeze New Development
A newly elected Bushwick lawmaker said last Wednesday, Jan. 15, rezoning the neighborhood to prevent overdevelopment and gentrification will be a major initiative.
City Council Member Antonio Reynoso made the announcement during Brooklyn Community Board 4’s monthly meeting at the Hope Gardens Senior Center.
“The wave is coming, and I think that we could protect ourselves and prevent the gentrification-the displacement of the members of Bushwick-if we do a rezoning the same way they did it in Bed-Stuy,” Reynoso said.
Rezoning sections of Bushwick with contextual zoning districts would encourage developments that are similar in size and shape to existing buildings.
Currently, much of the neighborhood is zoned R6, allowing for buildings 10 stories or taller on large lots, city zoning maps show.
Such construction “won’t ensure the preservation of affordable housing for the community,” explained Reynoso’s communications director Jen Gutierrez.
Even, contextual R6A and R6B districts, which cap building height at 70 feet, may be too large for the council member’s office.
“We’re really looking at some down-zoning,” said Kevin Worthington, Reynoso’s community liaison for Bushwick.
Worthington did not share specifics, but said the Broadway corridor is one area the council member may seek to lower allowable building heights.
He explained that the office wants to encourage attached two-family houses and six-family apartments typical of the neighborhood rather than leave open the possibility of mid-rise and tower developments.
Reynoso said his office would use a “community-based planning” approach, partnering with local nonprofits and the community board to shape the rezoning.
“In my office, we’re going to push collaboration in a way we haven’t seen before, which means we’re going to hold you guys-this community-accountable to working with me to get things done,” he said.
A representative from the Department of City Planning (DCP) said all zoning changes require draft proposals and internal vetting before entering a public review process- the Unified Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP, which includes public hearings and votes by the community board, borough president, DCP and City Council.
Reynoso’s representatives said the office will use the rezoning procedure to educate residents about development policy.
“We will organize workshops and forums in the following months with experts from city agencies and local organizations to bring crucial information to our constituents on how to preserve and foster a vibrant community without harming fair and necessary development,” Gutierrez explained.
The council member also pledged, Jan. 15, to scrutinize new developments within the neighborhood.
“Any new development that happens during my tenure is going to have a very hard time,” he said.
In a further step, he said he would look to freeze development until a rezoning could be completed.
“If we do have a rezoning in place, I will to make sure that no development happens until the rezoning is complete,” he said.
If a developer wishes to build asof right, there are few legal mechanisms Reynoso could use to stop it, DCP officials said.
A full moratorium on development could be enacted, but would take a lengthy review process, DCP officials said.
Gutierrez later clarified that Reynoso will not approve any variances sought by developers before a neighborhood rezoning is complete.
The council member’s office is also investigating creating an Industrial Business Zone (IBZ) to preserve manufacturing space in the neighborhood.
IBZs also allow for commercial uses like bars, restaurants and hotels, and some critics say preventing residential uses through an IBZ actually encourages bar and hotel development (accelerating gentrification) as the city bleeds manufacturing jobs.
In a recent press conference, Brooklyn Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna (Reynoso’s former boss) pledged to expand IBZs in North Brooklyn to prevent the conversion of manufacturing buildings to residental uses.
Eye on education
Another top focus for the freshman council member will be education, he told Board 4.
“I want … the 34th District to be at a rate of proficiency that is similar to the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side,” Reynoso said. “I’m really going to focus on that and put individual attention into every school, especially at 10 struggling schools … that have less than 10 percent proficiency in either English or in math.”
He also called for more youth programming-something he has been calling for since before announcing his candidacy last year.
He said after-school sports and arts programs run through local nonprofits could be an inexpensive but effective solution.
“Some people don’t think there’s value in it, but … it doesn’t cost a lot to be very helpful.”
Reynoso announced that his district office will be located at 244 Union Ave. The office’s phone number is 1-718- 962-3141, a spokesperson said.
Deputy Inspector Anthony Tasso, the commanding officer of the 83rd Precinct, was also on hand to give a year-end update on crime.
Tasso said the command finished the year down 6.5 percent in the major crime categories with a marked reduction in shootings.
“We had the least people shot in Bushwick last year in 2013,” Tasso announced.
Community Board 4 meets on the third Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. in the Hope Gardens Multi-Service Center, located at 195 Linden St. The next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 19.