By Sarina Trangle
Early on in his political ascent, City Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D-Williamsburg) joined his predecessor Diana Reyna’s team as her Ridgewood representative.
Seven years later, he seized the 34th Council District, which encompasses Williamsburg, Bushwick and Ridgewood, and entered into a more direct contract to represent the neighborhood.
During a recent interview Reynoso, 30, described his primary goals as improving education and offsetting the exodus of longtime residents amid gentrification by screening developments and scouring for affordable housing. Environmental issues have also caught Reynoso’s attention as chairman of the Council’s Sanitation and Solid Waste Management Committee.
Reynoso, a southside Williamsburg resident, said children in his district are not receiving the best education, and he hopes to collaborate with the city Department of Education to ensure all school facilities are adequate and curriculum is infused with arts and cultural lessons.
“It’s the great equalizer. It’s what gave me the opportunity to stand before my constituents,” said Reynoso, who was raised in the Los Sures section of Williamsburg by Dominican immigrants. “My discretionary money is going to speak directly to my priority in education.”
The councilman said he worried that residents of many years were getting priced out, noting that close to 10,000 Latino residents had been displaced after gentrification altered the landscape of Williamsburg and Bushwick.
He has discussed plans to downzone parts of Bushwick to prevent the construction of much larger buildings than those currently in the neighborhood, a move he believes would mitigate an influx of wealthier residents.
And earlier this month, Reynoso rallied with Bushwick residents who allege that their landlord has left kitchens and bathrooms gutted in a bid to force them out of rent-stabilized units and called on the city to pursue criminal cases against abusive landlords.
He also urged Mayor Bill de Blasio to establish an inter-agency task force to monitor and resolve such incidents.
“We see it a lot less in Ridgewood. Ridgewood, fortunately, has a history of homeownership,” he said. “But they are dealing with issues of gentrification, increasing rent prices and the same speculation that happened here could happen there. So we just got to be prepared.”
Reynoso said he currently is gauging where constituents stand on Ridgewood proposals, but that he intends to push for all developments in the district to include some affordable units.
The councilman said he is skeptical of landlords seeking to convert property zoned for manufacturing to residential, particularly in industrial business zones. In an effort to protect industrial businesses, the city used tax incentives to lure companies to such areas and pledged not to rezone them.
“Owners of these industrial properties say they’re in hardship,” Reynoso said, noting that the Williamsburg IBZ has a wait list. “But they’re self-imposed hardships in an effort to convert from manufacturing to residential.”
The city budget does not include money for the recently established Ridgewood IBZ, but Reynoso said he was confident the funding would make it into the final fiscal plan.
Reynoso said the Council’s Sanitation Committee intends to hold every borough accountable for processing its own waste, which would mean curbing the load processed in the boroughs and adding more processing facilities in Manhattan.
He had not yet heard from Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions, a group born out of Glendale, Ridgewood and Middle Village residents’ concerns about smells, noise and pollution from freight locomotives that run through the borough, particularly those transporting waste.
CURES has requested that the city follow the state’s example in putting up money for retrofitting the locomotives with cleaner engines.
Reynoso’s housing agenda seems to have overshadowed local issues, with Reynoso saying he was unfamiliar with the Wyckoff Avenue Street Reconstruction project, a long-delayed plan to repair the road, sewers and water mains on Wyckoff Avenue between Flushing and Cooper avenues, or the city’s announcement that it needs to build culverts in the Ridgewood reservoir to comply with federal safety requirements drafted after Hurricane Katrina.
“In Ridgewood it’s mostly quality-of-life issues, trees, that’s always an issue, trash pickups, property taxes,” Reynoso said.
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.