Town Hall Meet Engages Residents
Bushwick residents began their involvement in rezoning the neighborhood during a town hall meeting last Thursday, Aug. 21, at St. Joseph Church, learning about and engaging in the extensive process.
The meeting was needed to include more community voices in the process, according to Brooklyn Community Board 4 District Manager Nadine Whitted. It was organized by City Council Members Antonio Reynoso and Rafael Espinal as a forum to explain and engage the Bushwick community in the rezoning process, both noted.
Reynoso’s office tapped officials from the Department of City Planning to give residents some information on rezoning, and so they could provide feedback of what they feel fits in the community. Both he and Espinal stated they want to engage and include more community voices in the process.
Both Espinal and Reynoso represent parts of the rapidly growing area.
“Our goal is to get community input,” Espinal said, “on what we want, not only what we don’t want. When we sit down with the city, we want to be able to tell them this is not what he community wants.”
“We want to make sure Bushwick stays Bushwick,” Espinal added.
Whitted told the Times Newsweekly last Friday that she plans to be involved in the process “from the beginning to the end.”
“I think there is a lot of digestion of info. And I think that is a good step,” she said.
While Whitted has dealt with rezoning often at the community board, she believes this was a way to both disseminate information and hear from residents
“We need to start having conversations with people in the community about what they want,” she said. “It was just the community board and needed to halt that and bring in more people in the community.”
“By working in tandem, we got to where we were last night. The neighborhood is ripe for rezoning,” she added
Anna Slatinsky, a city planner at the Department of City Planning gave a presentation to explain the development and rezoning process to residents.
The department is a mayoral agency and has offices in each of the five boroughs, she said. It supports the City Planning Commission, that “work at maximizing housing where we have a shortage of housing,” Slatinsky said.
“The kinds of conversations we are having here tonight can form how we think about neighborhoods in a comprehensive way,” she said. “Our main policy tool is zoning. It governs what you can build, where and when.”
“Both these and the size and shape of the building is governed by zoning,” she added.
Slatinsky outlined the order of the rezoning process, which begins with community engagement, she said. What follows is, project research; review of rezoning proposals; an attempt to build consensus on rezoning proposals; a technical analysis and environmental review; proposal certification; the Unified Land Use Review Process (ULURP); and approval, when finally the new zoning becomes law.
Attendees were asked to provide their feedback on several issues in the area by writing their suggestions next to maps that were hung on walls showing existing transportaion routes; subways, buses and biking paths; new construction since 2005; commercial and industrial land; and open space.
The community also was asked to provide some ideas on transportation routes, economic development and new housing development in Bushwick.
The community can engage in the process by joining a steering committee, Reynoso’s Bushwick and Ridgewood organizer Kevin Worthington said.
“Today is a good start, but I believe we could even better,” he said. “This is an important first step.”
Residents can also engage by helping to educate the community and spreading the word, he stated. Another meeting to further the same ideas, and map out a long-term strategy for the neighborhood will be held in the third week of September, it was noted.
Worthington encouraged the attendees to stay involved and said, “all you here are community leaders with the capacity to spread information.”
“It truly is a unified Bushwick,” Reynoso said. “We have to do this together.”
“I’m happy to be here as the chairperson and also a resident,” Board 4 Chairperson Julie Dent said. “We want to make sure housing that comes into Bushwick is what you want,” Dent said.
“The community board kind of talked about it for a while,” Whitted said. “So we’re here to begin the conversation as to what we want the community to look like in 10 years.”
“We’re hopefully going to come to consensus. Stay tuned for more,” she added.