Bushwick locals are desperately trying to save the neighborhood from the Department of City Planning’s Bushwick Neighborhood Plan— especially since they spent five years laboring to create a plan of their own. The clash of PDFs was the focus of an hours-long meeting on Friday at Bushwick High School. The meeting kicked off the Department of City Planning’s official call for written comments on the Bushwick Neighborhood Plan, a period that will last until July 12th.
The Bushwick Community Plan is a rezoning proposal created by Bushwick residents, activists and City Council members in occasional collaboration with select City agencies. Started in 2013 and released in September 2018, the grassroots plan emphasizes that Bushwick’s “R6” zoning, a category that gives neighborhoods no height limits or affordable housing requirements, makes it vulnerable to gentrification.
“We could see that affordable housing was becoming obsolete in our community,” speaker Martha Brown, a self-described Bushwick senior, said before City Planning. “The neighbors you grew up with were moving. The kids your kids played with on the block were moving out.”
The grassroots plan suggests a rezoning that would impose height limits in residential areas and commercial corridors, promote an increase in manufacturing jobs and protect historical landmarks. It was made with contributions by City Planning until it removed itself in February 2018 and released its own plan, the Bushwick Neighborhood Plan (BNP), just over a year later.
However, for supporters of the Bushwick Community Plan (BCP), the BNP has been a slap in the face. Key differences include the City plan’s complete lack of 100% affordable housing. If the BCP was implemented, Bushwick residents could expect any new development on NYCHA-owned land and any underutilized public and private sites (for example, a parking lot on Central Ave and Noll Street and the Cathedral of Joy on Central Ave and George Street) to be turned into 100% affordable housing. The BNP mentions neither 100% affordable or “deeply affordable” housing. In the BNP, the City Council can only impose up to 30% affordable housing on a unit.
Supporters of the grassroots plan also doubled down on the several high-rise developments proposed by the City. The tallest proposed building height in the BCP is 11 stories, and buildings are restricted to a 7-block stretch of Broadway from Flushing Ave Station to Myrtle Ave Station. The BNP, on the other hand, includes proposals for up to 16 stories of new family and supportive housing at 1531 Broadway —a site that’s city owned and is not specified as 100% affordable. The plan also suggests another 12-story building on Broadway, 10-to-12-story buildings on Myrtle and a 13-story building in an unspecified location in Bushwick’s manufacturing district.
“We as a city cannot in any way say we are committed to community planning if when a community puts forth a plan, the Department of City Planning does not even study it,” Council Member Antonio Reynoso, an original crafter of the Bushwick Community Plan, said before DCP representatives.
The Bushwick Neighborhood Plan does coincide with the Bushwick Community Plan on some points. With the BNP, tenants who have been harrassed by realtors to sell their home have access to free legal representation funded by the city. Building owners would also be required to obtain a certificate from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development proving that they did not harass residents so they could work on or demolish a building. The BNP also proposed offering tax incentives to building owners to keep homes affordable. However, Bushwick activists and residents argue that the BNP is still a long way from the popular vote. Activists want a racial impact study to be created and considered as the BNP goes through its next step: the City Environmental Quality Review Process. Just as new developments impact air quality and the infrastructure of older surrounding buildings, speakers argued that bringing new developments to Bushwick would– and historically, has– disproportionately displaced black and brown people in New York City. Members of Church United for Fair Housing have been campaigning for a racial impact study to be done since January.
“Without any data analysis, there’s no way to challenge the city on targeting communities of color and having disproportionate negative impacts on communities of color,” Alexandra Fennell, network director of CUFFH, said in an interview with Bedford + Bowery. The bill was backed by New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams on May 29. According to AM NY, it would go into effect 180 days after it becomes law. “So, the racial impact study is asking for the data so that when the rezoning is studied, when these decisions are being made, that people have real data and real tools to talk about the impact that it will have on residents of color.”
Fennell says studies like the racial impact study typically take only six to eight months. It also isn’t unprecedented for new factors to be taken into consideration during the City Environmental Quality Review process of rezoning. Fennell says the last update to the CEQR process was made in 2014.
The Department of City Planning will be taking written comments on the rezoning until Friday, July 12th. Comments can be submitted by emailing [email protected].