Secret Broadway Triangle settlement rejected by city
by Daniel Bush
May 24, 2011 | 3431 views | 0 0 comments | 84 84 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An offer to settle the court stalemate over the Broadway Triangle rezoning was rejected by the city, whose plan to hand over development rights at the North Brooklyn site to two politically connected nonprofits has been mired in a lawsuit over racial and religious discrimination.

The settlement was proposed late last year by the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition, the group suing to block a City Council-approved plan to build 1,895 units of housing - 905 of them affordable - on a parcel of empty land between Union Avenue and Broadway in Williamsburg.

The suit alleges the proposed development, which includes large numbers of three- and four-bedroom apartments, favors large Hasidic families over the Hispanic and African-American communities in nearby Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant, where affordable housing is scarce.

The settlement hinged on a plan to reissue a Request for Proposals to develop the three city-owned sites in the triangle that were awarded to the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, according to several sources involved in the negotiations, which took place over several months in 2010 before the comprehensive offer was made last December.

The offer also called for affordable housing for residents in Community Board 3, the Bed-Stuy district that borders the site, in an effort to divvy up the 450 or so below-market-rate units that were promised to residents living in CB1.

In effect, it proposed to re-do a project opponents claim was manipulated through an exclusionary planning process, and opened the door for a popular alternative plan to build even more affordable housing on the 31-acre site, one of the last undeveloped spaces in the area.

Backers of the rezoning maintain it was carried out fairly, and would transform a blighted industrial area in desperate need of a makeover.

The settlement was rejected by the city, the Law Department confirmed.

“The plaintiffs made a settlement proposal in the past, which the city did not accept,” said Elizabeth Thomas, a spokesperson. She declined to say why, citing a policy not to discuss the substance of settlement proposals in pending cases.

The case is being tried in Manhattan Supreme Court, where Justice Emily Jane Goodman heard arguments earlier this month by city lawyers to lift a motion for a temporary injunction on the rezoning that would allow it to move forward.

A stay halting the project went into effect in September of 2009, after the council approved the rezoning, and was extended in January, shortly before Goodman put the lawsuit on hold to wait for the conclusion of an investigation into the finances of the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council.

At the May 9th hearing, Goodman wondered aloud why the city rejected the settlement deal, according to multiple people in attendance. “The judge said she's gotten calls asking why the case hasn't been settled,” said BTCC attorney Marty Needleman.

Goodman went on to ask the city to reconsider the offer, but two days later Thomas made it clear the Law Department won't revisit the proposal.

“There is no settlement deal,” she said.

Unless both sides return to the bargaining table, the thwarted negotiation will stand as a lost opportunity to resolve a court case that has dragged on for nearly two years, and divided a community that remains trapped in a bitter, decades-long fight over affordable housing.

In the lead up to the rezoning, members of the community coalition argued that the Triangle site was big enough to hold nearly 5,000 apartments, most of them for low- and middle-income families. But the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development adopted a scaled-down plan, sparking a lawsuit that now has no end in sight.

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