Mayor announces local investments at Williamsburg town hall
by Benjamin Fang
Aug 31, 2017 | 3413 views | 0 0 comments | 90 90 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A slew of city investments is coming to north Brooklyn, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced at a town hall meeting last week.

Inside the Williamsburg Community Center, de Blasio announced that Greenpoint Hospital, which shut its doors in 1982, will be redeveloped into 500 affordable apartments and supportive housing units. The city owns the land, so the project will be 100 percent affordable.

“It makes no sense in a community desperate for affordable housing that that prime site has been sitting here all this time,” he said. “It’s been in limbo for 30 years, but it will not be in limbo anymore.”

The announcement comes after several decades of community-led efforts to redevelop the hospital campus, which includes a building that currently serves as a homeless shelter and a former nurse’s quarters that has since been abandoned.

A coalition of local nonprofit developers, including St. Nicks Alliance, had previously pushed for the project. But under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the city chose another developer, who was later arrested on corruption charges.

De Blasio also announced that the city will invest $13 million into local parks. The project includes $8 million for William-Sheridan Playground to rebuild the playground, basketball courts and handball courts.

“Right now, if you play there, you play on asphalt,” he said. “We’re going to put in field turf so kids have a real field to play on.”

Another $5 million will go to Marcy Park to put in new lighting, pavement, seating and a dog run.

The mayor also committed to working with Councilman Antonio Reynoso, who also hosted the town hall, to add amenities to a site at PS 319.

Two other schools, PS 81 and PS 18, will have stand-alone gymnasiums, the mayor said. Construction will begin next year, and the gyms will be open by 2019.

“I know we can get these things going right away that will affect people’s lives in the next few years, particularly for young people,” de Blasio said.

On the issue of sanitation, the mayor noted that 40 percent of the city’s garbage comes through north Brooklyn. He called it “unbelievable” and “not acceptable.”

To address the inequity, de Blasio announced that the city is in the process of opening five major waste facilities in other parts of the city to lessen the burden on north Brooklyn. One of the facilities, the Hamilton Marine Transfer Station, sits just 10 blocks from de Blasio’s Park Slope home, he said.

The mayor added that he’s backing a bill proposed by Reynoso and Councilman Stephen Levin to cut the amount of garbage and sanitation facilities coming into Community Board 1 by half.

“This will take over 100 garbage trucks a day off the streets of north Brooklyn,” he said.

Continuing his announcements of “good news,” de Blasio said the city will create a “Cure Violence” program in the 90th Precinct, which is intended to keep area youth away from violence and gangs by hiring them as “peace ambassadors.”

The NYPD will also expand its Shotspotter technology to cover Bushwick Houses, Borinquen Houses and other public housing developments in the area.

During the town hall, de Blasio also signed three pieces of legislation authored by Reynoso to strengthen tenant protections and toughen penalties for illegal harassment by landlords.

The legislation is part of a package of 18 bills, pushed for by the Stand for Tenant Safety (STS) coalition, that punishes construction as harassment, makes it easier for tenants to take landlords to court, and requires the Department of Buildings (DOB) to withhold permits when property owners owe more than $25,000 in unpaid violations.

Reynoso’s three bills, now law, will increase oversight of construction contractors who do work without required permits, increase penalties for working without a permit and violating a stop work order.

“If you harass tenants or help the landlord kick them out, these are the ways to have real consequences to stop that kind of activity,” de Blasio said as he signed the legislation. “Ladies and gentlemen, 'hermanos y hermanas,' these bills are now law.”

The packed audience then asked the mayor about local issues, including the status of improvements at public housing buildings, affordable housing needs and how to protect industrial sites.

Residents asked about the future of the controversial Pfizer site development, which activists have fought against and claim will further segregation in the Broadway Triangle.

The mayor reiterated that the development would bring 287 affordable apartments, 172 of which will be for families making between $36,000 and $48,000. The other 115 units will be for families making under $36,000.

He added that the “vast majority” of the units will be one, two or three bedrooms, and that there will be “no discrimination allowed” in the lottery process. His comments were an attempt to assuage activists’ concerns that the development will favor the area’s Hasidic population over black and Latino residents.

In July, the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition shut down the project’s rezoning hearing at Borough Hall. The following week, Borough President Eric Adams released recommendations pushing for deeper affordability, more diversity in the size of th apartments, and local oversight over the lottery process.

Reynoso has been a vocal critic against the project, although Levin represents the Broadway Triangle area.

Local advocates also questioned the mayor about the BQGreen, a proposed park that would be built on a platform over the lowered portion of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Residents have pushed for the green space to combat the high levels of asthma and exposure to pollution.

De Blasio said he has seen renderings of the park, and while suggesting it’s a good idea, he said the city does not have the money for it right now.

“What I’ll instruct my people to do is look into our future planning for any opportunity to act on it,” he said.

The night ended on a more somber note. Anthony Tlapanco, the father of slain Bushwick teen Sergio Reyes, asked the mayor about updates on his late son’s case.

Reyes, 18, was shot and killed by police officers in February after he allegedly robbed a local grocery store. Now, Tlapanco wants more information about his son’s death and if the officers will be held accountable.

De Blasio expressed sorrow for Tlapanco’s loss, but said the Brooklyn district attorney’s office is independent of the mayor’s office.

“I understand why you are hurt and why you need more answers. I do believe he is a man of integrity,” de Blasio said about acting Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez. “He will come to whatever judgment he believes is right.”
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