Re: Opposition to Bushwick, Community District 4 Rezoning

Council Member Antonio Reynoso
244 Union Ave,
Brooklyn, NY 11206

Council Member Rafael Espinal
1945 Broadway,
Brooklyn, NY 11207

Dear Council Member Reynoso and Council Member Espinal,

I hope this letter finds you well. I write to you to make you aware of my concerns in relation to the Bushwick Rezoning. Currently, the City is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a plan that diverges from the Bushwick Community Plan (BCP). As you are aware, community members and leaders have worked tirelessly for over five years to produce the BCP along with the technical expertise of City agencies. The City will be able to certify their own plan and trigger the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP), allowing for public hearings and advisory votes on the plan by around January 2020. I want to express my opposition to the City plan that eventually would then be considered for a City Council vote. 

I oppose the city’s plan because a) it differs significantly from the BCP and omits critical components of the  community’s plan, and b) the rezonings that have been implemented during Mayor de Blasio’s tenure have all done more harm than good to communities of color like ours. 

The most contentious point of disagreement between the BCP and the City’s Bushwick Rezoning Plan revolves  around the potential conversion of manufacturing land to residential. BCP advocates are correct in stating that manufacturing land, which comparatively rents at a lower average rate than residential  land per square footage, should not be rezoned through this community rezoning. More public benefits could be extracted through individual rezonings in this M-­‐zoned land. Frankly, I think it would be  ideal for the City to seize a considerable portion of this land through eminent domain, especially at a time when we are facing both a climate crisis and an affordable housing crisis. If we could use eminent domain to tackle urban decay (as was done during the development years under Robert  Moses), then we could also do so in order to keep the poor and homeless housed, and to confront the ongoing crisis of climate change. The BCP also proposes lower density than the City’s Plan for the area surrounding Bushwick’s transit corridors, a proposal that also should not be  given up.  

The most responsible way to rezone a neighborhood is by allowing the neighborhood’s stakeholders to lead the process and inform the rezoning plan’s vision for the place in which they live. This was the intention of the BCP. Unfortunately, as stated in the City Limits article that you co-­‐authored, the City instead “chose to put forth an alternative plan.” By doing so, the City has dismissed the ideal way in which  neighborhood planning should take place, and has denied community self-­‐determination and input in the process. 

Some community members have completely opposed allowing for a rezoning because they see the City as  a pro-­‐developer stalwart whose interests are fundamentally harmful to communities of color.  I agree with their assessment of the City’s plan, and I stand by their side. The communities of East New York, East Harlem, and Inwood, among others, have all experienced rezonings for which the outcomes have favored corporate real estate interests instead of working families’ interests. In all of these cases, individual  Council Members from each of these respective communities have had deference in approving these neighborhood rezonings. 

At a time when the Bushwick community is being undermined by the Department of City Planning, it is essential  for us to prevent the City’s Plan from going through ULURP. I fundamentally believe that Bushwick’s zoning laws need to change as out-­‐of-­‐context development is occurring at an egregious pace. The current no-­‐height limits (R6) zoning allows for this to continue. However, tackling this zoning need should not come at the expense of the principles of the community. The City’s Plan to convert Bushwick’s  manufacturing land to residential, in order to gain up to thirty percent of “affordable” housing in return for also eliminating the no-­‐height limits zoning, is not a fair exchange. 

Our  community  in Bushwick  deserves better.  Currently, there are  rows of houses that should  be historically landmarked along Bushwick Ave; a corridor that once housed breweries. Subway entrances to the Kosciuszko St., Gates Ave., Halsey St., and Chauncey St. stops remain closed. These are among some of the things that could be changed without a rezoning taking place. Throughout this rezoning process, I’ve served as both an NYC Council staffer and a NYS Senate staffer. I am excited to finally be able to independently chime in on this important matter, and I hope that you both decide to adhere to the central message of this letter: say “no” to the rezoning of Bushwick, especially if it diverges from the principles of the Bushwick Community Plan.  

Sincerely,

Boris Santos
Candidate for the
54th NYS Assembly District

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