For the first time in 40 years, Ridgewood Queens may have one of its manufacturing areas rezoned for residential use.
At a packed Land Use committee meeting on Myrtle Avenue, Community Board 5 members heard from the public, contractors, developers and the owner of the lot. With about a block and a half being rezoned for the developers needs.
At the end of the meeting, the committee voted in favor of recommending the rezoning. Two days later, at a full CB5 board meeting at Christ The King high school, the rezoning proposal was approved. A city Planning Commission meeting on April 24, (10:30 at Borough Hall, 2nd floor) will be the next stop for the proposal.
Some residents, worried about the eyesore the property has become since City Brothers lost their license to operate their waste removal business from the site, are very much in favor of the development.
Arguing that prostitution combined with poor law enforcement have made the area a dangerous corridor that attracts crime, at the land use committee meeting they suggested that the new building would put an end to criminal activity on the street.
They further noted that the landlord has promised to make the apartments "rent stabilized."
At the land use CB5 meeting, several members of the development team suggested there was, "no plan B"---either a lie or misstatement easily proven by a check of the EAS application. (e.g.,the backup plan includes commercial space)
Other local residents, including Trinidad who lives down the block from the development and spoke against the rezoning at the committee meeting, are worried the pricetag attached to the apartments may push out current residents as other landlords bump up the price on their own properties. In fact, history has shown as property values increase, so do property taxes on smaller (non-subsidy-receiving) landlords, thus forcing them to bump up rents, whether they want to or not, on their own tenants simply to keep up with the bills.
The rezoning proposal now goes to a city Planning Commission meeting this Thursday, April 24. The rezoning has pitted several interests in the community in an ever-more-vocal rumble over how the Greater Ridgewood area (Bushwick, Ridgewood, Glendale) will be defined as the pressure of gentrification not only pushes out low and middle-income neighbors but also many of the job-creating manufacturing and medium-income commercial firms in the neighborhood. Further exacerbating the fight is the reality that the area is one of the last pockets for New York City's massive service worker population, many of whom work for a minimum wage that would price them out of housing like the one proposed for the site at 176 Woodward Avenue.
In the working-class neighborhood of Ridgewood (Queens), neighbors, developers and local leaders have been debating the fate of 176 Woodward Ave.
Developers are eyeing the site for rezoning and eventual development as a 88 unit mixed use complex that would include 88 residential units and over 100 parking spaces. With the community board scheduled to make its recommendation on April 9th, time is running out to speak for or against the rezoning/development.
How can you have your voice heard on this matter? Here are three options
Show up to the April 7th meeting of the Zoning and Land Use Review Committee of CB5 at at 61-23 Myrtle Avenue in Glendale, at 7:30pm on Monday, April 7th. Public comment will be accepted at the meeting. (See Details below)
ATTENTION CB5 RESIDENTS!: Whatever your opinion on the matter, your voice matters. If you didn't get a chance to comment on the Ridgewood rezoning that will decide whether this luxury apartment development will replace current industrial zoning, you can email your opinion to the community board at firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to the most recent update we've received from representatives of CB5, the next public meeting on the Ridgewood Rezoning will be April 7 (we will post updates as they become available).
**LAST UPDATED 3/26/2014***
The owner of 176 Woodward, a Ridgewood property, plans on cashing in on New York's affordable housing shortage with luxury housing that requires the rezoning, and fundamental reshaping, of an area just under two blocks. While the planned rezoning will affect a small industrial area, the luxury housing it stands to bring will likely mean rent increases in the area as a whole, an eventual increase in property taxes for smaller owners (thus pushing rents to even more unaffordable heights) and ultimately spell the end of one of New York City's most inter-cultural, affordable housing hubs.
At a March 12 CB5 meeting that included public comment on the rezoning, quite a few neighbors from around Ridgewood, Glendale and Middle Village were taken aback by a concerted effort from developers to push through a rezoning that could mean a further attack on the job-creating light-industrial zones of Queens and Brooklyn.
One attendee, and a neighbor who lives near the would-be luxury housing site, called it a "a joke... just a show...," further asking us to only list her as Martha, fearing any possible retaliation from the property owner or the pro-developer group that aggressively tried to overpower and at one point even shout over opposition at the hearing.
With $20gs in lobbying power from one of the cities most connected lobbyists, the pro-business Driscoll Group, there's little to no surprise in the aggression and coordination that appears to have been prepared by the owner of the site, the developer and their well-coached supporters.
"Dan" who also feared retribution if we used his name, told us he asked for copies of the potential construction and what the developer was promising. He was asked "are you a member of the media?" When "Dan" replied that he wasn't, he was summarily dismissed by the developer.
If you didn't know beforehand it would be easy for anyone to get the impression you were not intended to find out at this meeting.
WHO KNEW? VERY FEW
Outside Christ the King High School where the meeting was scheduled, there were no visible signs as to where to go for the public hearing or that there even was one going on.
Numerous attendees complained about transparency and accessibility issues, saying they had only found out about it online in the previous 72 hours.
The Community Board, to its credit, told one of our editors that it will have a website or page up by the end of the year.
The pro-developer group had no such trouble finding the site, and construction workers, landlords and developers could be seen strategizing, catching up and joking with each other a full 20 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to start--at which point most members of the vocal opposition were still wandering around the campus of Christ the King without a single sign indicating where this meeting was or how one could get there.
Once attendees found a side-path through the day care center, around a staircase, through another hallway and into a cafeteria (not a single sign along the way) they were greeted with plenty of literature about a fundraising walk, a family crisis nonprofit, a local effort to check for a deadly pest--- and absolutely nothing, not a single piece of literature, about the development.
In our canvas of local residents, out of 45+ interviewed, none had read even one of the 140 pages describing the rezoning. This made a lot of sense once we realized that out of this representative sample of Ridgewood residents not a single one had even heard that a part of Ridgewood might be rezoned to make room for luxury housing.
In a city where community boards are supposed to serve as a direct, local representative of local interest--not a single resident we interviewed on the streets of Ridgewood had even heard of what the community board was doing.
Furthermore, to our knowledge, and to the knowledge of the several attendees we also interviewed for this piece, nothing was made available to describe the project, the ULURP process or even simple basic information on where folks can state their opinion to the Community Board, its appropriate subcommittees or the appropriate public official.
An email address (listed above) was eventually suggested to the audience as the place where they should send their opinion to be noted by the community board. Councilman Reynoso also sent representatives who asked that they call in (718-963-3141)or send their opinions to his office.
About ten minutes before the meeting was set to begin, a gentleman from the developer group walked different supporters around to different sections of the cafeteria momentarily creating a well-coordinated impression of a community that just happened to come together (at a public hearing virtually none of CB5's tens of thousand of residents had heard of) in support of a project that would not only push out some of the last light-industrial opportunities in New York, but would also price out a majority of the current renters near the site.
The pro-developer group seemed especially well-informed of both what to expect and how to make themselves appear as the majority of the community. Their talking points included, on several occasions, some of the same points down to the phrase, and in fact the first group that signed up to speak was visibly communicating with members of the development team at multiple points during the meeting, but especially as it wound down.
At the meeting the pro-development group of speakers sat together within whispering distance from the developers and architect themselves.
When the list to speak at the public hearing was offered they lined up, at least four lined up together, in a row, giving an immediately-commented impression that this was a "set up" (as one elderly couple put it) to make it look like majority of the community to be impacted by this zoning had spontaneously shown up to unleash this high-priced project on itself.
In fact, outside of the pro-development speakers who sometimes gave the impression of having been pre-coordinated, several speakers our reporters counted had some hesitation about the project.
Meanwhile when several members of the audience protested they hadn't heard the call to sign up to speak, nor had they seen the sheet, they were told "to be quiet or leave," by a community board representative.
Among the suspect supporters was a speaker from the newly-arrived Bushwick Film Festival (the festival is barely in it seventh year in 2014) who admitted--while at the speaker's podium, in fact--that part of the reason she had decided to support the project is that the festival had been promised use of one of the building's rooms for their activities in the future if the project were to be approved.
Rather strangely, this same speaker also said $2000/month apartments were "affordable" in a community where many depend on a minimum wage that pays a full-time worker significantly less that that amount per month after taxes.
Another situation was what several attendees considered an underquote of what rents would cost in the luxury building---with representative for the developer adding that ever-so-important caveat "depending on financing."
With an $18 million construction price-tag, and given this owner and lobbyist's history, Ridgewood residents might have good reason to fear they will soon be priced out of the very community they have built up.
When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City in late October of 2012, some 80,000 New Yorkers spanning more than 400 NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) buildings were impacted by a loss of vital services. Those services even included basic electricity, heat, hot water and elevator service.
According to a new report, "The City’s response to Hurricane Sandy was slow and communication to residents before, during and after the storm was inadequate."
Alliance for a Just Rebuilding has just released a major report on outcomes for residents of NYCHA in the process of post-Sandy reconstruction.
As of the writing of the report, 16 NYCHA developments were still attempting to provide heat and hot water to their residents with woefully inadequate temporary boilers that all-too-regularly breakdown.
The report, which uses data from hundreds of surveys and interviews (as well as research) reports on the challenges NYCHA residents have been coping with, including inadequate repairs and malfunctioning boilers during one of the city's worst winters in recent memory.
New Yorkers affected by this slow response from the disinterested administration of ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg were forced to rely on over-strained community based organization and their neighbors.
“Weathering the Storm: Rebuilding a More Resilient New York City Housing Authority Post-Sandy” uses data from 600 surveys, interviews and background research, to reveal some of the major issues that NYCHA residents have faced since Hurricane Sandy, such as slow and inadequate repairs, malfunctioning boilers, mold and a lack of job opportunities.