Espinal opposes proposed Dekalb Avenue rezoning
by Benjamin Fang
May 22, 2018 | 1881 views | 0 0 comments | 112 112 recommendations | email to a friend | print
During a community rally against a proposed rezoning in Bushwick last Thursday, local elected officials announced their opposition to a project that residents say would lead to displacement.

Councilman Rafael Espinal said that he won’t support the rezoning proposal at 1601 Dekalb Avenue, which is currently a parking lot. The developer, Camber Property Group, wants to convert six manufacturing lots in the area into a nine-story, 122-unit residential building.

Only 27 of the 122 units would be affordable housing. Additionally, dozens of loft tenants who live in the adjacent buildings would also be forced from their homes, opponents of the plan said.

“This is a bad, bad deal,” Espinal said at the rally. “There is no way that this rezoning is going forward as it stands. This would immediately displace people out of their lofts.

“This would create very little affordable housing that will not benefit the community at all,” he added. “For those reasons and many more, there is no way that I could move forward and vote for his plan.”

The Bushwick councilman asked the developers to withdraw their application until they have a plan that “makes sense” for the residents of the community.

“We will not move anything forward that would benefit you and not benefit the Bushwick community,” Espinal said.

Dozens of residents and community organizations, led by Make the Road New York, marched against the proposal. They stopped at 1601 Dekalb Avenue, just around the corner from Wyckoff Heights Medical Center.

Jose Lopez, co-organizing director of Make the Road, said residents are opposed to the proposal because they don’t need luxury housing.

“What we need is truly affordable housing that reflects the incomes of the local community,” he said. “This project doesn’t do that.”

He estimated that the majority of his members at Make the Road in Brooklyn earn between $18,000 to $25,0000. Many are single moms with two kids.

In addition to fears about being priced out, Lopez said the project would eventually eliminate local jobs and businesses, such as the Brotherhood Boxing community center and a local eatery, Sazon Nunez.

Community Board 4 voted against the project, 30-1. Robert Camacho, a member for more than 25 years, said he felt the project would result in “a lot of displacement and not deeply affordable housing.”

“A lot of people can’t afford to live here because it’s a trend,” he said, referring to the displacement. “It’s like cancer, it spreads.”

Loft tenant Chika Kobari, a photographer and artist who lives at 1609 Dekalb Avenue, said she would lose her home if this development is built. She said tenants were “shocked” when they learned about the proposal, but were even more outraged after doing more research about its effects.

“It’s become apparent to us that it’s not just about one building,” she said. “It’s about the devastating effects it will have on the fabric of our community.

“It’s about a tidal wave,” she added. “A change is coming to Bushwick, and more importantly, into our lives.”

Kobari said she wants deeply affordable housing and units for bigger families. This development, she said, would offer few affordable units.

“It does not make sense to have this building built here if it’s displacing 40 units, then saying we’re going to give you a few units of affordable housing,” Kobari said.

Leonardo Labriola, who also lives in one of the lofts near the lot, said while he welcomes the news of Espinal’s opposition to the project, he believes Camber won’t stop trying to develop on the site, which they own.

“I think they recognize Bushwick is a valuable community,” he said. “I think this will be a site that will continue to be looked at for development.”

To prepare for the wave of development, Bushwick officials, organizations and residents have worked on creating a community plan to achieve a “fair and balanced rezoning” for the last four years.

Espinal said the mission of that process was to empower the community to decide what the future of Bushwick should look like.

“When you have people put in applications to change not only this lot, but the entire area around it, it goes way past what we promised the community,” he said. “That’s why myself and [Councilman] Antonio Reynoso are not going to move forward with any discussions about rezoning this area until people start getting serious and respecting the community.”
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