The second, unofficial charrette provided a vision of the Broadway Triangle that included 20-story towers of affordable housing, new parks, and the promise that existing businesses will stay put, and organizers hope that these plans can be incorporated into the final project.
“We’re bringing groups together to shape the development of an area that has the potential to facilitate thousands of units of affordable housing,” said Juan Ramos, co-chair of the Broadway Triangle Coalition. “Some say we’re a year late, but others say that the discussion has just begun.”
The Broadway Triangle is a mostly industrial grouping of blocks that lie on the border of East Williamsburg, Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant. The existing city plans for the Broadway Triangle, as outlined by the Department of City Planning (DCP) and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), would change the area’s current M1-2 manufacturing zoning into R6A and R7A residential zoning with a commercial district on the small strip between Flushing Avenue and Whipple Street.
Several properties within the proposed rezoning area are owned by the city, and will be used to create affordable housing, while the rest of the residential zoning will fall under the Inclusionary Housing Program, which creates building size incentives for the creation of permanent affordable housing by private developers.
The plan was created with input from a community discussion and report, called a charrette, that a number of organizations say they were not a part of. A second, more inclusive charrette was scheduled for November 3, but the meeting was postponed indefinitely and the redevelopment plan was designed based exclusively on the first charrette.
Community groups, led by the Broadway Triangle Coalition, held their own charrette on December 3 on the tenth floor of Woodhull Hospital, a room with a view that overlooks the entire Broadway Triangle. The unofficial charrette brought together church leaders, civic groups, school teachers, and business owners from the Broadway Triangle and the surrounding neighborhoods.
“The second charrette was needed to create a place where inclusion is present in a process in which the majority of the community was not invited,” said Ramos.
Ramos indicated that the groups that were included in the first charrette were invited to participate in the second one, but that he had not received a response from any of them.
“I received no official notification about this plan, and was only told a few months ago. I still haven’t received any official notification,” said Jay Weiner, owner of Sterling Smoked Fish, a business in the Broadway Triangle. “We’ve devoted our entire lives to building something at the Broadway Triangle, and were given no consideration as to what happens here. Even if we’re grandfathered into the rezoning, there will be no building permits, no room for expansion, and if you can’t grow, you die.”
“We are willing to commit to whatever comes out of this charrette,” said Rob Salano, Board secretary of Churches United, one of the groups claiming it was excluded from the planning process. Though Churches United anticipated the charrette’s recommendation of large-scale affordable housing, Salano said, “If they want the entire Broadway Triangle to be turned into a park, we’ll support it.”
The charrette process gave community leaders and residents an opportunity to break off into small groups, in which they decided on their top priorities for the development of Broadway Triangle.
Each group emphasized the importance of affordable housing for the area, which is seeing rents increase and many long-time residents forced to move away. Many of the groups indicated that the Broadway Triangle’s proximity to Woodhull Hospital and the JMZ and G train lines made it an ideal place for larger-scale development.
Other key issues identified by the charrette were the need for a library, more and better supermarkets, and improved parks.
The presence of several Broadway Triangle business owners among the community organizations gave the groups a strong sympathy for the area’s industry, as many groups suggested that the industrial portion of the Triangle remains as it is.
“Hopefully, this second charrette will result in a plan that can encompass everyone’s vision,” said Ramos, who was hopeful that the results of the second charrette could be incorporated into the DCP and HPD’s existing plans for the Broadway Triangle.
Community leaders and Brooklyn residents gather to discuss what should be done with the Broadway Triangle during a second, unofficial planning charrette.