By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Broadway Triangle Community Coalition, several City Council members and Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A protested in front of City Hall on Wednesday, demanding that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg halt housing segregation in Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant.
The Broadway Triangle area, which sits within both neighborhoods, was re-zoned from manufacturing and commercial use to residential in order to allow for the development of mid-rise residential buildings -- including affordable housing. It was re-zoned to allow for mid-rise residential buildings in order to preserve the overall physical scale of the neighborhood.
In 2009, the coalition filed a lawsuit challenging New York City to build affordable housing on the 31-acre land that addressed the “decades of racial and religious segregation.” The Broadway Triangle, the suit asserted, “is a heavily segregated white Hasidic community.”
Plaintiffs argued that the city furthered this pattern of segregation by working primarily with the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, which serves a particular portion of Brooklyn’s Hasidic community, in a plan to develop the Broadway Triangle. The city also worked with the Ridgewood Brooklyn Senior Citizens Council. The RBSCC, however, is located outside of the affected neighborhoods and does not provide services to either Williamsburg or Bedford-Stuyvesant.
The city submitted that “there are no systematic barriers to blacks living in Williamsburg,” asserting further in court documents “that “[t]he Court cannot ignore the possibility that blacks have chosen not to apply to move into affordable housing in Williamsburg because of personal preference not to live in that area.”
State Supreme Court Justice Emily Jane Goodman rejected the majority of the city’s arguments and granted a preliminary injunction blocking the city’s development of the Broadway Triangle as “not foster[ing] integration of the neighborhood [and] perpetuat[ing] segregation in the Broadway Triangle.”
Now, the Coalition asserts, private Hasidic developers have completed construction and began selling or renting about 150 apartments in the re-zoned area at 70 Union Ave. and 246 Lynch St. apparently only to Hasidim, and seven additional buildings are going up at 386-398 Wallabout St.
“[W]e will not allow the city to let the Broadway Triangle become another city-sponsored, segregated enclave,” said Coalition chair Juan Ramos. “The mayor has to face reality, admit his horrendous mistake, and move on to an inclusive process and real plan that will avert development of racially, privately owned properties in the Triangle that overtly discriminate against Latinos and African-Americans.”
"The allegations about the city's plan are wildly off-base,” a Law Department spokesperson told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “If private landlords are acting in a discriminatory manner, as is alleged, that is not to be tolerated, and concerned citizens should make a report to the authorities responsible for enforcing laws against discrimination."
Council Member Diana Reyna, whose district includes Williamsburg, joined the protesters on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday.