The Real Deal New York

City loses bid to lift hold on Broadway Triangle projects

January 26, 2011 09:35PM
By David Jones

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A state Supreme Court judge ruled against the city in the controversial Broadway Triangle rezoning case in which a coalition of community groups allege that the Bloomberg administration steered affordable housing deals to members of the Hasidic community and two non-profit groups linked to Brooklyn party boss Vito Lopez.

The Bloomberg administration filed an October 2010 motion asking Judge Emily Goodwin to lift a stay on development of three sites near the Williamsburg location of Broadway Triangle. Several other affordable housing projects are on hold pending an investigation into possible civil rights violations by Brooklyn-based U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.

City officials said the ruling will not have any impact on the case, as the development still remains on hold until the investigation moves forward.

“The direct answer is no it doesn‘t [impact our case],” said attorney Gabriel Taussig, representing the city. “There is currently a stay on two particular parcels.”

The Broadway Triangle Coalition, which consists of 40 organizations in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Williamsburg, alleged in its September 2009 lawsuit that the city’s rezoning of the so-called Broadway Triangle was discriminatory in favor of certain Hasidic community groups and two developers, United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg and Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, the latter of which was founded by Lopez.

The developers were awarded the contracts for the site without a formal bidding process, which is normally required.

The controversy involves about 1,900 units of housing, including 800 affordable units, which would be built on 31 acres around a former Pfizer plant that sits on the border between Williamsburg and Bed-Stuy. The coalition alleges that 50 percent of the affordable housing in the South Williamsburg area has gone to members of the Hasidic community, despite the fact that 90 percent of the people on the waiting list for such housing are black and Hispanic, many of them from Bed-Stuy.

In addition, the coalition alleges that the building height requirement of eight stories is discriminatory because members of the Hasidic community are not allowed to take elevators on the Sabbath. In addition, at a proposed site at 100 Throop Street, about half the subsidized units were designated to have three and four bedrooms, designed to accommodate large Hasidic families.

“We are heartened that the court is proceeding carefully in our case in light of the long history of housing discrimination and segregation by the city in our community,” said Juan Ramos, chairman of the coalition. “We will continue to work together to ensure our neighborhood is developed for everyone and not just for a few, whether through this lawsuit or with the city’s cooperation.”

When the U.S. attorney launched a probe to investigate Lopez in October 2010, the judge put the case on hold. The city asked for the hold to be lifted, because it feared that the hold would lead some other pending development projects to crumble.

“The city‘s position was that developers would be afraid to develop there because of the pending case that was not resolved,” said a legal source familiar with the coalition’s strategy.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney declined to comment, saying his office does not confirm nor deny investigations. Officials at the United Jewish Organization and Lopez were not immediately available for comment.

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