One-off zoning variances key to success of Williamsburg’s Hasidic developers

TRD New York /
Mar.March 27, 2013 06:30 PM

While apartment prices have almost tripled in Williamsburg since 2004, members of the Satmar community have continued to build large units that sell at a fraction of the cost of homes in trendier parts of the neighborhood. The Hasidic dynasty has benefitted from winning zoning variances to convert industrial and commercial buildings to residences — even before the wholesale rezoning of the neighborhood in 2005, the New York Observer reported.

Beginning in the 1990s, private Hasidic developers began receiving variances to construct apartment buildings around the edges of the South Williamsburg core, taking advantage of a time when the city was freely granting such exemptions. Community leaders again lobbied for the right to build in South Williamsburg and northern Bedford-Stuyvesant, around Bedford and Flushing Avenues, in 2001.

In the early 2000s, Hasidic developers lobbied the Bloomberg administration to Rezone The Broadway Triangle, an industrial area that stretches between Bed-Stuy and South and East Williamsburg. The rezoning also had a public caveat — an affordable housing complex built on city-owned land. However, the mixed-income development was halted in 2009 after Black and Latino leaders voiced concerns that a disproportionate number of units would be given to Orthodox families.

Some in the Hasidic community claim that their building growth is beneficial to the public interest because it keeps prices in check by decreasing demand. [NYO]Cody Calamaio

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