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Jeff Mann Councilmember Steve Levin Jeff Mann

MAD to the Mayor: Honor Your Commitments

On May 1st, 2005, then-City Council Speaker Gifford Miller received a letter from then-Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff detailing the Points of Agreement (POA) for the Greenpoint and Williamsburg rezoning. To gain community support for variances to allow for the construction of high rise condo buildings, Mayor Bloomberg committed to increase North Brooklyn’s open space and promised to protect long term residents from being displaced, with guarantees of 3,500 new affordable apartments and funding for neighborhood based anti-displacement enforcement of existing tenant legal protections.

Eight years later, Williamsburg has its towers and Greenpoint’s look to be on their way, leaving many in the community wondering “where’s my park?” and “where’s my affordable housing?”

On Wednesday, May 22, 2013, Mobilization Against Displacement (MAD), a coalition of every major North Brooklyn community housing group including St. Nick’s Alliance, North Brooklyn Development Corporation, Southside United (Los Sures), Churches United for Fair Housing, People’s Firehouse and Neighbors Allied for Good Growth along with Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A (Brooklyn A), MAD’s legal counsel, marked the eighth anniversary of the rezoning with a rally demanding that the Bloomberg administration live up to its 2005 promises.

Around 50 Greenpoint / Williamsburg residents, community leaders, elected officials and city-wide housing activists joined MAD, on the waterfront, at Kent Avenue and North 8th Street, to call out the Mayor for the lack of new affordable housing in North Brooklyn. Of the 3,500 units promised by the City, they said, less than a quarter have been built. And out of 1,345 sites on City-owned property, only 19 have been built. Meanwhile thousands of residents have been forced out of the community and funding for anti-displacement efforts cut.

With the upcoming turnover of City electeds, many North Brooklyn leaders want to make sure the rezoning promises stay on the front burner. “The City and its incoming leaders must take immediate steps to reverse this horrible situation. We must reverse the current Mayor’s vision of “benign neglect” of working class and low income residents,” said Councilmember Diana Reyna.

“This community has lost 10,000 Latino residents in the last ten years and [Bloomberg’s] done nothing about it,” said Reyna’s chief-of-staff and candidate for her seat, Antonio Reynoso. He also blasted the administration for its slow progress. “We don’t want this patchwork, one unit of housing at a time. We need it all and we need it now.”

“No new building, I believe, should go up anywhere, until the promises are kept that were made,” said GREC President Jan Peterson, who has been battling for affordable housing since the1970s “Why do we need more high-rise expensive housing when there are all these promises unkept?”

Tish Cianciotta, representing Assemblyman Joe Lentol, called on the Mayor to live up to the rezoning agreement. “The people here have been displaced,” she said. “We want the affordable housing to become a reality.”

“You have built this community through generations, with your own blood, sweat and tears,” Councilmember Steve Levin told the crowd. “You’ve earned the right to stay in this community.”

In a statement, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development said that a total of 922 affordable housing units promised in the POA are complete or in construction with an additional 766 in predevelopment.

An HPD spokesperson added that since the Bloomberg Administration’s housing plan started in July 2003, the City has financed the construction and preservation of 3,004 affordable units in Brooklyn Community Board 1, which includes the 1,688 units complete / in construction for the POA.

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