Zoning In

Bushwick residents push for grassroots rezoning

City Terrain East News
Artists painting at the Bushwick Collective, 2013. (Michael Tapp / Flickr)
Artists painting at the Bushwick Collective, 2013. (Michael Tapp / Flickr)

Residents of Bushwick, Brooklyn are taking planning into their own hands to preserve their neighborhood’s character and forestall gentrification.

Residents, neighborhood organizations, and members of Brooklyn Community Board 4 hosted a land use meeting this week to discuss the Bushwick Community Plan, a grassroots rezoning agenda to bring more affordable housing to the neighborhood’s main thoroughfares, prevent tall towers at mid-block, and create a historic district along Bushwick Avenue, among other objectives.

Around 200 residents showed up to the meeting, the culmination of work that began four years ago in response to the Rheingold Brewery rezoning.

“I live in Bushwick, I don’t know who I displaced out of my apartment,” resident Sean Thomas told DNAinfo. Thomas has called the neighborhood home for two years, and he came to learn about his role in gentrification.

The next meetings, in April and May, will focus on transit and open space planning, and economic development, respectively. Stakeholders will then draft a proposal for consideration by the city later this year.

“It’s crucial for this plan to be successful,” said local activist Edwin Delgado. “If we leave things the way they are it’s just going to be a continuation of what’s going on… It’s sad.”

More information on the Bushwick Community Plan and upcoming meetings can be found here.

Despite residents’ enthusiasm for community planning, New York has an uneven record of actually implementing these grassroots rezoning proposals. In 2001, the city accepted Greenpoint and Williamsburg residents’ rezoning proposal—only to enact zoning in 2005 that contradicted the community’s wishes. The city’s plan encouraged tall towers on the waterfront, which caused property values to rise and engendered the displacement of mostly low-income residents of color. More recently, Mayor Bill de Blasio has made neighborhood-scale rezoning a priority, with plans to rezone Jerome Avenue, the Bronx; East Harlem, Manhattan; and East New York, Brooklyn (plus a now-tabled rezone of West Flushing, Queens).

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