August 6, 2013 Leave a comment
The ULURP process to rezone West Crown Heights began in March and culminates soon in a vote (if you don’t know what ULURP is, check out CUP’s informative workshop). The 55 block area impacted by the zoning proposal (according to the City’s website) “is generally bounded by Atlantic Avenue, Pacific, Dean and Bergen streets to the north; Nostrand Avenue to the east; Eastern Parkway to the south; and, Washington and Grand Avenues to the west.” If it passes, the change in zoning would place building construction guidelines intended to “preserve neighborhood character” by limiting the the size and style of new developments. The rezoning also includes inclusionary zoning, meaning there would be incentives to build a certain percentage of affordable units for every market rate development.
According to the Crown Heights Assembly, a group of activists working against displacement in Crown Heights, this re-zoning proposal does not do enough to protect the interests of long term residents of the neighborhood. CHA has been distributing a petition calling for 2 amendments to the rezoning:
1. Adopt Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning, a policy that guarantees a certain percentage of affordable units in new developments under a rezoning.
2. Establish an anti-harassment area which requires the City to look into whether harassment occurred when it receives demolition requests and penalizes landlords who harass tenants.
The UHAB Organizing Department supports CHA’s efforts to amend the current zoning proposal. Over and over again, we see very scary and real harassment of long term tenants in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, especially Crown Heights. Currently, we are working in several small buildings in the neighborhood where the landlords are offering long-term, rent stabilized tenants “buy-outs,” meaning tenants are asked to accept money and leave. Landlords do this so that they can raise rents through “vacancy decontrol” when new tenants move in. We’ve also seen landlords refuse to work in long-term tenants’ apartments. Instead, the only work being done is to renovate the vacant units. This tactic is, again, intended to bring in higher paying tenants and ultimately displace long-term residents. These types of activities are predatory, and, like CHA asserts, there should be more severe penalties. CHA suggests creating a City program designed to pay special attention to harassment in the neighborhood, particularly when new construction is proposed. This could work. We also think that the creation of a landlord license which would prevent known predatory landlords from continuously purchasing new buildings could also work. It’s clear that with the rapid gentrification in the neighborhood, there does need to be some intentional shifts to ensure long term residents can live harassment-free in their homes.
Be sure to stay informed of what happens in the upcoming vote! Sign the CHA’s petition here and read their fact sheet on the rezoning here. And stay tuned for more news about gentrification, harassment, and activism in Crown Heights!