Bushwick businesses voice support for Dekalb Ave project ahead of public meeting

By Sam Raskin

06/13/2018 05:05 AM EDT

A group of Bushwick small business owners have signed a letter urging Council Member Rafael Espinal and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to back the rezoning of 1601 Dekalb Avenue — a proposal that would permit a residential development on what is currently a parking lot.

“Rising costs in our neighborhood are putting our businesses and customers at risk. 1601 Dekalb is an investment in Bushwick that will create new badly needed housing on vacant lots, help existing businesses in the community grow, provide high quality union jobs and opportunities for affordable housing for our customers,” the letter stated, which was reviewed by POLITICO and signed by more than two dozen local business owners. “Our community and our businesses strongly benefit from responsible developments like 1601 Dekalb.”

The letter comes ahead of a City Planning Commission meeting Wednesday at which the proposal will be discussed along with other land use matters.

The proposed rezoning would allow for the construction of two nine-story buildings, creating 122 housing units of housing, 27 of which would be affordable. Last month, Espinal, whose district includes the site of the proposed rezoning, sided with community groups staunchly opposed to the development calling it a “bad, bad deal.”

Espinal has said for the rezoning to receive his backing, the developer has to set aside a higher percentage of the planned affordable housing units and higher levels of affordability. His opposition poses a significant challenge for the project, as it is common for the City Council to defer to the member who represents the area up for rezoning.

“I want to see deeper affordability and preferably 50% of the units at or below 40% AMI as opposed to the 40-60% split in the current plan,” Espinal said in a statement. “I also want to make sure there is an appropriate setback from the neighboring loft building so those tenants are not displaced.”

Others involved in the city’s land use review process have weighed in as well, voicing similar concerns. In April, Brooklyn Community Board 4 voted the proposal down 30-1, though its recommendation is nonbinding. In May, Adams approved the rezoning with conditions, recommending that the City Council require the developer to allocate more space to affordable units.

But the group of small business owners who signed on to the letter say the plans for the development would be a boon to a community that struggles with a lack of affordable housing. Camber Property Group has acted as “responsible developer” that could bring a “great addition” to Bushwick, according to the letter.

Camber, through a spokesperson, said on Tuesday that there have been ongoing negotiations between the developer and Espinal regarding the percentage of units in the potential building that would be affordable. Espinal’s office confirmed those discussions were taking place, and said the Council member is optimistic about the chances of the development including more affordability.

“We still have time in the process to ensure this proposal meets all the needs of the Bushwick community from residents to businesses and advocates and we will not stop pushing until a deal is reached that satisfies everyone,” Espinal said.

Read the letter here.

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