Occupying Crown Heights: Protestors Try to Change Rezoning With Late-Breaking Demands

A rezoning would concentrate future developments along Franklin and Bedford.

A rezoning would concentrate future developments along Franklin and Bedford Avenues.

The West Crown Heights rezoning has been in the making for nearly a decade, and Community Board 8—which initiated the process—has spent countless hours hashing out the details to maintain the neighborhood’s low-rise character in exchange for allowing higher-density development along the commercial corridors of Franklin and Bedford avenues. The City Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on the rezoning proposal next Wednesday, August 7, but now a group of Johnny-come-latelies is trying to shoe-horn in some last-minute changes.

Crown Heights Assembly, a group of ex-Occupiers who have focused on the hotbed of gentrification in recent months, are circulating a petition demanding some big modifications in advance of next week’s vote, according to DNAinfo.

The group is calling for mandatory inclusionary zoning (the rezoning already includes voluntary inclusionary zoning, which incentivizes developers to build affordable housing) and an “anti-harassment zone” that would mandate a city investigation of possible tenant harassment whenever a developer submits a demolition request.

The changes go far beyond what the community board has asked for in its rezoning (which was at least partially initiated in order to protect the neighborhood’s affordable housing stock), and possibly beyond what the City Planning Commission is legally entitled to deliver. (Certainly, investigating potential harassment in rent-stabilized units falls beyond the purview of the commission; it’s unclear if the commission could force such investigations, which are currently initiated by tenant complaints.) It would also be a first for mandatory inclusionary zoning—both of the city’s inclusionary zoning programs, which allow developers who include a certain percentage of affordable units to build larger developments than the zoning allows, are voluntary.

It’s unclear why the group, which has been making waves in the neighborhood for more than a year, decided to just now demand such changes to the rezoning proposal. The ULURP process has been going on since early May, and included a number of public meetings, giving neighborhood residents ample opportunity to voice their concerns and add input. Which is why ULURP (and community boards for that matter) exists—it might not be perfect, but it provides a forum for residents to discuss what they do and don’t like about land-use changes. Circulating an 11th-hour petition seems like an attempt to subvert the democratic process that shaped the rezoning, rather than a plea on behalf of the people.

As for whether the City Planning Commission will consider the petition, a spokesperson told DNAinfo that, “Obviously if the City Planning Commission receives comment in time, it will be shared with the committee, but at this point the vote is scheduled for next Wednesday.”