A Manhattan Supreme Court justice halted all further operations in the “Broadway Triangle” last week, only one day after City Council voted in favor of rezoning the mostly commercial land into residential space.
Justice Emily Goodman granted a restraining order last Tuesday after opponents filed a second lawsuit against the city rezoning, claiming that city officials steered the land to two politically connected groups in a backroom deal.
The stay is effective until the lawsuit gets its first hearing in March, buying a bit of hope for the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition.
“The justice’s decision shows that there’s merit to the lawsuit,” said Marty Needleman, the coalition’s attorney. “It’s really gonna raise the ante for Bloomberg.”
City lawyers did not see it that way at all.
“The court was simply attempting to maintain the status quo; this action was not any assessment of the merits of the plaintiffs’ allegations,” City Attorney Gabriel Taussig said. “[The rezoning will include] income-targeted affordable housing, new retail space, community facility space, and an expanded playground, not to mention jobs.”
Councilmembers agreed with that assessment when they voted 38-10 in favor of the rezoning last week. Outgoing Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) called the arrangement legitimate because both of the supposedly connected groups — the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizen Council, both of which are tied to Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Bushwick) — submitted proper applications.
“This is not an Atlantic Yards project that circumvented [the process],” he said before the vote. “We’re going to have 800 affordable apartments. We went through the process and had public input.”
Still, some councilmembers back the coalition, with some baggage. Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D–Bushwick), who was once Lopez’s protege, has opposed the Broadway Triangle plans, calling the proposal a flat-out lie. She held her head in her hands and sobbed when vote tallies were announced last week.
In his suit, Needleman contends that the city’s proposal of affordable housing — at least 850 of 1,851 apartments set aside at below-market rates — would actually amount to about 150 units in a mixed-income community.