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City Planning Offers a “Rose” for ‘Burg

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This “Rose” has been revived.

After disapprovals from Community Board 1 and Borough President Marty Markowitz, the City Planning Commission reversed course with a rare close vote Monday afternoon, in support of rezoning 3.7 acres of the South Williamsburg waterfront residential and commercial use.

The Commission approved developer Isack Rosenberg’s application by a vote of 7-5 to rezone the manufacturing zoned site on 470-490 Kent Avenue in order to eventually construct three towers containing 801 units of housing, 29,000 square feet of commercial and community facility space on the bottom floor, and 33,188 square feet for a waterfront esplanade along the East River at the edge of the site.

“This proposal is consistent with other plans recently approved by the Planning Commission,” said City Planning Chair Amanda Burden. “This plan will offer a more varied and interesting skyline, and 14,000 additional square feet of open space. I motion in support.”

The vote is a significant victory for Rosenberg, who has sought to redevelop his Certified Lumber site for more than four years, but the rezoning is far from guaranteed. Councilmember Steve Levin (D-Williamsburg), who represents the Williamsburg neighborhood encompassing Rose Plaza, has vowed to continue his opposition to the project and will have his chance during the Council’s subcommittee hearings in late April.

“As I have previously testified, the applicant’s dedication of only 20 percent of its units to affordable housing is entirely insufficie­nt,” said Levin, who objected to Rosenberg’s special permits request without a promise to expand public infrastructure. “In an area that has suffered many of the ills associated with gentrification, this development will only exacerbate, and not mitigate, the many pressures local families face.”

The project’s supporters, which include several Satmar leaders who sit with Rosenberg on the board of UJCARE, chastised Levin for his position on Rose Plaza. Garu Schlesinger, Executive Board Chairman UJCare, said that he was “surprised” that the rookie Council member was opposing “such a beautiful project opposed because of politics, not on the merits,” while former Council candidate Isaac Abraham said that he hoped that Levin would fail in his efforts to oppose the project in the City Council.

“Most of the questions he asked about Rose Plaza, parking traffic, and infrastructure, he did not ask about the Broadway Triangle. It’s simple. Broadway Triangle is in control of (Assemblyman) Vito Lopez. Rose Plaza is not in control of Vito Lopez. He was basically coached.”

A spokesperson for Levin, who was not a councilmember during the Broadway Triangle ULURP process, noted that Rose Plaza is a “totally different development”, that the site needs considerable environmental remediation, that the community has opposed the rezoning and that the developer may not even want to develop on the site.

As Levin and Rose Plaza supporters prepare to dig in for what could become another contentious zoning battle over the next month, the developer and his representatives insist they are not worried. Rosenberg could not be reached for comment, but his attorney Howard Weiss said that he expects that Council will approve Rose Plaza despite Levin’s opposition.

At a time of continued economic uncertainty, however, the approval of Rose Plaza with its development cost of $370 million, represents a strong statement of confidence in the future of our City and its neighborho­ods,” said Weiss. “We do not believe that the City Council would turn its back on the construction and permanent jobs as well as opportunities for housing affordable to the neighborhood’s low income families that will be provided by this project.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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