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Bushwick-Based Coalition Mounts Campaign, Starts Petition Against City's Rezoning Plan

Bushwick residents and activists call the City's rezoning practices "racist and classist"
Photo: Mi Casa No Es Su Casa Facebook by @brujarebel

Mi Casa No Es Su Casa, a Bushwick-based political art collective focused on drawing attention to the impacts of displacement in communities across the New York City, has started a petition to City Councilmember Antonio Reynoso and Community Board 4 calling on them to reject a neighborhood improvement plan they helped author.

In 2014, Brooklyn Community Board 4, New York Councilmembers Antonio Reynoso and Rafael Espinal, and a steering committee made of local nonprofits started working on a plan to stave off-- what they observed as-- the harmful effects of gentrification.

Photo: Mi Casa No es Su Casa Facebook

Since 2000, Bushwick's population has risen by nearly 15 percent-- a rate greater than the city's average increase-- resulting in some of the largest rent increases in the country.

In order to deal with the issue of high rents pricing out local tenants from the area, the group devised The Bushwick Community Plan in September 2018 which it presented to the Department of City Planning. DCP then responded in April with its feedback and updates, dubbing it the Bushwick Neighborhood Plan, which may be approved as early as December 2019.

However, not everybody was happy with the City's changes, particularly as it concerned  rezoning. For example: Some buildings which the original BCP requested to be zoned no higher than R6, are zoned R7 and R8, paving the way for 17 story luxury towers. Additionally, the plan included more market-rate housing units (6,000 to 8,000) and less affordable housing than was requested.

Despite these significant changes, Community Board 4 has continued working with DCP to get the plan approved. And while Councilmember Reynoso acknowledges the plan is not entirely what they asked for, he too believes it is better than the alternative, which would be the City doing whatever they wanted.

"If we didn't have this process, I can only imagine how much worse it would have been," Reynoso said at the April meeting.

A good majority of the original coalition members, however, feel the compromises in the updated plan represent too significant a walk-back on their original goal of staving off overpopulation and high rents. They were miffed at DCP's attempt to sell back to them support programs it promised to launch that already were in existence.

Mi Casa was clear in its opposition, calling it "racist and classist: "DCP is responsible for racist rezonings all over the city," wrote Mi Casa No Es Su Casa in an email opposing the City's actions. "Despite all the evidence that shows that rezonings cause displacement of lifelong and longtime residents of color, DCP continues to use faulty data to pretend that they have the community in mind."

A coalition of a dozen community based organizations, led by Mi Casa, held a rally on October 24 at Zuccotti Park calling for universal rent control and an end to mandatory inclusionary housing. And as the City moves closer to the plan's approval, Mi Casa has mounted a petition urging CB 4 and Reynoso to oppose it.

"Rezoning often in the name of 'affordable' housing and economic development, do more harm than good in practice, acting as a crow bar that drives a wedge between communities and their homes," the group wrote on their petition page. ...

"Bushwick is a community that needs more low-income housing, where tenants are already experiencing tremendous amounts of code violations and harassment because landlords are looking to cash in. But rezoning doesn't provide what our community needs and deserves. It is for that reason that we oppose the rezoning of our community before irreparable harm is done to our neighbors in the name of progress. "

To learn more about the petition, go here.

Correction 11/14/19 7:45am:  In the original version of this article, it was incorrectly stated that Mi Casa no es Su Casa had a hand in authoring the Bushwick Community Plan. The group responded stating that it did not participate in this plan's original development. The article has been updated to reflect that change.