Gowanus group wants residents to have voice in rezoning
by Patrick Kearns
Mar 28, 2017 | 1042 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Michael Higgins Jr., a community organizer, outlines key points of the plan at a press conference.
Michael Higgins Jr., a community organizer, outlines key points of the plan at a press conference.
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A group of Gowanus residents want to make sure social and economic justice is a high priority of any rezoning of the neighborhood.

Gowanus is one of 15 neighborhoods being studied for a rezoning under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan. Public outreach meetings are currently underway.

In response, neighborhood advocacy group The Fifth Avenue Committee launched the Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice to make sure that if a rezoning takes place, it follows certain principles.

The coalition created a list of five areas to elevate the priorities of low- and moderate-income residents, industrial firms, neighborhood-based organizations and small businesses.

They include advancing racial and economic justice, creating affordable housing and protecting tenants from displacement, and promoting environmental.

When different parts of Fourth Avenue in Park Slope were rezoned in 2003 and 2007, reports of tenant harassment were rampant, according to Dave Powell, director of organizing and advocacy at the Fifth Avenue Committee

“We have seen the result of rezonings in other,” he said. “These local city actions have resulted in the displacement of rent-stabilized tenants, businesses and other community members, which has continued to this day.”

Alfredo Rivera and his family, who live at 140 Fourth Avenue, are one of just two families that remain in the building.

“The owner put two floors on top of ours,” he said. “And the construction conditions affected me for a long time. The dust, the debris, all the cracking, we were just scared.”

Maria Baez worked at a local laundromat on Third Avenue near St. Mark’s Place across from Wyckoff Gardens for over 14 years. The Laundromat, along with a Chinese food restaurant and a bodega, were both forced to close when Avery Hall Investments bought the building for $2.55 million.

“Everyone asks if we can put in another laundromat, but we can’t because the rent is too much,” she said. “The owner of the laundromat had to go back to his old job, he lost everything. They gave us nothing, only three months to move.”

Sandra Garcia is a resident of the Warren Street Houses and used to get medicine for her disabled husband at the Walgreens on Atlantic and Third avenues. Since the store closed, she’s been forced to travel further.

“It’s difficult to get things like medicine when it’s needed right away,” she said. “It’s a big loss, especially for the senior citizens in my building.”

“The only ones that benefit are the ones that are moving in,” added Ed Tyre, president of the Gowanus Houses Residents Association. “The people that live in the area lose vital things like drug stores, restaurants and laundromats.”

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