Saturday, August 18, 2007

Again, Errol Louis misses the point regarding the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning

In his column (not yet online) in the August 16 issue of Our Time Press, Errol Louis writes about the city's plan to spend $2 million on a cultural project to commemorate Brooklyn's role in the Underground Railroad.

It's a response to the city's plan to to condemn houses on Duffield Street for the Downtown Brooklyn plan. Owners of the houses and some experts say there's strong evidence the houses were part of the Underground Railroad; the city and its experts acknowledge only that there was abolitionist activity in the area.

Call him cynical

Louis writes:
Call me cynical, but I seriously doubt that the city's money or the top-notch advisory panel named to administer it will quiet the critics of development in downtown Brooklyn. The real goal of the loudest critics is to prevent the new condos, apartments, hotels and retail stores in the area, following the misguided logic that keeping investment, amenities and new residents out of this part of Brooklyn is the best way to keep local housing prices from rising.

That battle was fought and lost long ago. The city council voted years ago to rezone downtown Brooklyn so that tall buildings could be built near the foot of the Manhattan Bridge and the mayor signed the bill. The resulting plans to invest billions in the area represent all kinds of business and job opportunities.


Didn't Louis make the same mistake a little more than two months ago? The City Council voted to rezone Downtown Brooklyn to foster office space and increase jobs. Instead, the market changed and housing became more lucrative.

Critics have called for inclusionary zoning--sharing of the wealth offered developers by the increase in their development rights. The organization FUREE argues that public dollars disproportionately favor the wealthy.

It's a complicated job to balance growth and equity, especially when the City Council didn't anticipate the result. Louis disregards that.

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