Can Anti-High Rise Rezoning Save Bushwick From Becoming the Next Williamsburg Waterfront?

 can rezoning prevent Bushwick from becoming the next Williamsburg?

As home to Brooklyn’s fastest-rising rents and the controversial Rheingold Factory rezoning, Bushwick’s been at the epicenter of a lot of “how do we slow down gentrification” conversations as of late. Some of them have been productive, others, significantly less so. But this could be an interesting development: newly elected councilman Antonio Reynoso is working on the early stages of a “down-zoning” proposal that’d block the kind of high rises that’ve so famously transformed the Williamsburg waterfront (and are about to transform Greenpoint Landing). “I intend on implementing the rezoning as a means to preserve the character of the neighborhood,” Reynoso Brooklyn Paper today.

As Brooklyn Paper points out, proposals like this  have also been implemented in Dyker Heights and Boerum Hill—and the idea would seem straightforward enough: keep out pricey high-rises, stop the neighborhood from becoming an absurd playground for the wealthy. StreetsBlog raises some interesting questions, though, about the actual effects of restricting the neighborhood’s housing stock, particularly around a transit hub like JMZ-adjacent Broadway:

“Restricting the supply of housing would only make the neighborhood’s affordability problems worse, as people continue to move there. A downzoning would also preclude opportunities for ‘inclusionary housing,’ which relies on letting developers build more apartments to create new residences affordable for lower-income households.”

It’s a good point—Bushwick being what it is, a lack of fancy new condo buildings won’t necessarily do much to slow down the flood of new residents who can afford to pay $1,000 a month for a small room in a dingy apartment. But it could also do some real good. A re-zoning might also include De Blasio-backed policies like the elimination of parking minimums that drive up housing costs, and mandatory inclusionary zoning. In a statement to StreetsBlog, Reynoso wrote, “The process of rezoning will be community based and is looking to empower Bushwick residents with in-depth knowledge and provide resources on zoning tools and designations. My office will organize workshops and forums in the following months with experts from city agencies and local organizations to bring crucial information to our constituents on how to preserve and foster a vibrant community without harming fair and necessary development.”

Also worth noting that this isn’t exactly going to blindside anyone; he’s working with numerous experts before drafting any proposal that’d be seen by the City Council, and even then, this kind of re-zoning could take years to actually get passed. In the interim, though, Broadway’s development boom is already well-underway.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.


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