Ten East New Yorker residents were arrested outside of local councilman Rafael Espinal's office on Knickerbocker Avenue on Wednesday afternoon, as they blocked the building's front entrance and demanded that Espinal vote 'no' on a controversial rezoning plan for the neighborhood scheduled for a City Council vote next week.

Espinal did not present himself to the protesters, nor did he send out a spokesperson to address them, according to participants. Organizers New York Communities For Change say they haven't heard from Espinal since a town hall meeting on February 18th. Since then, they've blocked sections of Atlantic Avenue in the hopes of getting his attention, and marched on his office to demand that he return all donations he's received from real estate developers and landowners (reportedly $7,000 during this last campaign season).

Espinal later stated that developers "have no influence on my negotiations," but did not confirm whether he would return the money.

NYCC, which claims to represent about 1,000 East New York residents, is pushing for a more deeply affordable housing plan that ensures well-paying construction jobs for local residents.

"Our main concern is that the developers stand to make a killing," said NYCC spokeswoman Renata Pumerol on Wednesday. "We haven't seen Espinal take action and commit."

East New York is the first of fifteen low-income neighborhoods scheduled to be rezoned as part of Mayor de Blasio's affordable housing plan, which promises to create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing.

The blueprint for rezoning in East New York's Cypress Hills neighborhood and adjacent Ocean Hill in Bed-Stuy calls for the construction of 7,000 new apartments by 2030, half of which would be below market-rate. Only a quarter of the apartments would be set aside for families who make $31,000 or less, or 40% of the Area Median Income. For context, the median income in East New York is just $35,000 per year.

In response to opposition from East New York residents, former Mayoral spokesman Wiley Norvell has pointed out that any developer receiving a City subsidy—in his estimation, that means most developers coming to East New York in the first two years of the plan—will be held to stricter affordability standards: at least 40% of the units would have to be set aside for renters who earn between $23,350 and $38,850 per year.

The City also expanded the rezoning plan last summer to include renovations to East New York parks, and a new school with 1,000 seats. De Blasio has committed $36 million annually to free anti-eviction legal services, which Norvell described as a sort of "proactive 311."

NYCC issued a report in March entitled Educating Espinal, demanding that the councilmember push for 50% affordability in all new developments along Atlantic and Pitkin avenues, at 40% of the AMI.

Espinal did not immediately respond to our request for comment, but he issued a strongly-worded response to the report last month. "I don't need to be educated on what my community needs," he said. "I was born and raised in the neighborhood by a working class immigrant family that supported six kids on about $40,000 per year.... I’ve spent the past year and a half meeting with residents, elected officials, and local leaders, and I know what my neighborhood wants to see in the final East New York Plan."

The City Planning Commission approved the East New York plan by a wide margin in February, and the City Council is expected to vote on the East New York rezoning plan on April 20th. The Council approved two major pillars of Mayor de Blasio's affordable housing plan last month, despite overwhelming opposition from community boards across the city.

Councilwoman Inez Barron, who also represents East New York, was one of five 'no' votes on Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), which requires developers to include a portion of below-market-rate units in their new residential projects in return for government subsidies. "I do not think that it goes deep enough or broad enough to represent the people I represent," she said.

UPDATE: "I believe there’s a real opportunity to see unprecedented levels of investment into our community through this plan, and my goal is to create as many jobs and build as many affordable housing units as possible," Espinal said in a statement.