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City Council Member Calls Pfizer Development Opponents Anti-Semitic

A City Council Member has accused opponents of the Pfizer development near the Broadway Triangle of anti-Semitism after they sent him a letter suggesting there was a conflict of interest between his place at the head of the council's land use committee and his future job at a Jewish non-profit.

The Broadway Triangle Community Coalition, a Williamsburg community group that's opposed to the development that would bring 1,146 apartments (25 percent of which would be affordable) to the lot bordered by Harrison Avenue, Gerry Street, Union Avenue and Wallabout Street, sent a letter to Council Member David Greenfield asking him to recuse himself from Land Use Committee hearings on the matter.

BTCC, which takes the position that development proposals in the Broadway Triangle favor Williamsburg's Hasidic Jewish population over nearby black and Latino populations, claims that Greenfield has a "a clear professional conflict of interest," in overseeing hearings on the proposed development because he's leaving the City Council to head up the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty. While the non-profit organization is not part of the development process for the Pfizer site, BTCC says its close relationship with the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg (which has worked to develop the Broadway Triangle) means that Greenfield can't chair the Land Use Committee in a fair manner.

"You responded to our good faith testimony on this matter of public interest with ridicule, race-baiting and derision," BTCC wrote in the letter. "For example, you ignored our evidence-based concerns that the proposed rezoning would exacerbate the documented racial segregation in the Broadway Triangle area—in Community Board 1, just north of Flushing Avenue, the population is less than five percent Black, while just south of the Flushing Avenue border, in Community Board 3, the population is majority-Black."

Greenfield told the Daily News that the city's Conflicts of Interest Board had already cleared him to chair hearings on the matter, and said the letter was "part of a clear and calculated campaign of intimidation and continued misinformation by the opponents of this private application" who he claimed had a history of "anti-Semitic remarks."

The UJO/MJCP connection came up during a hearing a couple of weeks ago in front of the City Council's Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, when a member of the BTCC testified to a potential connection between the UJO and the Rabsky Group's effort to build housing for the city's Hasidic population. When a reporter from Kings County Politics asked Greenfield if he should recuse himself, the reporter was told the question was anti-Semitic and "made veiled threats regarding his connection to the UJO and his upcoming tenure at the Met Council to the publisher of KCP, promising an intense smear campaign in the future."

At issue in the development fight is the same one that has dogged attempts to develop the Broadway Triangle for years. Specifically opponents of the plan have charged, and have been backed by federal courts, the rezoning of the area has been too tilted in favor of the kinds of apartments that would go to Hasidic residents who have larger families. The Rabsky Group, which has also been criticized for only including 20 percent affordable units in a nearby Bushwick development, has not yet said what the breakdown of affordable units would be included in the Pfizer site.

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