In a highly contentious July decision, Brooklyn's Community Board 1 voted to convert a 31-acre area zoned for manufacturing on the border of Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant into 1,895 low-rise apartments—905 of which would charge below-market rate rents. Opponents say the buildings would be too small and accuse the city of awarding housing contracts to non-profits tied to influential Assemblyman Vito Lopez—the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and the Bushwick Ridgewood Senior Citizens Council—without putting the sites up for bid.
Another objection? The city plans to use eminent domain to force five property owners to sell, and another 14 businesses will probably be zoned out now that the area is no longer devoted to manufacturing. Anyone familiar with the Willets Point and Atlantic Yards development wars won't be surprised that legal battles are looming. Today the Daily News takes a close look at the individuals who would be displaced. They include Ernie Wong, 33, whose immigrant parents started a restaurant equipment supply business in Broadway Triangle back in 1989. He says that back then "the streets were rampant with drug dealers, prostitutes, crack vials on the floor. Now that the area's much nicer, the city wants to come in. It's wrong... I'm just living in limbo."
Sara Gelb, 52, started Excellent Bus Service with her husband 25 years ago, and while she agrees that the neighborhood needs affordable housing, she points out that jobs are kinda important, too. She tells the Daily News, "I don't know what we're going to do. I still can't believe that they could actually take away somebody's property." (Paging Daniel Goldstein!) And Aaron Jacobowitz, 44, says it took him 14 years to build up a customer base for his Bartlett Street flower shop; relocating would send him back to the drawing board. He calls the plan "a back-room deal" and vows: "We're determined to fight it all the way to the end."