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Bushwick Council Member Issues Requirements For Developers Pitching Rezonings

Bushwick, in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, has seen intense displacement of Black and Latino residents in recent years amid rapid development and gentrification.

Jennifer Gutiérrez, the New York City Council member for a stretch of Brooklyn that has gentrified rapidly over the past decade, has laid down new guidelines for developers hoping to pitch projects in her district.

In a document published Monday, Gutiérrez says that proposed developments for District 34, which spans Bushwick, Williamsburg and parts of Ridgewood, should not result in the loss of rent-stabilized or income-restricted units.

Projects should maximize “deeply affordable housing at 50% [of area median income] and below in order to create opportunities for those with the greatest need, who have been increasingly displaced in District 34,” the guidelines read.

“Real estate speculation, rising rents, loss of rent-stabilized housing, and new developments with out-of-reach ‘affordable housing’ have left families that have called Bushwick, Williamsburg, and Ridgewood home for decades with no other option than to pack up and relocate,” Gutiérrez said in a statement accompanying the guidelines.

Gutiérrez’s guidelines didn’t offer specific standards for the percentage of affordable housing units that new developments should offer if seeking rezoning. Instead, the recommendation says that land use applications should seek to address deep affordability issues, and could include 100% income-restricted developments using city subsidies.

Gutiérrez told City Limits her proposal was based on the blueprint developed in 2014 by former council members Antonio Reynoso and Rafael Espinal along with Brooklyn Community Board 4, local organizations and residents.

“Communities should be planning the preservation of their communities and we as elected officials should elevate that,” Gutiérrez told City Limits. “I have three neighborhoods that I have to protect and I hear from constituents daily about how unaffordable it is.”

Many developments’ futures in New York City are decided by member deference — where council members will vote in the same way as the representative whose district a development will be in. The result is effective veto power, with individual council members responsible for guaranteeing a development’s future.

This year alone, member deference has decided the fates of high-profile developments in Brooklyn and Queens.

Council member Crystal Hudson successfully pushed for more affordable housing in the Crown Heights neighborhood, while more recently Tiffany Cabán voted in favor of a Hallets Point megadevelopment that is designed to bring deep affordability to the neighborhood. Last week, Julie Won gave approval to Innovation QNS, which will bring thousands of units to Astoria, after getting developers to agree to make half the units income-restricted.

District 34 has seen rampant development and displacement over the past decade, Gutiérrez said in her statement. Black and Latino tenants have been increasingly pushed out of Bushwick, Williamsburg and Ridgewood during this period as a result of landlords raising rents — despite continued housing development in the area, City Limits reported.

Roughly a quarter of District 34’s residents live below the poverty line, while approximately 55% spend more than a third of their income on housing, according to City Limits. Median rents in Bushwick have nearly doubled from 2000 to this year, according to data from the NYU Furman Center.

Fewer than 1,900 new housing units were built in Gutiérrez’s district between 2013 and 2021, according to policy group New York Housing Conference. Meanwhile, the Furman Center found that while more than 11,000 new housing units were built from 2006 to 2019, home sale prices per-unit tripled between 2006 and 2021, according to City Limits.