The spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. was with the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition as they stood on the steps of City Hall and asked Mayor Bill de Blasio to take action to reverse ongoing residential segregation and discrimination in the Broadway Triangle Urban Renewal Area. This area in Brooklyn is the largest piece of vacant land available for affordable housing in the borough. The Broadway Triangle Community Coalition, Brooklyn community leaders, and local government representatives aligned together to call the Mayor to task on his granting of permits to the private developers who persist in building exclusionary housing for a segment of the Hasidic Jewish community, which excludes African American and Latino tenants among others.
This issue took root in December of 2009 when the City of New York rezoned the Broadway Triangle as a residential zone from a manufacturing one. Broadway Triangle Community Coalition had the prescience to know that this rezoning could perpetuate the residential segregation in the area and would shut out potential Latino and African-American residents — they sued the City of New York under federal and local fair housing laws. In January 2012, the State Supreme Court granted the Coalition’s motion for a preliminary injunction, yet the Bloomberg Administration permitted private developers to continue building housing that would go to a portion of the Hasidic community.
Mayor de Blasio’s promises of fair housing elevated the hopes of the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition, however the mayor has yet to take advantage of the lawsuit to correct a discriminatory rezoning and implement his vision of fair housing.
Supporters with their signs and banners from Southside United HDFC Los Sures walked proudly with purpose from the west entrance of City Hall Park to join forces with the El Puente and the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition supporters. Those not holding these banners held signs that urged Mayor de Blasio to “Make Your Move” and to “Use the Law Suit to Stop Segregated Housing” amidst the many written cries for “Fair Housing”.
Juan Ramos, Chair of the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition, took to the podium first and, like all the speakers who followed, started with the words, “Happy Birthday Martin Luther King, Jr.!” Then Mr. Ramos directed his words to the mayor, “We call upon you to make good on your promises. We voted for you because we believed you.”
Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna, as did the majority of the speakers, mentioned that she grew up in Williamsburg, which gave gravitas to her words when she spoke about seeing the development in the neighborhood firsthand. She also said these hopeful words, “I believe the Mayor has the power to bring about change.”
“It’s happening for one community not all communities,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. Words that give a clear illustration of the unfair practices that the city continues to allow.
Martin Needelman, from Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, fueled the brio for justice, “We have to have inclusionary housing that’s for everybody. The mayor has to take advantage of the law suit and make the change NOW!”
Another speaker now resides over the East River from Williamsburg. Councilmember Rosie Mendez may represent the Lower East Side now, but she was also raised in Williamsburg Brooklyn. “He’s my godfather!” she pointed to Juan Ramos. She continued, “I’m here not just as a councilmember I’m here as someone who was born and raised in Williamsburg Brooklyn. I’m here even though I do not live in Williamsburg anymore. I love my neighborhood. I love my community.”
One of the final speakers was Ramon Peguero, Executive Director of Southside United HDFC Los Sures. He reminded the mayor, “The honeymoon is almost over. It is time for him to give us hope.”