Friday, July 25, 2008

Pratt Weighs in on Downtown Brooklyn

In a recent post I discussed the changes that are taking place in Downtown Brooklyn since the rezoning. The Pratt Center just released this report looking at the negative impacts that the rezoning has had on housing and businesses in the area. Here are the highlights:
1) Redeveloping Downtown Brooklyn is displacing businesses and jobs. While the EIS analysis estimated that 100 businesses—and 1,700 jobs---would be directly displaced by new development, it concluded that this does not constitute a “significant adverse impact.” To date over 100 businesses in the rezoning area have already been displaced.

2) The Downtown Brooklyn EIS analysis understates the potential for business displacement. The jobs that currently exist within designated urban renewal areas are not included in the 1,700 count of potentially lost jobs because in theory, those businesses are subject to displacement by the accompanying urban renewal plan. This methodology renders the count misleading and provides an understated picture of current and future business displacement.

3) An on-the-ground look at small business displacement reveals adverse impacts for many people who shop, work and do business in Downtown Brooklyn. As landowners clear out small businesses located on future development sites, moderate- income office workers find that the shops they have patronized for years are gone. Also, as small businesses get displaced, the character of Downtown Brooklyn—particularly the Fulton Street Mall--as a shopping destination for low and moderate-income households is being threatened.

4) Contrary to the expectations of city officials and the intentions of the Downtown Brooklyn Plan, housing has been the predominant type of development as of late.
This has two major implications: the thousands of office jobs that were expected to come online in Downtown Brooklyn have not materialized, and the area is becoming more of a residential neighborhood than before. However, most of the new housing units being created are market-rate and/or luxury and are therefore out of the economic reach of FUREE’s stakeholders.

5) Redeveloping Downtown Brooklyn threatens the long-term existence of a small residential community. The EIS analysis estimated that 386 residents living in about 130 housing units are subject to direct displacement if anticipated development on projected development sites occurs. Many of these units are in rent stabilized buildings, and their removal reduces the overall supply of affordable housing in New York City. The rezoning included no provisions to create or preserve affordable housing, and fewer than 800 below-market-rate units are being built in downtown Brooklyn.

6) As Downtown Brooklyn undergoes more development, impacts on neighborhood character will be significant and will affect many stakeholders’ sense of history and culture. While the EIS analysis has a very narrow perspective on the neighborhood’s historical significance and character and how they are expected to change, the new residents and workers who are expected to come to the area will create significant impacts.

This is the next logical step in urban evolution. While development and growth themselves are not bad, I would argue, the way they are used and implemented can create negative impacts. Unfortunately, once the FEIS is done, nobody seems to care about how the project is implemented and tracking the current impacts that are having an affect on people's daily lives. The rezoning is only the first step, in what should be, a long process and dialogue between the city, businesses, and residents.

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