Protesters slam Bloomberg as planners ready to examine rezonings
Protesters gather outside NYU's School of Law library Wednesday morning, hours before the Planning Commission meets there to consider controversial redevelopment plans. (Photo by David Freedlander)
Issuing a broad critique of the Bloomberg administration's plans to rezone several neighborhoods, about 100 protesters gathered outside NYU's School of Law as the City Planning Commission heard public testimony about several redevelopment plans.
Protesters included residents from Chinatown, the Lower East Side and the East Village. Also represented are business owners from Willets Point in Queens.
The Manhattan protesters argued that the redevelopment plans would push out people from already limited affordable housing. In Chinatown's case, protesters were concerned that the neighborhood wasn't included in the plans, leaving it vulnerable to out-of-scale development. The called the lack of planning for Chinatown's future "racist."
"They want to get rid of us," said Lee Wah, a longtime Chinatown resident at a makeshift news conference in front of the hearing. "Low income workers, people of color, small business owners, so they can build a luxury neighborhood."
The Willets Point concerns center on the use of eminent domain to oust auto shops and other businesses that have been in the Iron Triangle for decades.
The Willets Point plan also has major opposition in the City Council, with 31 members unified against the Bloomberg administration's proposal unless certain condition are met. Those specifications include not resorting to eminent domain, and the inclusion of more affordable housing.
The council coalition has outlined its concerns in a letter to the Planning Commission chairwoman, Amanda Burden.
Queen borough president Helen Marshall, who is in favor of the rezoning, accused the opponents of being unwilling to compromise.
"I watched the place deteriorate," she said. "They are very busy trying to stop this project from happening. They don't want to improve a thing."
The commission began the meeting at the law school's Tishman Auditorium , at 40 Washington Square South and expected it to stretch well into the evening as dozens if not hundreds of members of the general public expected to speak in favor or against the rezonings.
A spokeswoman for the planning commission, Rachaele Raynoff, said that translators in Cantonese, Mandarin, and Spanish were being provided and that people interested in testifying could check the updated schedule on their website throughout the day.
-- David Freedlander