NYC Councilmember Lincoln Restler (D33) represents a district that stretches from Boerum Hill and Downtown Brooklyn to Williamsburg and Greenpoint – neighborhoods that have seen remarkable change over the past decade. “What I hope is that when new businesses come to our district we can prioritize the hiring of our local residents, and especially our public housing residents who have not benefited from all this growth. We’re seeing a lot of residential development and it’s time to start creating a sense of community. It’s time to build a civic association so we can look out for the needs of the residents. We’ve added 50,000 people in the 33rd District in the past 10 years – the most of any district in New York. As we look forward, we want every neighborhood to be a part of the growth. We want to prioritize affordable housing initiatives.”
Crystal Hudson, NYC Councilmember for District 35, painted the picture from her perspective as a lifelong resident of Fort Greene: “I’m young, I’m black, I’m gay, and I’m very progressive. We know we need to build – we know we have a housing crisis. When I talk about development, we have to do it differently than we’ve done before. My district has lost 10% of its black population in the last 10 years. It’s incumbent upon me to make sure that black people are centered in everything that we do.”
Marking the timing of the event, Regina Myer posed the question: “What have each of you done in your first 100 days?” Responses were as follows:
CM Hudson: “We have a very highly engaged district. Constituent services is always the number one thing. For the first 30+ days, we focused on refining our programs and services. The pandemic eviction moratorium expired without consideration for how it would impact everyday New Yorkers. Then we started focusing more on policy and legislation. We are all thinking about how to make New York City the premiere city to age in. This should be a city where everybody feels comfortable getting older – how are we making it easier for folks to grow older here? I also don’t think it’s responsible to put up building after building without consideration for the neighborhood. Let’s develop the whole Atlantic Avenue corridor, but let’s do it responsibly in ways that engage the community. When residents see new buildings, they might ask “Who put them here? What’s coming for me?” And the answer is usually “nothing.”
BP Reynoso: “I want to be the Borough President who talks to the local Councilmembers! I’m the chief promotor of Brooklyn. I’m here to push a positive energy.”
CM Restler: “My role has been simple: to help every person know that we’re the place to call for help. It is a moment of transition for city government as a whole. It is a new moment in New York City, and transitions take time. How do we think about making our neighborhoods truly safe places to be? Making sure we’re actually investing in our communities is first and foremost. We’re also trying to reduce non-essential helicopters and crack down on placard abuse.”
The electeds then fielded questions from attendees:
Q: How will you prioritize transit infrastructure?
BP Reynoso: “All roads lead to Downtown Brooklyn. The bus routes are a disaster and should be much more streamlined and efficient. I’ve mentioned my priorities on pedestrian infrastructure and actual protected bike lines. We need to better invest in our transit infrastructure – for the subways, that means partnerships with station managers to improve the cleanliness and safety of our stations. Push the MTA to invest in the quality of our infrastructure. Work to expand ADA accessibility in each of our stations. Our subways and our arts are the two things that make NYC spectacular.”
Q: How do we delink zoning with development?
BP Reynoso: “Separate the politics. It is the responsibility of the city to meet infrastructural needs. Attaching the capital budget to development is not sustainable for a city that is being affected by climate change. If it’s in the comprehensive plan, you should do it. It also takes away from the idea that rich neighborhoods should do all the work – affordable housing needs should be met by all of Brooklyn.”
Q: The bulk of development is occurring with private capital. What are some concrete changes to zoning that could connect private investors vs. the people who feel impacted by it?
CM Hudson: “The ULURP process is designed to keep select people in the room, and to keep many people out. There are a lot of people who want development and want their needs met, and it is incumbent on us to figure out how to make that happen. I avoid talking about zoning. People are not part of the process and they’ve been left out of the process deliberately. We need to come with a clean slate and ask community members what they want. Change the process. What I’m talking about is engaging community in a way they’ve literally never been engaged with before. Community Boards are not representative – they are made of highly engaged residents who have the leisure time to volunteer every day. More people would like to be engaged but can’t because they’re trying to put food on the table for their kids. The process is flawed.”
BP Reynoso: “The ULURP process does not care about Community Boards. If we resourced the Community Board process, this would be a different conversation.”
CM Restler: “For the developers out there, if you want to pursue ULURP, engage us early prior to certification. I’m not here to fight you every step of the way. I’m here to work collaboratively.”