Downtown Remains Contested Territory (Brooklyn Bureau)

City Limits launches its new affiliate site The Brooklyn Bureau today, featuring two articles by yours truly at the top. The main feature is a look at downtown Brooklyn redevelopment seven years after a controversial rezoning, which can charitably be termed a work in progress:

Joe Chan had every reason to be confident. The former aide to deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff, newly installed in 2006 as head of the business-run Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, had just watched as the Bloomberg administration pushed through a rezoning of a 22-block stretch of downtown Brooklyn intended to convert the once-sleepy government office and discount shopping district into a third central business district to complement midtown and downtown Manhattan. Already, developers had announced plans for several mixed-use towers to complement the existing MetroTech complex that opened in the early 1990s. As Chan told a reporter at the time, his mission was clear: “If our views are obscured, we’ll know we’ve done a good job.”

Seven years after the City Council approved the rezoning, the downtown Brooklyn skyline and streetscape alike have indeed changed, though not exactly in the way that Chan or his former bosses had envisioned… [read more]

Meanwhile, an accompanying sidebar takes a closer look at some of the shopkeepers who have been displaced by the changes to their neighborhood:

When the city approved an ambitious rezoning of downtown Brooklyn in 2004, Yaakov “Jack” Fuzailov didn’t think it would negatively affect his barbershop on the corner of Bridge Street and Willoughby Avenue. After all, he figured, he had a five-year lease and a verbal promise from his landlord of a five-year renewal. Even when construction for a new subway underpass tore up the streets in front of his shop, he struggled through, waiting for the day when his customers could return. “I was working for free, because I thought I could build a future,” he says. “Thinking that it will be better tomorrow.”… [read more]

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