Sunset Parkers appeal rezoning ruling

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from Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund

Friday, Oct 14, 2011

sunset park2.jpg

Crains New York -- The war rages on in Sunset Park. Residents and local groups are appealing a court ruling that gave the city the green light to move forward with its 2009 rezoning of the Brooklyn neighborhood.

Last month, the New York State Supreme Court appellate division ruled against the group, who argued that the rezoning of 128 blocks in Sunset Park would displace low-income, immigrant residents. In 2009, the city rezoned the area to preserve the community's character with its many two- to three-story brownstones, by imposing 50-foot height limits on side streets in the area, but allowing taller residential buildings on Fourth and Seventh avenues.

"Sunset Park is an immigrant neighborhood, and they are more vulnerable to these changes," said Bethany Li, staff attorney at Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which along with South Brooklyn Legal Services is representing low-income Asian and Latino immigrants and churches in the case. "The proposed rezoning will be deeply disruptive and force families to move elsewhere."

The group, which includes the Chinese Staff and Workers' Association and five local churches, filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court against the city's Planning Department, claiming that the city failed to conduct a full-scale environmental assessment needed for the rezoning, which examines the effects of rezoning on a community. The plaintiffs lost the case, but can appeal the decision because there were two dissenting judges on the ruling last month.

"Two prior rulings have affirmed that the city's environmental review of this rezoning was proper," said Elizabeth Natrella, senior counsel in the appeals division at New York City Law Department, in a statement. "The Sunset Park rezoning process involved close collaboration with the local community and elected officials, and the city has complied with all applicable laws throughout."

The plaintiffs noted that the rezoning--which changed the 33 blocks on Third, Fourth and Seventh avenues from residential to commercial--was approved without properly disclosing the impact on the community. They argue that a real analysis of the rezoning would find that it would decrease affordable housing and commercial space in the neighborhood.

"We hope the court of appeal will agree with the two dissenting judges," said Ms. Li. "The community is demanding that the city analyze the impact and do what it is required to do by law."

Amanda Fung, Crains New York