Community Board 9
With the looming idea of 626 Flatbush, Community Board 9 (CB9), which consists of representatives from Lefferts Gardens and other surrounding neighborhoods, held a town hall meeting to discuss the idea of zoning. Many community members that attended wanted to downzone parts of the neighborhood to prevent the further spread of gentrification. In the meeting, CB9 claimed that the community’s input would be implemented into the resolution, however, this did not happen. Pearl Miles, CB9 district manager, drafted the resolution without the approval of the community. The resolution included the idea of upzoning areas of Empire Boulevard to “increase residential and retail density along transit and commercial corridors.” This was not what the community requested because it was the complete opposite. The board claimed that upzoning Empire Boulevard would create a form of protection for other neighborhoods through contextual zoning. Contextual zoning is meant to preserve the neighborhood’s context. Many argue that the Department of City Planning had a say in the resolution proposal because it coincides with the wants of the city.
Gentrification and Racism
Race is brought up during the discussion of zoning. Alicia Boyd, founder of the anti-gentrification group Movement to Protect the People (MTOPP), claims that other neighborhoods near Prospect Park is able to downzone without having to give up areas for upzoning. The city demands that Lefferts Gardens, on the other hand, has to submit to upzoning areas of Empire Boulevard to compensate for the downzoning of Flatbush. Boyd says that this is injustice is driven by race because Lefferts Gardens is only one of the two neighborhoods that consists of a majority of non-whites. Boyd said, “We are the densest populated area in Brooklyn and the second most affordable. We don’t need or want more people. We don’t need the creation of affordable housing.” Boyd also said that if Empire Boulevard were upzoned, then this would lead to the rise of luxury towers like 626 Flatbush, multiple stories high. Upset with the resolution and the threat of more towers, MTOPP resorted to open protests.
In a Flatbush subway station, anti-white gentrification graffiti covers the walls. Messages range from “Fight white gentrification of FBush” to “Keep Flatbush black.” These messages derive from the tension zoning parameters in Brooklyn. Around Church Avenue station, from 2000 to 2012, the number of white residents increased by 4,000 while the number of black residents decreased by 10,000. This number includes both Caribbean immigrants and African Americans. Although gentrification is not obvious, the tension between the community and the city is rapidly increasing.