Bushwick residents demand affordable housing

“No affordable housing, no construction,” was the refrain from Bushwick residents on Thursday, July 30 as they continued their fight to secure affordable housing at the redevelopment of the former Rheingold Brewery site.

Over 200 members of the community gathered at Cathedral of Joy for a town hall meeting where they demanded that the new owners of the Rheingold development site follow through with the agreed upon terms with its original owner, Read Property Group.

The town hall meeting, along with a march and sleep-in that followed, were organized, in part, by the Rheingold Construction Committee — which includes the Northwest Bushwick Community Group, Brooklyn Legal Services Corp A, St. Nick’s Alliance Workforce Development, Brooklyn Community Board 4, Los Sures Southside United, Churches United For Fair Housing, Evergreen Exchange and Catholic Migration Services.

Read Property Group had plans to create a large residential housing project, which required the site’s rezoning and approval by the Community Board, the Brooklyn Borough President’s office, the City Planning Commission and the City Council.

Former Councilwoman Diana Reyna agreed to the rezoning of the site, provided that the owners agreed to dedicate 30 percent of the units to be built for affordable housing, among other benefits for the community.

But last year Read Property Group sold a portion of the property to another developer, Rabsky Group. According to members of the Rheingold Construction Committee, Rabsky Group has made little effort to follow through on the agreement made with the former owner, or to meet with community.

“The rezoning would not have been granted without these benefits,” said Asher Freeman, policy analyst for Councilman Antonio Reynoso’s office, during a presentation. “And we cannot allow them to construct without delivering the affordable housing.”

The agreement was acknowledged in a letter from Read Property Group, but the letter does not legally bind Rabsky Group to adhere to those terms.

“So all we’re asking is for Rabsky to follow through on an agreement that we already made,” Freeman continued, “and deliver those benefits to the community.”

Reynoso promised his support to his constituents.

“I want to say something very quickly, that we do not have any legal power but we have people power, and people power is much stronger than legal power,” Reynoso said to cheers from those in attendance. “The deal that was made before with the Read Group is written on paper, and the words are not worth the paper it’s written on.”

After the meeting, the community members and leaders took to the streets of Bushwick, carrying signs and chanting as they marched from Cathedral of Joy to the Rheingold site, located at 10 Montieth St.

With the community gathered at the site, community leaders delivered a piece of good news. They had received a letter from the Rabsky Group agreeing to meet with community leaders regarding the Rheingold site.

Dozens of residents proceeded to camp out in front of the site of the future housing complex to raise awareness of the situation.

“Bushwick fully expects all standing agreements at Rheingold to be delivered. Our community is suffering from a housing crisis and we cannot afford to let developers take advantage of our vulnerabilities,” said Brigette Blood of the Northwest Bushwick Community Group in a statement. “Our community desperately needs this affordable housing to continue living our lives in our own community; a community that has long been a working-class community but with every new market-rate development shifts toward luxury for some and dispossession for the rest of us.”

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