From the MTOPP
The Movement To Protect the People “MTOPP” and representatives of the Gowanus community conducted a Protest, Rally and Speak Out against Mayor de Blasio’s executive order which removed the power of the Brooklyn Supreme Court to settle disputes between the City and residents challenging the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure “ULURP”. The Mayor’s in-sensitivity to people of color who are without the means and resources to participate in virtual hearings, is just shameful. We are claiming that Mayor de Blasio does not have the authority to change the City Charter via an Executive Order which specifically targets two rezonings (Gowanus and 960 Franklin Ave) being challenged in the court, but his actions are racist and prejudiced against people of color, including the elderly, handicapped and low-to-moderate income residents in our communities.
During the COVID 19 pandemic, community groups, especially low to moderate residents of color around the city have experienced the inability to fully participate in all types of virtual online platforms. Despite this disadvantage, which specifically deprives people of color from engaging in their rights to be heard and to have their input incorporated into rezoning proposals, Mayor de Blasio decided to reinstate the Land Use Review Procedure without any accommodations to people who do not have access to internet, WiFi or even computer equipment.
Both the Gowanus Rezoning and the private rezoning of 960 Franklin Ave (rezoning along the Brooklyn Botanic Garden) applications were put on hold via Temporary Restraining Orders “TROs” that were signed by the Brooklyn Supreme Court. The City went to the Appellant 2nd Department to try to overturn these two TROs, but were rejected.
Both lawsuits made the claim that the lawful ULURP process requires in-person hearings and the virtual hearings would not allow many residents the ability to the engage in the ULURP process, denying their due process rights under the law.
In the Gowanus lawsuit they made assumptions about residents who would be prevented from participating in the ULURP process, but at the first hearing that was conducted on the 960 Franklin rezoning application, hundreds of people were denied access to the virtual hearing.
Judge Levine from the Brooklyn Supreme Court who is residing over both cases, had made it clear that she wanted the City to address the issue and find a solution for people who wished to engage in these hearings but were being deprived due to the limitations of the virtual-hearing format. The City has refused and now Mayor de Blasio decided to completely ignore over 40% of the population located in Crown Heights who don’t have access to computers, WiFi, or high-speed internet, and cancel the in-person hearings.