From Rezoned--stats are in bold, but the whole thing is worth reading.
How to Put Out a Fire Without the Hose; Community Struggles to Reconcile
Tim Curry remembers the first time Engine Ladder 212 closed. As
Williamsburg's manufacturing core withered in the 1970s, the neighborhood
faced an increase in arson and crime. The city, embroiled in a fiscal
crisis, tried to close the firehouse.
Community activists responded by occupying the shuttered building on Wythe
Ave. for 16 months in a successful campaign to keep it open. A city official
called off attempts to remove protestors and said the fire station was "the
"I was part of that struggle," said Curry, now a systems analyst for the
city's human resources department.
When the city, responding to budget cuts, closed the firehouse again in
2003, defiant natives of Williamsburg held all-night vigils. But outside of
a small group of concerned residents, the activist spirit was missing,
according to Curry.
For a community that has fought to keep waste transfer stations from
appearing on Williamsburg's now precious waterfront, it's not uncommon for
long-time residents to take things personally. But with an increasing
transient population of artists and Manhattan transplants, that spirit may
"Most of these newcomers, I don't even know if they intend to have roots,"
he said. "I wish some of the newer residents would show up the community
board meetings."The population of Greenpoint-Williamsburg has increased from 142,942 to
160,338 in the last 20 years, according the U.S. Census Bureau. But with a
projected influx of 30,000 to 40,000 new residents in the next 10 years,
some community activists fear that the Department of City Planning failed to
properly account for it in its infrastructure plans.
"We said you're not looking at infrastructure. You're not looking at schools
in the community. We don't even have a hospital here," said Phil Depaolo of
the People's Firehouse, community tenant rights group that takes the name of
the shuttered firehouse.
Greenpoint Hospital closed in the 1980s, and Depaolo says the neighborhood
now depends on ambulances from Woodhull Hospital, located on the edge of
Bushwick, and Bellevue Hospital on 34th Street in Manhattan.
"Planning reacts, and for the most part, acquiesces to what the development
community wants to do."
- Lance FreemanThe L train, which services an average daily ridership of 14,000, will have
to accommodate the new commuters. In its Environmental Impact Statement, DCP
proposed adding 1,000 new daily subway trips and enlarging the stairways for
the Bedford Ave. stop by three to five feet. According to the report, the
additional two feet would accommodate 300 more people over a period of 15
Additionally, the neighborhood suffers from an acute shortage of parks, open
space and waterfront access. Under the current zoning plans, the developers
who own the largest parcels on the waterfront are responsible for building
the proposed public esplanade. The one-half-acre Grand Ferry Park at the
foot of Grand Street is the only city park on the East River in
Williamsburg. Street ends provide the only public waterfront access.
Lance Freeman, a professor of urban planning at Columbia University, says a
more comprehensive analysis of the rezoning's impact on schools and services
should have been done. But he believes that City Planning's duties no longer
include actual "planning."
"The planning department has almost morphed into a permit approval office,"
said Freeman. "Planning reacts, and, for the most part, acquiesces to what
the development community wants to do."
For Depaolo, the real problems are occurring, not on the waterfront, but in
the upland areas where community residents live. And so far, DCP has not
given community residents the answers they seek.
"What they came up with in the rezoning, which is your classic political
punt, is that after 25 percent of the infrastructure is developed, they will
revisit the issue."