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Judge Tosses Discrimination Suit Over Pfizer Project, Massive Project Moves Forward

A rendering of the Pfizer Project at Broadway Triangle. (NYC Planning)

Aug. 2, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez

A New York Supreme Court judge has dismissed a discrimination lawsuit filed against the developers of the massive and controversial Pfizer Project, indicating that the project will now move forward.

The lawsuit, filed in March by Churches United for Fair Housing and other groups, claimed that the Rabsky Group’s eight-building, 1,146-unit complex pegged for Broadway Triangle in South Williamsburg discriminates against people of color, and that the city, which approved the project site’s rezoning last year, failed to study the segregative impacts of it.

At the heart of the issue, according to the plaintiffs, is demonstrating to developers that the area is not for sale. In addition, opponents not only believe that the project excluded people of color from fair housing access, but claimed that it favored white and Hasidic families in the area.

But in a July 30 ruling, Judge Arthur Engoron threw out the case, writing that the court “will not stand in its way one more day.”

“This appears not to be the result of some nefarious midnight plot, but rather, the inexorable, on-the-ground realities of population growth (Hasidic) and income disparity (White compared to People of Color),” Engoron wrote.

He added: “The City needs more housing…a lot more. The Pfizer Project has already passed political-process muster; today it passes judicial-process muster.”

The ruling also lifted the temporary restraining order issued after the lawsuit was filed, which barred the Rabsky Group from building on the Pfizer site.

“We are gratified that the court has affirmed what was already decided through the city’s regulatory process: the need for housing is clear, the required approvals were properly obtained and we intend to fully execute our plan,” said Tom Corsillo, a spokesperson for the Rabsky Group. “Site prep continues, and full construction will begin soon on a development that will provide sorely needed housing – including hundreds of units of affordable housing — to the diverse communities in the area.”

A rendering of the Pfizer Project at Broadway Triangle. (NYC Planning)

Brooklyn Legal Services Corp., the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, said it was disappointed with the court’s decision, and is planning to appeal.

“Our clients remain extremely concerned that the proposed development will exacerbate segregation in North Brooklyn and impose a disparate impact upon people of color,” said Adam Meyers, attorney to the plaintiffs. “Nothing in the Court’s decision resolved these concerns, and the fact remains that the City failed to meaningfully consider racial impacts before approving the rezoning.”

He added: “Turning a blind eye toward issues of segregation is not sensible land use policy, and it’s contrary to the letter and purpose of our fair housing laws. This administration has got to do better.”

Last week’s ruling is the latest in the timeline of meetings, protests, and other legal actions  against the development since the project was unveiled in 2016.

The empty development site, with an address of 200 Harrison Ave., is bounded by Harrison and Union Avenues, and Walton and Gerry Streets. The two-block project area, once owned by the Pfizer pharmaceutical company, includes mixed-income units, with 287 apartments to be permanently affordable. The site will also have more than 400 parking spaces, and roughly 65,000 square feet of commercial space.

Part of the Pfizer development site today. (Google Maps)

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The hasidim get what they want, because no politician is willing to stand up to them.


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