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Know Your Rights
Source: The Brooklyn Paper
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

B’wick residents protest tax breaks for ‘Colony’ apartment building

State lawmakers must abandon an antiquated law that offers developers tax breaks to build in outer boroughs, say a group of housing activists and longtime Bushwick residents who marched in front of the controversial Colony 1209 luxury apartment building on Tuesday morning. The protesters say the offending building — which advertises itself as a “homestead” for “like-minded settlers” — is one of the most egregious example of how the law is bankrolling gentrification in Bushwick and beyond.

“The building is absolutely disgusting and it is one thing to just be troublesome, but this building is doing it on the taxpayer’s dollar,” said Jose Lopez, a spokesman for community organization Make the Road, which organized the rally and march.

The group says the law — officially known as 421–a — was helpful in the 1970s, when few new New York City residents wanted to venture into the crime-ridden borough, but it has now overstayed its welcome.

“This program is bad for New Yorkers,” said Lopez. “It is supposed to bring in affordable housing, but it absolutely does not do that.”

The tax abatement program will expire on June 15, and the activists are asking the state to not renew it.

Colony 1209, which is on Dekalb Avenue between Bushwick and Evergreen avenues, advertises itself as an oasis in the new frontier of Bushwick — as though it were a vast wasteland that has not been inhabited by residents since the days of Breuckelen.

“Here in bohemian Bushwick, Brooklyn, you’ll find a group of like-minded settlers, mixing the customs of their original homeland with those of one of NYC’s most historic neighborhoods to create art, community, and a new lifestyle,” the building’s site says over images of stainless steel kitchen appliances and faux-industrial light fixtures.

The developers of the building, where a two-bedroom apartment rents for $3,200 a month, will save more than $8 million in forgiven tax payments over 15 years because of the law, according to Make the Road. But the neighborhood gets nothing in return, said a spokesman for another community housing group.

“They are getting a free ride and these neighborhoods are getting no affordable housing out of it,” said Buno Daniel, lead organizer for Churches United for Fair Housing, which was also present at the rally. “If a developer cannot build without a subsidy, then they are not fit to build housing here.”

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