Land use policy has a history of outright racism and exclusion. Not too long ago property owners in some neighborhoods used covenants to exclude minorities, placing clauses on deeds that explicitly forbade rental or sale to specific groups. Flatbush looms large in this history. The first exclusionary covenants in the country were used in the development of Lefferts Manor.
And while those covenants do not have specific language about race we know there is embedded and problematic language there, the same in our current land use policy. Specifically, the way it is used by those with power and privilege, there is a persistent problem there. You can choose to not see it that way and read these policies as neutral, but I think that ignores the systematic patterns of exclusion, segregation, and a fundamental imbalance of power and resources when it comes to the enforcement of land use policy in our district and the city at large.
I am an architect and I love the Victorian designs on both sides of Flatbush Avenue. But if our neighborhood does not offer housing options that are affordable to people of many incomes. Do we just accept this?
Do we ask lower income folks to figure it out on their own?
It doesn’t have to be this way!
We must look to simple executable solutions like basement/cellar apartments; which create opportunities for lower income home seekers while offering small landlords a lifeline in these trying times. We can maintain the stunning structures while potentially adding thousands of housing units.
I do not believe in abolishing zoning. I think these laws can be refashioned as a pathway to equity and protecting our neighborhood. We can use it to stabilize out of control design. It doesn’t have to be exclusionary. We have begun to see some neighbors in East Flatbush fight to preserve their middle class neighborhood by seeking landmarking. Zoning isn’t the enemy. Secret deals and lack of transparency are.
Flatbush deserves leadership that will not make backroom deals with Big Real Estate.
Flatbush Deserves Better!