The Vinny Abate Era officially came to a close on Tuesday night in Williamsburg, after a turbulent meeting that had to be one of the wilder ones in the chairman’s nearly 30-year tenure. The night’s agenda included the city’s controversial Broadway Triangle plan, the city’s controversial Kent Ave bike lane plan, and the closely-contested (but not as controversial) election of Abate’s successor.
The meeting began with a raucous protest, thanks to the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition, which drowned out a presentation on the city’s plan for Broadway Triangle with about 50 chanting protesters (and one small bullhorn). The BTCC would like to see 25-story buildings on a 40-acre section of land, in order to maximize the affordable housing available on the property. The city has proposed a roughly 20-acre rezoning with 8-story buildings. More on that whole story here.
After a brief lull, it was time for the Kent Ave bike lane, where the dissidents were less coordinated, but nearly as disruptive. Several vocal opponents loudly jeered the revised DOT plan, which would convert Kent Ave to a one-way street and divert truck traffic along North 11th St. More on that here.
Neither the Broadway Triangle nor the Kent Ave plan was resolved with a vote, meaning the new chair would get the pleasure of presiding over more of each issue in the future. After some dramatic tension, Chris Olechowski triumphed over Mieszko Kalita.
“You kind of wonder if this is one of these frat initiations,” Olechowski told the WG with a laugh. “But no it’s not, this is real,” he continued. “What I’ve seen here today between the issue of the Broadway Triangle and the concerns over transportation, what stands out most is that people feel frustrated because city agencies that are guided by the mayor, in effect, are driving policies from the top down.” He said he would like to see more transparency from the city so board members can compare plans — and their alternatives — side by side.
Asked how he thought his last meeting went, after he had presided over these meetings since 1980, Abate replied: “Good.” He added that people should be more respectful of each other.
The outgoing chairman said he will continue to serve on the community board, but — for the first time since he was 13 years old — he did not want to be running any meetings for any local organizations. “For once in my life, I want to sit in the back and throw stones at the chairman,” he said.