Brooklyn baulks at plan for flats

Two weeks ago, Brooklyn residents demonstrated against illegal buildings, over development of the community and other crime-related issues.

Brooklyn residents, a civic group and the ward councillor have all voiced opposition to a plan for a two-storey block of flats on municipal land in the area.

The public has until Monday June 5 to comment on the plan to build the 64-unit block, with 21 parking bays, on a 4 390m² general-residential-zoned site, on the corner of Mill and Amsterdam streets.

Justin Kumlehn, the chairman of the Brooklyn, Ysterplaat, and Rugby, Residents’ Association (BYRRA), says the development looks different to what the City initially described as a “safe space” for the homeless.

According to a City document, dated March 9 of this year, the land was going to be used as relocation site for squatters from the tented camps that sprang up across the metro during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But now a new City application, dated April 25, refers to the plans for the “affordable housing” flats and parking bays.

Mr Kumlehn said the BYRRA had supported the original plan but not the plan for the flats.

“This new development, which has now come to light, does not have the support of BYRRA, and we are currently formulating a formal objection to council. We have also submitted a formal complaint to the sub-council manager and chairperson with regards to the councillor ‘misleading’ us. The councillor has stated publicly that he was not aware of the change until the community raised it and was essentially blind-sided by the officials,” he said.

Mr Kumlehn said officials had ignored the community’s needs and the problems such a development would bring to the area.

“Things such as additional traffic and crime,“ he said. ”Just view the crime stats for the three camps they want to move here.“

Mr Kumlehn said the association had supported the original plan “based on what was presented and the severe need for a safe space for the homeless”.

The initial document did not say how many people would be accommodated on the site.

Brooklyn resident Fay Vogel has vowed to object to the planned development.

“The City is trying to bamboozle the community by telling us about one plan and then coming up with another one soon after, in the same place. Residents have lost faith in the City because of all the red tape. This is going to be a huge problem.

“There were homeless people on that land. They were chased out and now that something is going to be built, there will be huge problems. What about the people they just removed?

“Brooklyn is becoming a slum. Our property values will drop; we have enough problems with sewer-pipe bursts, illegal dumping, illegal buildings, etc. We don’t need this to add more troubles.”

Another resident, Gloria Kingsley, accused the City of steamrolling over public objections.

“I feel like no matter how many objections and comments residents bring up to the council, we will still see this building go up in a few years. They simply don’t care about how this will affect us. But what did we expect anyway? The City can barely clean our streets. There’s rubbish everywhere. There’s always an issue here we have to deal with. I’ve thought for years about moving out of this place.“

The application felt like a slap in the face from the City as it had come to light just days after residents had protested about illegal buildings in the area, she said (“Call for action against dodgy developers,“ Tabletalk, May 10).

Responding to questions by WhatsApp, ward councillor Fabian Ah-Sing said he had supported the original “safe space” plan but could not back the new proposal.

“I’m not in support of it. I’m busy liaising with officials at this point regarding this. I will also release a statement in due course about this as I get more information in the next week or so for further clarity.“

He did not respond to a question asking him to explain why he objected to the development.

Tabletalk emailed questions to the City on Friday when we heard of residents’ plans to object to the application. However, there was no response from the City by deadline.

The public can lodge objections or comments on the City’s website.