The Castle Braid vs. Occupy Bushwick Fight Has Devolved Into a Highly Entertaining, Possibly Fake Twitter Brawl
For months, there's been a battle raging in Bushwick between Castle Braid, a pricey condo building "custom-built to enable the artist," as their website puts it, and Occupy Bushwick, who accuse Castle Braid of failing to provide affordable housing, despite receiving a generous tax abatement that required them to do just that. OB also accuses Castle Braid of flooding the neighborhood with credit-card-wielding, barely post-college youngsters whose parents will offset the cost of the eyebrow-raising rents (between $1,700 and $2,200 for a one-bedroom, up to $3,300 for a three-bedroom). The local 99 percenters responded to Castle Braid's general existence by circling the property with police tape that read "Occupy" a few months back.
Image via Google Maps. Castle Braid's exterior at 114 Troutman Street in Bushwick
"They seem to be mad about a lot, including that." a representative of Occupy Bushwick, who declined to identify themselves, told us in a interview conducted through direct messages on Twitter.
Twitter, you see, has become a main character in all this. While the affordable housing question has been more or less settled (Castle Braid did get the tax abatement, and they don't provide affordable housing, a situation made possible because of a rather large loophole in how the law was written), it's given way to another set of questions. Like whether Castle Braid's slightly loopy Twitter presence is real, and whether the entire controversy has been ginned up to sell more apartments.
Let's deal first with the affordable housing aspect: Occupy Bushwick have persistently accused Castle Braid of failing to make 20 percent of its units affordable, despite getting a tax abatement that requires them to do just that. Mayer Schwartz, Castle Braid's developer, told the New York Post that's true; the paper says Schwartz "confirmed that the building got the abatement, but says owners are not required to offer low-income housing because ground was broken on the building before the rules were changed."
Even taking into account the boulder-sized grain of salt with which we read anything in the Post, that seems pretty unambiguous. Also, the city's own Department of Housing Preservation and Development has confirmed that Castle Braid isn't doing anything illegal.
The rule in question is called a 421a exemption, and it gives property owners a partial pass on property taxes under certain conditions, based on the location of the building, how the property is used, and whether it provides affordable housing. A group of unhappy tenants in the building, Anti Castle Braid, recently tweeted at HPD, asking when Castle Braid will be taken to task for failing to provide affordable units. This was HPD's response:
@AntiCastleBraid It received 421a as-of-right due to its location and when it was built and does not have an affordable housing requirement.— NYC Housing (@NYCHousing) November 27, 2013
In other words, it was never required to provide affordable housing. The rules were changed in 2011, saying that 421a buildings in Bushwick and various other areas had to include affordable housing (it's on page 2 of that PDF). But Castle Braid broke ground way before that, opening in 2010.
On Twitter, the Castle Braid Twitter account celebrated the news in its usual, rather unhinged manner.