City Council to hear testimony on de Blasio’s controversial zoning proposals
Hearings on Tuesday, Wednesday
The New York City Council will be meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday to hear public testimony regarding Mayor Bill de Blasio’s much-discussed plans to rezone sections of the city to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing.
The meetings are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at the Council Chambers at City Hall.
The city’s two proposals –Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) have been opposed by many preservation groups and have been given thumbs down by the majority of community boards across the city.
Of Brooklyn’s 18 community boards, only three voted to approve both measures. Despite this, City Planning passed ZQA and MIH on Feb. 3, with some changes.
In MIH, the city would require new construction in certain areas to include 25 percent or 30 percent to be set aside as affordable to low-and moderate-income households.
ZQA would update existing codes to allow for increased building heights and eliminate some parking requirements, with the goal of making it easier to construct permanent affordable and senior housing. The additional height would amount to no more than one or two stories, in over 95 percent of cases, according to the city.
City Planning Commission Chairman Carl Weisbrod said on Feb. 3 that ZQA is about “rationalizing zoning to reduce unnecessary costs to taxpayers and removing obstacles to the creation of affordable and senior housing, while improving housing quality.”
The New York Landmarks Conservancy, however, opposes ZQA “because it upends decades of local community planning with no guarantee of affordable housing. Instead, it opens the door for out of scale market rate development in communities that fought hard to obtain City-approved height limits,” the group said in a statement.
Among other changes, the Conservancy wants to eliminate contextual zones and historic districts from the ZQA proposal to protect them from encroachment, and tie bonuses for senior housing to permanent affordability—not the bill’s 30-year limit.
The group says that while they support the goal of the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing proposal, “the Mayor’s plan will produce apartments too expensive for residents of many areas.”
Affordability should be measured by incomes for the borough, neighborhood or census blocks – not the New York Metropolitan Area average, which is too high, they say.
In November, Brooklyn’s Community Board 10 voted down the proposals. Board members said they were concerned that any re-zoning would alter the density and scale of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights in a negative way.
“CB10 has long recognized that, although made of bricks and mortar, the character of our neighborhood is nonetheless extremely delicate and can be easily eroded without vigilance,” the board said in its statement.
In October, Anne Bush, president of the Society For Clinton Hill and Richard Norton, acting chair of the Fort Greene Association, called the proposal “a giveaway to developers.”
In a letter sent to Weisbrod, Community Board 2 and elected officials, the community groups said that if approved, the program would grant benefits to developers “without any mandatory requirement for affordable housing to be included in the larger buildings it permits, and without regard to neighborhood-specific restrictions implemented over many years at the request of … local groups like our own.”
East New York Concerns
East New York is the first of 15 neighborhoods targeted for new development. At public meetings, residents voiced concerns about whether new units would be affordable enough, and worried about a sudden influx of high-end developments.
At a Community Board 5 meeting in October, Assemblymember Charles Barron and his wife Councilmember Inez Barron presented their own plan for East New York.
They demanded that 100 percent of the 6,300 projected new units be affordable to low-income residents, and include 30 percent of units for families earning $23,000 and below, according to City Limits.
De Blasio’s version of the plan calls for 50 percent market-rate housing.
Borough President Eric Adams has also recommended a number of changes to the proposals.
“Rezonings over the past decade in Coney Island, Downtown Brooklyn, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg have left Brooklynites understandably concerned about the attention to fighting displacement and the dedication to fulfilling promised aspects of community development,” he said in a statement on Jan. 6.
“While I am generally supportive of the plan’s intent, I must also be clear in echoing a number of issues that have been raised during the public review process which, if left unaddressed, could result in unsatisfactory outcomes for all stakeholders,” Adams said.
He called for code enforcement by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and funding for free legal representation in housing court for tenants facing harassment.
Additionally, Adams said that “despite the intended initiatives, there remains much concern regarding the potential for displacement” on sites which may be attractive for future development, including approximately 90 units in Arlington Village.
He recommended a 50 percent preference for new area housing to residents of Community Districts 5 and 16, including former residents who were previously displaced.
A summary of the proposal can be found at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/about/pr092115.shtml
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