Bay Ridge

Gentile discusses why he supports De Blasio affordable housing plan

March 22, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Vincent Gentile says much of Bay Ridge will be left undisturbed by the mayor’s affordable housing plan. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas
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On the eve of a City Council vote on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s mammoth affordable housing plan, Councilmember Vincent Gentile appeared before the Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights community board and explained his reasoning for coming out in support of the controversial plan.

Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) told Community Board 10 Monday night that he was swayed by the fact that the council was able to negotiate with the de Blasio Administration to get significant changes made to the mayor’s original blueprint, including opening up the definition of affordable housing to cover more of the city’s middle class.

Under the new version of the plan, a middle class option is included, according to Gentile, who said that now, a family of three earning between $95,000 and $100,000 a year would still be eligible to qualify for affordable housing units in certain buildings.

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“We had to fight for that,” Gentile told the community board during a presentation he made at the board meeting at the Norwegian Christian Home and Health Center at 1250 67th St. in Dyker Heights.

In November, Community Board 10, like nearly every other community board in the city, voted to strongly recommend that the City Council turn the plan down.

At the time, Community Board 10 members expressed concern that zoning laws would be changed to allow high-rise buildings to be constructed in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, two neighborhoods containing large tracts of low-density housing with many one and two-family detached and semi-detached homes.

Gentile sought to assure the community board that it’s not the case. The proposal the council was set to vote on “is a different document than the one you considered in November,” he told the board.

The mayor’s affordable housing plan, which is made up of two proposals — Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning For Quality and Affordability — was scheduled to come up for a vote by the full City Council on Tuesday. Last week, the plan sailed through the council’s Committee on Land Use.

Gentile said Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (a plan that would mandate property owners to set aside a certain percentage of units for affordable housing when constructing new buildings) would not apply to the Community Board 10 area unless Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights were to be up-zoned (re-zoned to allow for higher density). “I don’t think anyone here anticipates any up-zoning any time soon,” he said.

The council also negotiated changes in Zoning For Quality and Affordability (ZQA), according to Gentile, who said that much of ZQA does not affect Community Board 10, since Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights are contextual zoning districts. Contextual zoning districts are not included in the plan, he said.

Contextual zoning districts are neighborhoods in which the height and bulk of new buildings, their setback from the street line, and their width along the street frontage are all carefully regulated to ensure that new structures are consistent with the look of existing buildings in the community, according to the Department of City Planning website.

The de Blasio plan does allow for construction of new housing for senior citizens in R-2 and R-3 zoning districts (areas with low-density buildings) to be 65 feet in height. Gentile said the council got the administration to change the 65 foot height allowance to include only those properties that are not currently zoned for residential use.

Another reason for Gentile’s support of the plan: Community Board 10 is not considered a “transit zone,” meaning that if new senior citizen housing is constructed, the developers would still be required to construct off-street parking for the residents.

Transit zones are those considered to have adequate bus and subway options. Developers in these zones would not have to build on-site parking lots.

Community Board 10 Chairman Brian Kieran praised the work Gentile and the council did to make the de Blasio plan more amenable. Kieran said the compromises outlined by Gentile at Monday’s meeting “only scratched the surface” of the work done by the council.

Gentile admitted that council members spent “a lot of late nights over the last week and a half” negotiating with the administration.

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