CB #1 & BK Borough Board Upend Upzoning

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The weight of community disapproval currently tips the scale down from the mayor’s upzoning plan

Mayor de Blasio is pushing upzoning to the public and has asked them to share their approval of his affordable housing plan with NYC Council Members.  The nutshell version of the plan makes new developments allot between 20% and 30% as affordable housing. An example of the definition of affordable in this case is a household of three with an income of $62,150 a year.

CB #1 and the Brooklyn Borough Board are amongst a solid majority on the rejection of the Mayor’s two proposals: Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability in his affordable housing mandate.  All five Borough Boards have come down against the plan, and of the City’s 59 community boards 45 have opposed Zoning for Quality and Affordability with 38 turning a thumbs down to MIH.  Disapproval (or approval) from the Borough and Community Boards holds power only in an advisory capacity.  The decision is ultimately in the hands of the NYC Council and the Mayor. However these board models of the public’s voice are gaining volume. This was especially so at the City Planning Hearing held on December 14th where hundreds of people showed up to make their disapproval heard.  A popular objection to the mayor’s plan is that it is too “one-size-fits-all”.  That one of New York City’s most obvious hallmarks is diversity from neighborhood to neighborhood establishes a validity that a “one-size-fits-all” plan won’t wear well.

One of Gotham Gazette’s predictions for 2016 demonstrates the error of the “one-size-fits-all” mandate way when they cited Adam Forman (Center for an Urban Future) as saying, “East New York residents agree to a proposed rezoning on the condition that Cobble Hill and the West Village are subject to an equivalent upzoning. The entire plan is scuttled immediately.”

Along with their ‘No’ votes, each board proactively offered suggestions to the affordable housing plan that were more tailored to their area. Many also have questions as to what defines affordable. For instance in a December 14th letter addressed to Carl Weisbrod, Dept. of City Planning Director,   Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said, “The proposed MIH text amendment should include modifications incorporated by the City Planning Commission pertaining to affordability requirements: … .” in which the list of requirements that followed included location and addresses that “the Area Medium Income requires further consideration from Community Boards and City Council Member to potentially customize percentages.”

Along those lines another voice at the December 14th hearing, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said, “You’re just giving developers this template and then they can feel like they can totally disregard the specific needs based on that neighborhood and community moving forward.”

Mayor de Blasio is standing by his unprecedented plan that requires a set percentage of affordable housing units within new developments across the board.  The mayor’s office sees this as establishing a much needed baseline for negotiations with real estate developers. Mayor de Blasio has said, “The bottom line is that we’re not going to get anywhere if we don’t have a clear, strong plan that changes the rules of the game. We’re not going to allow the status quo to hold.”  In response to the claim that he is giving in to developers, Mayor de Blasio stated on the WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show (December 18, 2015), “I’ve said very clearly to [real estate developers] they have to create affordable housing going forward or we’re not going to support new development.”

There is a lot to be worked out by the time the NYC Council votes on the proposals this coming February. The public review process on the plan will continue up until this vote.


Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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