Community Board 9 gaveled into session under new leadership Tuesday night and engaged in a heated debate over a proposal, favored by Mayor de Blasio, to legalize some basement apartments.
The meeting was the first under new Chairman Ralph Gonzalez, who was elected by the board last month.
The Land Use Committee put before the panel a letter opposing any attempt to legalize basement apartments for a vote. The committee’s co-chairpersons, Sylvia Hack and Sherman Kane, both oppose any plan to legalize such apartments in the city.
Neighborhoods covered by CB 9 have long been notorious for being populated with illegal basement and attic apartments and some longtime board members argued that legalizing those units would only exacerbate them.
“We have to make a statement to everyone that we will not tolerate basement and attic apartments because of the greed of landlords,” said member Maria Thomson, who further noted the dangers such apartments pose to residents and firefighters in the event of a house fire and the strain illegal units put on schools and traffic.
Hack said she opposes basement apartments, though she generally supports de Blasio’s call for more affordable housing.
“People deserve better housing in a dignified way,” she said. “They shouldn’t be just thrown into a basement.”
But there was staunch opposition to the letter among many board members, notably Richard David, the newly appointed chairman of the newly created Economic Development Committee. While noting that the letter was not as harsh as previous rhetoric from the committee, he still opposed it.
“I think this resolution falls very short to what would be a positive response to the issue,” he said. “This letter contains a lot of emotions, but not a lot of facts.”
The letter calls for a feasibility study to examine the effect of legalizing basement apartments, but David said that seemed irrelevant since the letter already opposes the proposal entirely.
The board ultimately voted down the letter 22-20 with four abstentions.
Etienne David Adorno, the chairman of the newly created Budget and Finance Committee, noted that in some homes, basements and attics are occupied by family members, especially among larger families, and not rented out. He voted no.
“What if it were your nephew or cousin living there and not paying rent?” he asked.
Also during the meeting, the board overwhelmingly backed a resolution from the Education Committee opposing co-locations of charter schools. The only no vote was from Thomson.
One proposed charter school, to be located in a former church in Woodhaven, was also brought up during the discussion. Joel Kuzai of Woodhaven asked the Transportation Committee to investigate school bus loading and unloading plans for the school’s permanent home on Jamaica Avenue.
The board also unanimously approved a motion supporting the co-naming of 108th Street and Park Lane South after Richmond Hill resident Jack Maple, former deputy police commissioner for crime control strategies who is best known for creating CompStat. Maple, who died in 2001, grew up on that corner, right across from Forest Park.
CB 9 also welcomed four new members to the board — Cheryl Alexander, Kamal Bhuiyan, Laraine Fletcher and Jarnail Singh.