CB 11 rejects city’s big rezoning plans 1

A slide from the city’s presentation of its plan to increase the amount of housing labeled affordable in Queens and citywide. CB 11 wasn’t buying it, overwhelmingly siding instead with resident Paul Graziano, inset, who said the plan would damage communities.

Following a lengthy presentation at Monday night’s meeting by Steven Everett, representing the Department of City Planning, and what amounted to a rebuttal from urban planner Paul Graziano, members of Community Board 11 nearly unanimously voted down two proposed changes to the city’s Zoning Resolution.

On Sept. 21, the DCP officially launched the public review period for the proposals, which it claims are “designed to promote production of more affordable housing in better quality buildings,” as well as to “foster more vibrant, inclusive, livable and diverse neighborhoods.”

According to the DCP, its proposals would work together with other initiatives to achieve key goals of Housing New York, Mayor di Blasio’s 10-year plan to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing.

One proposal, known as the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Text Amendment, would require through zoning that when City Planning Commission actions create significant new housing capacity in medium- and high-density areas, either 25 or 30 per cent of new housing would be permanently “affordable.”

Under the proposal, the CPC and, ultimately, the City Council, would apply at least one of the following requirements to each MIH area:

• 25 per cent of residential floor area must be for affordable housing units for residents with incomes averaging 60 per cent of the area median income ($46,620 for a family of three); or

• 30 per cent of residential floor area must be for affordable housing units for residents with incomes averaging 80 per cent of the area median income ($62,150 for a family of three).

The DCP indicates that MIH is intended to promote economic diversity in neighborhoods where the city plans for growth by ensuring that new housing meets the needs of a wider range of New Yorkers.

According to the department, as “enabling legislation,” the proposed text amendment would establish a framework that could then be applied as neighborhoods are rezoned throughout the city.

The second proposal, the Zoning for Quality and Affordability Text Amendment, would amend zoning regulations to encourage better buildings and accommodate the needs of mixed-income people and affordable housing, according to the DCP.

The department indicates that the proposal would also “allow taxpayer dollars and investments that go into affordable housing and senior housing under Housing New York to go further.”

The plan would encourage developers in medium- and high-density districts to provide buildings with ground floors that would include better space for retail where permitted and a better relationship to the street, by allowing more height, which, in over 95 percent of areas, would be no more than 5 feet.

Other key changes under the proposal would allow for limited additional height — no more than one or two stories in over 95 percent of cases — to fit the additional floor area allowed for buildings providing affordable senior housing in areas designated for it, and make parking optional for new affordable housing units in transit-accessible areas.

According to the DCP, the proposal would make it easier to provide the range of senior housing and care facilities needed to meet the needs of an aging population as well as help seniors remain in their communities.

The department’s website indicates that the “proposal would not rezone any area, grant any additional market rate floor area, or have an effect on as-of-right development in one- and two-story zoning districts.”

According to Graziano, who focused his comments primarily on the ZQA proposal, the plan means to “eviscerate the very things that civic organizations, community boards and other groups have fought for, sometimes for decades, to protect our neighborhoods from out-of-scale and inappropriate development.”

In his analysis, Graziano indicated that the proposal would be a “total violation of the expectations of rational and reasonable development in contextual neighborhoods throughout New York City.”

According to him, the proposed changes may best be described as “a giveaway to developers under the guise of promoting increased affordable and senior housing.”

In fact, he suggests, “many of the proposed changes have nothing to do with either and are included to help developers realize more buildable floor area in their projects.”

If the proposed changes are adopted, Graziano believes they will “create buildings that will be higher, bulkier and have more units as-of-right, and even more so for affordable and senior housing.”

In a letter to the CPC’s chairman, Carl Weisbrod, dated March 25, 2015, a copy of which was obtained by the Chronicle, Graziano said that the proposal would “upend decades of careful work, negotiations and an unspoken contract between our neighborhoods and New York City’s government and elected officials.”

The letter goes on to state that if the proposal is adopted as is, “it will quickly undo decades of careful progress in protecting neighborhoods around New York City from as-of-right overdevelopment.”

In anticipation of the board’s discussion on Monday night, member Henry Euler provided an estimated 300 signed petitions in opposition to the new zoning proposal. In part, the petition states, “We oppose a proposal that will sacrifice many of the gains that have been made through our re-zonings over the years that help protect our communities from overdevelopment and inappropriate development.

“The public ... must be listened to and given an opportunity to contribute input into any proposal that will affect our communities. The Mayor’s current proposal should not be enacted.”

A separate vote was taken by the board on each of the proposals, with the results being the same for both: 24 members voted against, 1 abstained, and 2 did not vote.

Public review for both amendments is expected to take approximately six months and includes review by community boards, borough presidents, borough boards, the CPC and the City Council.

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