Map of proposed rezoning via Department of City Planning
The New York City Planning Commission voted 12-1 in approval of Mayor de Blasio’s controversial rezoning plan for East New York, Gothamist reports. It’s the first of 15 low-income neighborhoods scheduled for rezoning as part of the Mayor’s affordable housing plan, which promises to create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing. The City Council is scheduled to vote on the rezoning this spring.
As part of what is known as Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), rezoning plans for East New York’s Cypress Hills neighborhood and adjacent Ocean Hill in Bed-Stuy would have 7,000 new apartments built by 2030, 3,447 of which will be designated affordable, in addition to one million square feet of commercial space. Of those affordable units, 80 percent would be reserved for families (defined as a household of three, with any number of earners) making no more than 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), or $46,000; 27 percent would go to families making 40 percent of the AMI or $31,000.
Half of the affordable apartments would be set aside for current area residents. The median income in East New York is $35,000 annually, according to a recent report by the Community Service Society.
Neighborhood residents and activists have vehemently opposed the plan, fearing the rezoning will only reward developers and cause displacement of longtime residents, noting what is already seen by some as “gentrification’s eastward creep,” and arguing that any housing resulting from the plan will be “out of reach for the lowest-income New Yorkers.” Many of the city’s community boards also oppose the rezoning plan.
In response to these concerns, the Mayor’s office says this first attempt to introduce affordable housing in the neighborhood would “generate 1,200 ‘100% affordable’ apartments over the next two years.” Mayoral spokesman Wiley Norvell added that any developer receiving additional HPD subsidies will have to set aside 40 percent of units for renters who earn between $23,350 and $38,850 a year. Gentrification and displacement concerns, say Norvell, are more a “byproduct of a very hot housing market” everywhere in the borough than a result of rezoning, looking at neighborhoods like Bushwick and Crown Heights for comparison. The rezoning plan also includes renovations to East New York parks, a new school and $36 million annually to go toward free anti-eviction legal services as well as new crosswalks and a planted median along Atlantic Avenue.
The dissenting vote was that of Commissioner Michelle de la Uz, who has reservations about the plan: “While I don’t doubt the intentions of this administration, too many promises to communities have been broken in the past, and that leads to cynicism, anger, and antipathy that undermines our democracy and ultimately, the administration’s goals.” East New York Councilmember Rafael Espinal said that he hopes to see “deeper affordability, and a commitment from the city to invest more in East New York’s Industrial Business Zone. ‘If we’re going to build 3,000 affordable apartments, we should create 3,000 new jobs’ he said.” Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, which opposes the plan, hopes the city council’s upcoming vote “will be much more sympathetic to us, and more advocacy-oriented.”
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