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Two Bridges Details Plan to Preserve Affordable Housing

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Earlier this week, members of the Chinatown Working Group (CWG) met to discuss proposed changes in the community organization’s governing structure.  While these deliberations drag on, the CWG’s comprehensive blueprint for the neighborhood remains in limbo.

When the full board meets next week, however, they’ll try to move forward with some of the less controversial aspects of their proposal, including “action plans” for  education, immigrant services and parks. Members will also hear a revised plan from the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council addressing zoning and preservation (a subject that has caused great dissention on the CWG).

The report, undertaken by planning consultant Robert Weber, has been posted on the CWG’s web site.  There will, of course, be a lot more detail at Monday’s meeting, but in a nutshell it is aimed at “preserving the “affordability and character” of Chinatown and a large swathe of the Lower East Side excluded from the EV/LES rezoning initiative in 2008.

The study calls for creating special districts that would establish mandatory inclusionary zoning (requiring developers to set aside a certain amount of affordable housing in their new projects).  It also advocates the expansion of a city program that helps non-profit organizations buy and rehab tenement buildings. And the study urges the revamping of rent regulation and de-control laws.

The study found (unsurprisingly) that there are few large development sites available in the neighborhood for residential development. So, the authors suggest, “the best opportunities to create (new low-income housing) can be found on the SPURA site and the NYCHA campuses.” They add that re-zoning “will not be very effective in creating low income housing.”  For this reason, they recommend emphasizing preservation over new construction.

The report says Community District 3 (East Village, Lower East Side, most of Chinatown) has lost about 11,000 rent regulated apartments in the past decade. There are approximately 15,000 public housing units in the neighborhood (approximately 20% of all housing in CD3).

The Two Bridges proposal is one of two new plans that have recently been submitted to the Chinatown Working Group. The Coalition to Protect Chinatown & the Lower East Side will formally present its report to the CWG in the next couple of months (we’ll have more details on that later).

Two Bridges advocates for affordable housing and is a non-profit developer of large housing projects along the East River.

If you would like to read either report, go to the CWG’s web site.

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