On Tuesday, the New York City Council overwhelmingly approved two zoning proposals that Mayor de Blasio believes will help create more affordable housing. The plans, known as Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability, were opposed by Community Board 3 and many other neighborhood organizations. Our local Council representatives – Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez – will appear before CB3’s land use committee next month to talk about the new zoning rules.
Chin was an outspoken supporter of the plans. She voted in favor of both zoning text amendments. Mendez voted for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing but abstained on Zoning for Quality and Affordability.
— Margaret S. Chin (@CM_MargaretChin) March 22, 2016
There was some drama leading up to the vote. City & State reported:
The City Council passed the zoning legislation at a Tuesday meeting, where many lawmakers echoed (Mayor) de Blasio’s portrayal of the measures as historic and game-changing. But as City Councilwoman Margaret Chin launched into a description of why she was backing the “visionary” proposals, about two dozen protesters on a balcony overlooking the Council Chambers started yelling, with some suggesting the legacy the lawmakers’ votes would usher in would be one of displacement. It took security several minutes to remove the demonstrators. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito called a recess because one of the protesters lay on the floor, requesting medical aid. The vote continued when an ambulance arrived and paramedics began tending to the man. A spokeswoman for the City Council said six of the protesters, including the man who was suffering from a back spasm, appeared to have superglued their hands together, which made it difficult for security to remove them from the chambers. The spokeswoman said none were charged with a crime after interrupting the meeting chanting “Vote no; MIH has got to go,” in reference to the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing zoning plan, and calling the lawmakers “sellouts.” One particularly vocal man shouted, “This plan that you’re talking about is going to evict the same people in this city that elected you. … How dare the Progressive Caucus do this?”
The inclusionary housing program requires developers to set aside a portion of large developments in newly rezoned areas for affordable housing. The plan dubbed, Zoning for Quality and Affordability raises height limits in many districts. The administration agreed to various changes in the plans to win Council approval.
Local advocates were pleased that an original scheme to raise height limits in contextual zoning districts was scrubbed. In a message to supporters, Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation praised the “incredibly important, hard fought for changes.” He also detailed ongoing concerns about the plans:
In ‘Inclusionary Zoning’ districts in our neighborhood, height limits have been increased ONLY for new developments that include 20% affordable or senior affordable housing, though the increase in height was reduced in some cases. Where height limits were 80 feet, the Mayor proposed 105 foot height limits, but the City Council only approved 95 feet (this applies to Avenues A and C, 1st Avenue, and 2nd Avenue north of 3rd Street, and most of our proposed University Place/Broadway rezoning). Where height limits were 120 feet, the Mayor and City Council agreed to increase them to 145 feet (this applies to Avenue D, Houston Street, 2nd Avenue below 3rd Street, 3rd/4th Avenue corridors [including midblocks], and part of our proposed University Place/Broadway rezoning). The stronger height limits we fought for governing new market rate developments in these areas remain in place. GVSHP opposed these increases in height limits because our studies found that the limits rarely interfered with the production of the 20% affordable housing (as the City claimed), and that increasing the height limits alone was unlikely to result in increased production of affordable housing, just taller buildings. GVSHP proposed instead a narrower, more targeted approach that would ensure that in the rare cases where existing height limits might interfere with full inclusion of affordable housing, new buildings could exceed height limits only to the degree necessary to include the affordable housing, rather than lifting height limits for such developments across the board. The Mayor and City Council refused to consider this alternative.
Other local stakeholders expressed support for the de Blasio initiatives. In a press release put out by the mayor’s office, Chris Kui, executive director of Asian Americans for Equality, said:
I want to commend Mayor de Blasio and the City Council for their leadership in passing this historic plan that will change the lives of so many New Yorkers. The current housing market has brought unprecedented pressures on immigrant communities and seniors across the city, severely impacting their quality of life. Now finally, there is a comprehension citywide mandate and plan for building and preserving 200,000 units of housing that is affordable, helping to ensure that New York City will remain a diverse and thriving city for all of its people for the next generation and beyond.
Chin and Mendez will be at the April 13 meeting of CB3’s land use committee. It takes place at 6:30 p.m. at Seward Park Extension, 56 Essex St.