City Council Approves Mayor’s Zoning Plan With Adjusted Transit Zone

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Cars parked on Voorhies Avenue.

(Photo: Alex Ellefson / Sheepshead Bites)

The City Council voted overwhelmingly Tuesday in favor of two controversial zoning changes proposed by the mayor to spur the construction of affordable housing.

The proposals, Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), loosen zoning laws in some neighborhoods for developers who build affordable housing for seniors or low- and middle-income tenants. The changes are key parts of the Mayor’s plan to create and preserve 200,000 affordable housing units over the next 10 years.

Community boards, civic groups, and affordable housing advocates came out strongly against the proposals when they were introduced last year — arguing the plan left out the most needy New Yorkers while allowing developers to run roughshod over their communities. However, the plans won approval from the City Council after key changes were made to the laws.

City Councilman Mark Treyger voted for both proposals after getting the several areas of his district removed from the transit zone — which would have eliminated parking requirements on affordable units for new developments.

Parking has long been an issue for Bensonhurst, where illegal curb cuts are rampant, the population is growing rapidly, and at least 60 percent of homeowners own cars. Community Board 11 officials have suggested that the city has undercounted car ownership in the neighborhood, since many vehicles parked on the street may be registered in New Jersey or Staten Island.

Treyger, who co-chairs the Council’s Brooklyn delegation, told us that council members also vehemently objected to a provision that would allow developers to request the removal of parking requirements for an entire building that included affordable housing — not only on the affordable units — without consulting community boards or elected officials first.

A single line in the 200-page ZQA document would allow developers of buildings with affordable units to alter the parking requirements with the sole permission of the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) — which Treyger says is “notoriously pro-development.”

“That was unacceptable and quite frankly it outraged many council members and could have killed all the whole bill,” said Treyger.

The updated ZQA transit area excludes an additional sliver of Bath Beach, most of Coney Island, and large swaths of Dyker Heights and Gravesend. Take a look at the amended Transit Zone map for southern Brooklyn. The areas in red have been removed from the transit zone. The yellow areas are where the transit zone remains.

zoning for quality and affordability

Councilman Vincent Gentile also voted in favor of ZQA and MIH, hailing them as part of “the most visionary housing plan in the country.”

“Senior housing will be expanded and improved upon, as the character of our very unique neighborhoods stay the same,” said Gentile. “Together we have fought for more affordable and senior housing while protecting the contextual nature that neighborhoods have fought to attain over the last decade.”

The City Council also tweaked some of the height requirements in order to preserve the character of their neighborhoods. However, the biggest change, which ultimately won over some of the affordable housing groups who opposed the plan, were changes to MIH that made the new housing stock more accessible for lower income neighbors.

They added an option for developers to set aside up to 20 percent of housing to those making 40 precent of area median income ($31,000 for a family of three). They also lowered the highest tier option from 120 precent of AMI to 115 percent.

De Blasio celebrated the passage of his proposals Tuesday.

“New York City is now one step closer to being a city where everyone can work and live,” the Mayor said in a statement. “Years from now, when working-class families and seniors are living soundly in their homes without fear of being priced out, we will look back on this as a pivotal moment when we turned the tide to keep our city a place for ALL New Yorkers.”

However, the approved plan still drew scorn from many advocacy groups. More than 40 organizations, representing tenants, workers and homeless urged the City Council to reject the plan. And a group of protestors had to be driven from from the Council chamber when they superglued their hands together while demonstrating against during Tuesday’s vote, the Daily News reports.

However, organizations like Real Affordability for All and AARP endorsed the Mayor’s plan — saying the changes were crucial to securing affordable housing for seniors and the most vulnerable New Yorkers.

In the end, ZQA passed the City Council 42-5, while MIH passed 40-6 with one abstention, according to the Daily News.

[Additional reporting by Rachel Silberstein]

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