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Mayor's Affordable Housing Rezoning Voted Down by Queens Community Boards

By Katie Honan | November 17, 2015 8:54am
 Community board leaders, including Stephen Kulhanek from Community Board 3, center, read through zoning proposals for the mayor's push for affordable housing.
Community board leaders, including Stephen Kulhanek from Community Board 3, center, read through zoning proposals for the mayor's push for affordable housing.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

KEW GARDENS — Twelve of Queens' 14 community boards soundly rejected Mayor Bill de Blasio's signature affordable housing plan during a meeting Monday night, citing deal-breaking concerns about parking and overdevelopment. 

The votes, while largely symbolic, hint at problems the mayor may face as he tries to push forward his plan to preserve or create 200,000 units of affordable housing.

All but two voted against the “Zoning for Quality and Affordability” and “Mandatory Inclusionary Housing” text amendments that are part of the mayor’s plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing throughout the city.

“We want to make sure our families come to Queens, move here, stay here, are able to raise their families in the borough of Queens, and housing of course is a big part of that,” Borough President Melinda Katz said at Monday’s meeting, before hearing concerns from the district managers of the Queens community boards.

The majority of the boards struck down the changes, with only Community Board 1 and Community Board 3 voting in favor.

Vincent Arcuri, from Community Board 5, called the plan "sort of an insult to Queens" because each board "worked diligently" to rezone its neighborhoods over the last decade. His board covers Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village. 

Concerns expressed by most of the community board managers focused on the wholesale rezoning of both plans. They also were concerned over changes to parking within the “Zoning for Quality and Affordability” plan, which would eliminate the requirement for off-street parking in senior housing in areas that have access to a subway.

Arcuri, who said he’s turning 76 at the end of the year, said travel within Queens can be difficult without a car.

“As an Italian-American, I’ve inherited 11 gravesites to maintain, so I need a car,” he said, to laughs.

“You can’t get from here to there in Queens on public transportation. I can get to Manhattan very quickly, but I sure as hell can’t get to South Jamaica, or Douglaston.”

His board voted against the “Zoning for Quality and Affordability” plan and tabled their vote for the “Mandatory Inclusionary Housing.”

Pat O’Brien, chair of Community Board 2 that covers Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City, was most concerned about overdevelopment. The infrastructure in the city can’t keep up with more housing, he said.

“Our overarching concern is, we have more development than anywhere else in the city,” he said. “It’s exciting, but it’s frightening.”

Stephen Kulhanek, from Community Board 3, said his members debated the merits of both amendments, and shared concerns from other board members. His board covers Jackson Heights, Corona and East Elmhurst.

CB3 ultimately voted in favor of it, by a vote of 16 to 11, because it’s a “step towards affordable housing, especially for seniors.”

“For many, many years on our capital priorities budget list has been affordable housing, and we see a moment where the city attempts to address it,” he said.

When asked Monday at an unrelated press conference about the borough's feelings on zoning changes, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he wasn't surprised by community boards' concerns. But he added that the major changes were necessary.

"They're always going to raise concerns and critiques and often help us get to a better outcome," he said.

"But I would also say, what we're talking about is fundamental change in the city, creating a lot more affordable housing than has been created ever before in our past."

Katz said she will issue her own opinion and recommendation in the next few days.