THE BRONX — The Bronx Borough Board strongly rejected Mayor Bill de Blasio's proposed zoning changes during a Thursday morning meeting, adding their voice to a growing number of organizations that oppose the plan.
The board, which plays an advisory role on land use and community policy issues in the city, unanimously voted against the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposals with the exception of City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito's office, which abstained from both votes.
The Bronx Borough Board is a group of representatives from the borough's community boards and city council members that plays an advisory role on land use and community policy issues in the city.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., City Council Members Maria del Carmen Arroyo, Andrew Cohen, Vanessa Gibson, Andy King, Annabel Palma and Ritchie Torres, and representatives from all 12 of the borough's community boards voted against the proposals.
Although representatives from the Department of City Planning and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development defended the proposals before the votes — saying the plan is a way to help seniors stay in their communities and encourage the development of affordable housing — this was not enough to convince the board.
Diaz derided the agencies for taking a "one-size-fits-all" approach to development throughout New York City and maintained that looking at zoning on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis would be much more effective.
He also criticized the city for trying to push these ideas through the approval process very quickly, which he referred to as "disrespectful."
"In fact, the accelerated timeline this administration has imposed on us seems designed to limit community input and to force us to accept these changes as written," he said. "Mayor de Blasio and the Department of City Planning are moving too fast."
The board vote followed a lively public hearing in The Bronx about the two proposals last week, where comments from locals were overwhelmingly against both ideas, which they saw as paving the way for gentrification and displacement in the borough.
Although some people at last week's hearing were upset that Diaz himself was not there, he said that Thursday's vote showed he was paying attention.
"The 240 some odd people who came to that hearing and the thousand others who we’ve been listening to throughout The Bronx, they were heard loud and clear today," he said.
Mandatory Inclusionary Housing would require some developers to include permanently affordable housing in their new buildings, while Zoning for Quality and Affordability would aim to make the construction of affordable and senior housing easier by eliminating parking requirements and increasing building heights.
Although de Blasio has said he will move forward with the proposals despite the avalanche of opposition from local communities, Diaz still urged the city to turn down the ideas.
"These are tremendously flawed proposals that, if adopted, would remove public input from the development process and attempt to paint future development of our unique communities with one broad brushstroke," he said.