SUNSET PARK — A community board scarred by past zoning battles voted down two key pieces of Mayor Bill de Blasio's affordable housing initiative Wednesday night, joining the tide of local groups pushing back against the proposals.
Brooklyn's Community Board 7 voted against the city's proposed Zoning for Quality and Affordability and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. The two proposals are meant to spur the creation of 80,000 new units of affordable housing by allowing taller buildings in some areas and requiring developers to build affordable units in some instances.
CB 7 members said they didn't see how the two proposals would help their rapidly growing community, which includes Sunset Park, Windsor Terrace, the South Slope and Greenwood Heights.
The character of those neighborhoods has been preserved by hard-won limits on building heights (with the glaring exception of Fourth Avenue in the South Slope) and board members worried Wednesday that the Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposal could threaten those protections.
Board member Randy Peers said locals fought hard to preserve the low-rise character of Windsor Terrace and Sunset Park during rezonings, and that one family even lost their life savings battling plans for a high-rise that would block the famed view from Green-Wood Cemetery to the Statue of Liberty.
"To say we went through some fights is an understatement,” Peers said.
"We spent hours and days and months hashing this out, and we did so with the belief that only through contextualized zoning can we ensure that the character of the community will exist beyond any one political administration. And lo and behold we are being told by a new administration that all that we sacrificed and all that we fought for is null and void."
Others said they worried that new affordable housing wouldn't be cheap enough for families in Sunset Park, some of whom get by on just a fraction of the citywide median income.
Some board members said they couldn't support the proposals because they feared unscrupulous developers would find loopholes in the new regulations and build out-of-context developments.
Peers and CB 7 chair Daniel Murphy both said they supported mandatory inclusionary housing, because efforts to get developers to voluntarily build affordable housing in a special zone created in the South Slope in 2005 had failed.
Board member John Fontillas, an architect and urban planner, said he felt conflicted about the two proposals.
"A lot of the things in these two proposals do allow us to create good buildings for the neighborhood and do allow us to encourage the right developer to do a good job,” Fontillas said.
But he noted that board members were reluctant to repeat past zoning battles.
“We’ve all been through fighting to keep the neighborhood character over the past 20 years ... and [we] don't want to reopen the issue again, because we don't trust developers," Fontillas said. "There are a lot of unintended consequences."
All 59 of the city's community boards will weigh in on Zoning for Quality and Affordability and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, but their votes are only advisory. The City Council has final say on the proposals.