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Bronx BP Releases Suggestions for Mayor's Affordable Housing Zoning Plan

By Eddie Small | December 2, 2015 1:52pm
 Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has made a series of recommendations for Mayor Bill de Blasio's affordable housing proposals.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has made a series of recommendations for Mayor Bill de Blasio's affordable housing proposals.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

THE BRONX — The criticisms of Mayor Bill de Blasio's affordable housing plan keep rolling in.

Roughly two weeks after the Bronx Borough Board unanimously rejected the mayor's proposed zoning changes, known as Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has come out with a series of expanded recommendations to improve the proposals and outline Bronxites' concerns with them.

These include the lack of time community boards were given to evaluate the plans, the lack of provisions in them about increasing the city's green spaces and the lack of information in them about job creation.

"No serious discussion of job creation—and the types of jobs that would be created—to build any of the senior or affordable housing developments has taken place," Diaz wrote. "Nor is any reference made to employing New York-based minority- or women-owned firms in furnishing the supplies or workers for building construction."

One of the chief complaints that Bronxites have about the proposals is that the affordable housing they set out to build will not actually be affordable for people at their income levels, a fear that Diaz refers to several times in his recommendations.

"The options offered do not fully address the broad range of incomes, particularly the needs of very low income residents," he wrote, adding that he is concerned about the borough getting left out of opportunities for moderate or middle-income housing as well.

Diaz also criticized the proposals for eliminating parking requirements and suggests that letting affordable housing developments rent out their extra parking spaces to community members could help provide more parking in the neighborhood and create extra revenue for the developments.

He derided the proposals for taking a broad approach to city planning, saying that it goes against the type of rezonings that have worked well in The Bronx so far.

"The 'neighborhood by neighborhood' approach to planning has been very successful in The Bronx," he writes. "The borough has adopted no less than 14 rezonings since 2009."

The letter is addressed to City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod, and a spokeswoman for the Department of City Planning said they looked forward to discussing MIH and ZQA as the public review process moves forward.

The mayor's MIH proposal would require some developers to include permanently affordable housing in their new buildings, and ZQA would attempt to make it easier to construct senior and affordable housing by increasing building heights and eliminating parking requirements.

Both ideas have been met with strong opposition in The Bronx and throughout New York City. The Brooklyn Borough Board rejected both proposals on Tuesday, and Manhattan and Queens have both done the same.

However, de Blasio has continued to move forward with the plans and downplayed the role that community boards have on them, saying that he and the City Council make the decisions while community boards just give input.

Diaz maintained that there were better ways to build affordable housing in the city than through these two proposals.

"The Administration has said that MIH and ZQA are the only way to mitigate the problems of displacement that can come with gentrification in New York City. This is simply not the case," he wrote. "While affordable housing is key, these amendments as they stand are not the way to accomplish affordable housing for New Yorkers."

"As currently written, I cannot support these zoning text proposals...and strongly recommend that the administration withdraw its submission to the City Planning Commission and the City Council," he continued.