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I've Got to Spend More Time Explaining My Zoning Plan to People: De Blasio

By Jeff Mays | December 11, 2015 12:37pm
 Mayor Bill de Blasio said he plans to spend more time appealing directly to the public about the benefits of his affordable housing zoning  proposals.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said he plans to spend more time appealing directly to the public about the benefits of his affordable housing zoning proposals.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

NEW YORK CITY — Mayor Bill de Blasio says he isn't fazed by the rejection of his affordable housing plan by community boards across the city and plans to spend more time appealing directly to the public about the benefits of one of his signature proposals.

"I've been to this rodeo," de Blasio said Monday during an unrelated press conference where he addressed his affordable housing plan without prompting from the media.

"I'm a veteran of these fights. They're never easy," he continued. "That being said, we're going to spend a lot more time going out into communities and talking about why this has to happen. And I think people are receptive."

Here's What You Need to Know About the Mayor's Citywide Rezoning Plan

Community boards across the city have rejected zoning changes proposed by de Blasio designed to facilitate the creation and preservation of 200,000 units of affordable housing.

Mandatory Inclusionary Housing would require the construction of affordable housing for projects receiving city land or a subsidy.

Under the Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposal, the parking requirements for affordable housing would be eliminated while allowing taller building heights to increase affordable housing.

The boards said they were concerned that the proposals would not help provide enough housing that is actually affordable and that they would destroy the character of New York's distinct neighborhoods.

Other boards worry that the plan would actually speed up gentrification.

The Staten Island borough board rejected the proposals Thursday night.

De Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who represents East Harlem, one of the areas being rezoned, argued that without the plan, the city's neighborhoods would continue to be subject to brutal market forces that are already reshaping the city and displacing residents.

De Blasio said gentrification is "going to happen anyway" while Mark-Viverito said the Council has to "work with what we've got and the reality" they are facing.

The mayor has already gone out to churches in East New York and The Bronx — areas with heavy resistance to the proposals — to speak with congregations about his plan.

"I think it's very important that I go out to the people and explain this vision. And I find when I talk to people about it there's a lot of receptivity," de Blasio said.

"When they understand how this is a departure from the past, and a past and a status quo they were not comfortable with, I think a lot of people feel that there's something there that could work," he added. "I have to do a lot more of that, there's no question."

City Hall has also brought in reinforcements. Over the last week, several organizations, AARP, 32BJ SEIU and the Hotel Trades Council have all come out in support of the plan.

Chris Widelo, associate state director of AARP for New York City, said the plan would keep older city residents "right here in New York.”

The mayor also continued to downplay the role of the community boards who have rejected his plan.

"It is never a surprise when a community board opposes what it sees as development. That is not a news flash in New York City," said de Blasio who added that the ultimate decision comes down to the City Planning Commission and the City Council who review the plan next.

Borough Presidents such as Gale Brewer of Manhattan and Ruben Diaz of The Bronx have warned de Blasio that he ignores the suggestions of the advisory community bodies at his own risk.

Mark-Viverito said that although the Council has the final word, they will be listening to what the boards have to say.

The mayor will participate in an AARP town hall call this month and also speak at an AARP event on livable cities Monday.