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Change de Blasio's Rezoning Plan or We'll Kill It, Council Tells City Hall

 Crowds of people came to the City Council hearing on Mandatory Inclusionary Housing on Feb. 9, 2016.
Crowds of people came to the City Council hearing on Mandatory Inclusionary Housing on Feb. 9, 2016.
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DNAinfo/Danielle Tcholakian

CITY HALL — Mayor Bill de Blasio must revamp his controversial rezoning plan to target lower income New Yorkers or risk the City Council killing it, Council members said at a public hearing Tuesday.

The hearing on Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, a key piece of the mayor's plan to rezone neighborhoods across the city, was the first time the Council had weighed in publicly on the rezoning plan.

But it has come under fire by activists and some city officials who say the income levels are too high for the very low-income communities who most need affordable housing.

"It's going to be very hard for this Council to support MIH without options for our communities," said Queens Councilman Donovan Richards, who chairs the zoning subcommittee.

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

Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, or MIH, is part of de Blasio's plan to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing within 10 years. MIH would require affordable units be included in all residential construction within certain neighborhoods and in some apartment developments citywide.

It was rejected by nearly every community board before sailing through the City Planning Commission and on to the Council, which has final say in approving it. 

Currently, the least expensive apartments would target residents who make 60 percent of the area median income, or AMI, which is roughly $46,620 a year for a family of three.

READ MORE: What is AMI?

"This is the floor," Richards said. "We need to get down to the basement."

The City Planning Commission, which is chaired by Carl Weisbrod, who is one of the architects and main proponents of MIH, approved the plan last week, but several commissioners said they hoped the Council would take up the issue of deeper affordability.

Weisbrod attended the hearing, as did Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been.

Been, whose agency is responsible for the city's affordable housing, tried to assuage that concern by explaining the plan's inclusion of the word "average."

When a developer is charged with apartments at an average of 60 percent AMI, they could opt to break that required number of apartments up and price some of them at 40 percent, some at 60 percent, and some at 80 percent, she said.

"Income mixing provides a broader range of affordability without affecting the building's income," Been said.

She also promised the use of various city subsidies, including Section 8, could achieve deeper affordability.

The hearing is expected to run all day. The Council promised every member of the public who wants to speak will be able to give testimony.

When the City Planning Commission held a similar hearing, more than 150 people lined up to speak. That hearing ran more than 13 hours.