CROWN HEIGHTS — Members of a Crown Heights community board say the city is putting pressure on them to support the mayor’s embattled affordable housing zoning proposal — by threatening to withhold a request by the board to study changes to land use rules in the neighborhood’s manufacturing zone unless it reconsiders its position on de Blasio's plan.
The message from the Department of City Planning came to Brooklyn Community Board 8 in the form of a written response to a request by CB8 for resources from the agency for fiscal year 2017 to study changing zoning rules within the six-block Crown Heights M1-1 zone.
CB8 — which voted 25-to-5 in November to not support the mayor's citywide Zoning for Quality and Affordability text amendment — has been looking into the possibility of making zoning changes to the manufacturing zone, located between Grand and Franklin Avenues just south of Atlantic Avenue, for about two years, members said.
Among other things, the board's proposal would mandate that all new residential properties in the manufacturing zone be affordable to those earning the median income, or less, in the district.
In response to the 2017 budget request, the city planning department wrote that it would “try to accommodate” the M1-1 study “within existing resources,” but added a lengthy caveat making it clear what would be needed to get it off the ground.
“Such a study would be a major commitment by this agency and could only be undertaken if there was a willingness and commitment by the CB to advocate and support necessary zoning changes … for citywide proposals for changes to existing residential zoning regulations that would better facilitate quality and affordable housing,” read the city's written response, reviewed by CB8 at a board meeting last Thursday.
CB8 members said they consider the statement a direct quid pro quo.
“This is a city agency saying that we can only cooperate with you if you support the program that we’re promoting,” said Gib Veconi, a co-chair of the M1-1 Zone Subcommittee, “There’s just no way for a community board to do that over the objections of residents of the district.”
Veconi added that CB8 does “not have the option to decide to disregard” the testimony of its members, which was “overwhelmingly negative” at the November meeting where the board voted down ZQA.
Ethel Tyus, co-chair of the M1-1 Zone Subcommittee, added that “CB8 opted out” of the zoning text amendment for a reason.
“We want to see some more thought go into it,” she said, adding that in the statement from the city, “I see the strong arm of the various agencies trying to back the mayor’s quick and dirty ZQA."
The mayor's rezoning plans have come under stinging rebuke in recent months, as dozens of community boards across the city voting down both ZQA and its sister proposal, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, which CB8 approved with 30 votes in favor, 2 opposed and 1 abstention.
Department of City Planning spokeswoman Rachaele Raynoff told DNAinfo New York that any interpretation of the written comment as a push for the board to reconsider their vote on ZQA is “not correct.”
However, she did not respond when asked what proposals, other than ZQA and MIH, the statement was referring to or who from the agency wrote the budget response statement to CB8.
Raynoff said only that CB8's proposed manufacturing zone study would be informed by a similar study currently underway in Greenpoint and that “any zoning recommendations for residential districts would be within the context of ZQA and MIH, which are currently under review by the City Council.”
An inquiry to the mayor's office about the city planning statement to CB8 was not returned.
Those interested in the M1-1 zone in Crown Height are invited to the CB8 subcommittee's next meeting, Tyus said, scheduled to take place on Feb. 29, Tyus said, at the Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation at 727 Classon Ave. at 6:30 p.m.