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Brooklyn Pols 'Cannot Support' East New York Rezoning Plan

By Camille Bautista | February 19, 2016 4:53pm
 Council members Inez Barron and Rafael Espinal address community members' concerns at a town hall on the East New York rezoning on Feb. 18.
Council members Inez Barron and Rafael Espinal address community members' concerns at a town hall on the East New York rezoning on Feb. 18.
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DNAinfo/Camille Bautista

EAST NEW YORK — With the City Council vote on rezoning East New York approaching this spring, Brooklyn council members reiterated their opposition at a town hall, citing suggested affordability levels and worries of displacement.

“I understand what our community needs and I am fighting for a plan that works for all of us because, just like you, I want to see a plan that benefits our community,” Councilman Rafael Espinal told attendees at Cypress Hills’ Blessed Sacrament Church Thursday night.

“I am not favorable of the plan as it stands and I will continue fighting for the next two months to make sure that our needs are met.”

Espinal and Councilwoman Inez Barron explained their issues with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to rezone East New York, along with two citywide proposals aimed at increasing affordable housing.

The proposal targets the Brooklyn neighborhood as the first of 15 areas across the five boroughs picked by the administration to help bring more below-market-rate units to the city.

Council members repeated a refrain used by community advocates and residents since the city presented its plan in 2014: “Affordable for who?”

The median household income in East New York is $34,512, according to city figures. More than a third of families earn less than 30 percent of the area median income, or $23,350 for a three-person family.  

A majority of the units built by developers on public and private sites would service families earning up to 60 percent of area median income (AMI), or $42,620 for a family of three — a figure critics say is well above East New York’s average.

Under the city-wide Mandatory Inclusionary Housing proposal, developers would be required to make portions of any new residence available at below market-rate for residents in the 60 percent AMI range.

“That’s not us,” Barron said to applause from the crowd.

“We’ve got to continue to look at the whole picture, the global picture. I am not supporting the plan as it exists. I am not supporting MIH and I am not supporting ZQA."

Espinal added that the City Council “is not comfortable” in passing MIH in its current form.

“We are working to explore to create a new option to make sure neighborhoods like ours aren’t left out.”

Attendees questioned the council members on several changes they’d like to see in the East New York plan, including the likelihood of the city setting aside space for health care centers and community spaces.

“The only thing we will get is more density, that’s the only guarantee we have,” Barron said.

Espinal referenced the importance of bringing much-needed community spaces to the area.

“My main concern has been those commitments, when, and how those commitments would be delivered,” he said. “So until those questions are answered, I can’t support this plan.”

Community advocacy organizations asked the elected officials for their support in writing a public letter to the mayor and City Council speaker, telling them they would vote ‘no’ on the proposal unless specific conditions were met.

Both council members agreed.

Requirements included subsidizing housing affordable to residents at the 30 percent and 40 percent AMI levels and adding a zoning text amendment for a floor area bonus that would allow upzoning only for developments that build “deeply affordable” housing and hire locally.

The City Planning Commission will vote on the plan on Wednesday, Feb. 24 before it goes before the City Council for review and a vote in the spring.