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East New York Rezoning Plan Passes City Planning Commission

By Camille Bautista | February 24, 2016 3:18pm
 The City Planning Commission voted to approve the East New York rezoning plan as critics protested against the decision Wednesday.
The City Planning Commission voted to approve the East New York rezoning plan as critics protested against the decision Wednesday.
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DNAinfo/Camille Bautista

NEW YORK CITY — The East New York rezoning plan was backed by the City Planning Commission Wednesday despite fierce objection from community members.

The commission voted 12-1 in favor of the plan, which is expected to drastically alter the neighborhood and targets the area as the first of 15 set to be rezoned by Mayor Bill de Blasio to build and preserve affordable housing throughout the city.

City Planning Chairman Carl Weisbrod said the administration has worked closely with local organizations in developing the proposal and thanked residents for their input.

Still, critics and members of the Coalition for Community Advancement interrupted the commissioner during his comments at Wednesday’s meeting in Spector Hall, chanting “East New York’s plan ain’t affordable for me” and “Stop developer greed!”

Several held signs reading “East New York Says No” and “Our Community = Our Plan.”

Weisbrod pointed to the city’s resources being used to support growth in parks, transportation, street safety and other improvements, and also cited the newly established $1 billion neighborhood development fund, which he said is “designed to guarantee that commitments regarding public investments will be kept by budgeting funds for them now."

“We are also well aware of the displacement pressures residents of the greater East New York community currently face,” he said.

“Today’s action I believe will help ease that pressure over time by creating more affordable housing.”

Under the plan, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development has committed to financing 1,200 units of affordable housing in the first few years, with a “significant” portion of them reaching families with “very low” and “extremely low household” incomes, according to the chairman, though he did not provide specific income brackets for those units.

According to the proposal, some of the units could be as low as 30 percent of average median income. But half of the more than 6,000 new apartments expected to be created under the plan would be reserved for residents earning less than 60 percent of the area median income, or $42,620 for a family of three.

Critics have noted that most East New Yorkers don’t fall within the higher income bracket, but HPD has pledged that any project it subsidizes in the neighborhood will be 100 percent affordable, officials added.

“We’ve worked very closely with the community, including our critics, most particularly our critics,” said DCP Executive Director Purnima Kapur, adding that the agency has pushed the plan “as far and as deep as we can in terms of affordability” and is working to ensure that current residents have the ability to remain in the neighborhood.

“While housing is one piece of it, this is a real neighborhood plan.”  

Fellow commissioners voted in favor of the proposal, with the exception of Commissioner Michelle de la Uz.

“This plan falls short in achieving inclusive growth despite the administration’s significant efforts,” De la Uz said.

The commissioner added that the city must work to be accountable and transparent in their commitments to residents.

“While I don’t doubt the intentions of this administration, too many promises to communities have been broken in the past, and that leads to cynicism, anger, and antipathy that undermines our democracy and ultimately, the administration's goals.”

De la Uz pointed out positives in the proposal — including safety improvements along Atlantic Avenue that would upgrade crosswalks, add a new planted median and new trees and sidewalks — but said that the plan “doesn’t yet strike the right balance to achieve its bold vision, or yet include enough of the community’s vision.”

Following the commission’s vote to pass the proposal, East New York residents chanted “Shame on you” as they left the meeting.

“Deceit, bribery, corruption,” activist Paul Muhammad said to the panel.

“There’s no justice and you know it in your heart."

The East New York rezoning plan will go before the City Council for a final vote this spring.