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Rezoning Compromise Scales Back Some Height Requirements in LES: Mendez

By Ben Fractenberg | March 17, 2016 5:55pm
 The new City Council rezoning plan scaled back some height restrictions for neighborhoods like the East Village.
The new City Council rezoning plan scaled back some height restrictions for neighborhoods like the East Village.
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Landmarks Preservation Commission

MANHATTAN — Councilwoman Rosie Mendez said the changes to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s rezoning plan have helped put back some development restrictions Lower East Side and East Village residents fought to enact in 2008 — but she wishes it were more in keeping with her hopes for the plan.

The City Council was able to lower some building height requirements from the original plan, including capping the height of structures on some side streets to 95 feet, instead of 105 feet, according to Mendez.

Buildings on the big avenues can now go up to 145 feet from 120 feet if they have the appropriate amount of affordable units.

“[The Council] incorporated a lot of things that put this rezoning in a better place, but for me it doesn’t put it in the best place,” said Mendez, who had wanted to maintain height restriction on side streets at 80 feet. “I wish they would have kept my contextual rezoning intact.”

The council was also able to preserve the “sliver law,” which prevents tall, narrow buildings being built next to shorter ones — a move Mendez said she was happy with. 

The new plan also added options for developers under the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing proposal.

The new affordable housing plan includes another option for developers to reserve 20 percent of their units for people making 40 percent of the city median income, which is $31,000 for a family of three.

The council version also requires units to be spread out on 65 percent of a building’s floors and that residents in those apartments cannot be denied access to building amenities like a pool or gym. 

De Blasio's housing plan, which called for 200,000 affordable units over 10 years, met stiff community resistance from leaders and residents who said it did not do enough to help the city's poorest residents and would displace up to 50,000 people in East New York. 

The City Council announced it would approve the plan on March 14, after the mayor agreed to changes the Council said would add more affordable units and parking in areas with the least access to public transit.