EAST NEW YORK — The City Council’s changes to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s citywide rezoning proposals don't make housing affordable enough for East New York residents, some community groups and activists said.
Others feel the modifications are a step in the right direction.
The mayor’s original plan, which aims to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing throughout the city, was widely rejected by community boards throughout the five boroughs due to its affordability levels and what some deemed as a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
But last week, the council announced alterations to the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposals to include a new option for affordable housing and changes to the minimum size of senior apartments, among other modifications.
East New York would be the first of 15 neighborhoods to be rezoned under the proposed changes.
The two community boards affected by the rezone voted against MIH and ZQA in the fall but, with the City Council’s modifications, Brooklyn Community Board 16’s district manager said the changes were better compared to what was previously on the table.
Initially, CB16 — which represents the Ocean Hill portion of the rezoning plan — voted in opposition to MIH because members felt the units wouldn’t be affordable for residents whose median income is “far lower than what was presented,” according to CB16 District Manager Viola Greene-Walker.
The median household income in East New York is $34,512, according to city figures, and critics of the plan said the three options originally presented didn’t reach the neighborhood’s income levels.
With the City Council’s addition of a fourth choice to create 20 percent of housing for people making 40 percent of the area median income ($31,000 for a family of three), Greene-Walker said the community board looked on the negotiation “favorably” and that it would adequately serve local residents.
Chris Banks, executive director of East New York United Concerned Citizens, said the added affordability option would help a “good portion of folks in East New York” who are in the proposed income range.
“You’re not going to get everything you want, but I think this is a step in the right direction,” Banks said.
Councilman Rafael Espinal, who covers most of proposed rezoning area in East New York, said the council had taken steps even beyond deepening affordability levels — increasing transparency, closing loopholes for developers and improving the local hiring provisions — to build trust in neighborhoods that have often been overlooked, where residents “have every reason to be wary of the city’s rezoning process.”
“My colleagues and I know that many of our constituents are calling for a larger percentage of units and deeper affordability levels — and we will get there in East New York through city subsidies," he said, adding that MIH “has always been just one tool” to be used to build housing for the current community.
His colleague, Inez Barron, who represents a different portion of the area affected by the proposed East New York rezoning, felt differently.
While there are improvements in the Council’s changes to the MIH and ZQA amendments, Barron said, they aren’t “deep enough or broad enough.”
The sentiment was echoed by the Coalition for Community Advancement, which has strongly advocated for affordability levels that reach residents making between $12,000 and $34,000 per year.
“For the Coalition, none of the MIH options get at the levels of affordability that current residents of East New York need,” said Julia Watt-Rosenfeld, an organizer with the Coalition.
Half of current residents have household incomes below 40 percent AMI, she said. The newly-presented MIH option of 20 percent of units at 40 percent AMI would be the best out of the choices for the neighborhood, Watt-Rosenfeld added, “but it is still a flawed plan that is not good for East New Yorkers.”
The City Council is expected to vote on the modified versions of the zoning changes on Tuesday and Wednesday.