EAST NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio admitted his administration "could have done better" as it pushed his controversial rezoning plan to bring affordable housing to East New York.
“I don’t love what we did to get there, I think we could have done better,” he told dozens of locals and community stakeholders gathered at P.S. 345 to hear him Thursday evening.
“I think we have learned from this experience, but I do like the outcome,” he said, adding that he was proud of the East New York Plan and a citywide zoning policy that would require some new construction to include a certain amount of permanently affordable housing.
The mayor took questions from the crowd, addressing the first neighborhood targeted to be rezoned as part of the administration’s city-wide plan to build and preserve thousands of affordable homes.
The recently approved plan serves as a litmus test for others that may roll out over the next decade and is expected to bring new housing to the area, as well as a major overhaul of streets, parks, businesses and more.
“What have you learned and what would you do differently?” asked Bill Wilkins, a director with the Local Development Corporation of East New York and a member of the Coalition of Community Advancement, a group that worked with the city and pushed for changes in the plan.
“My takeaway is that I think you should have engaged the coalition and stakeholders early on. I think we were near the checkout line when a lot of our asks and our requests were starting to really be brought into the equation.”
The city hosted several meetings and forums both inside and out of the community for feedback on the plan.
“If I could do the whole thing — not just this rezoning but the whole effort to create mandatory inclusionary zoning and everything — over again, we would’ve spent a lot more time in communities early, talking about the vision, listening to concerns and trying to clarify what it was and what it wasn’t,” the mayor said.
“Because I think what happened is a huge amount of misinformation spread and we did not create the environment to properly address that. But we ultimately got there.”
During the more than two-hour-long town hall hosted with local Councilman Rafael Espinal, the mayor reassured residents that there would be a public tracking system for the commitments the city has made for infrastructure improvements, showing progress of the promised projects.
Initiatives to prevent illegal evictions, preservation of affordable housing and rent stabilized units and other components of the plan aim to work together to help low-income individuals in the community and help residents stay in their homes, de Blasio added.
“We believe that this is the best strategy we have.”