Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/east-new-york 2017-12-16T05:27:57+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com The East New York Rezoning, One Year Later 2017-03-22T04:00:00+00:00 2017-03-22T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6825:the-east-new-york-rezoning-one-year-later Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/espinal_and_bdb_by_jeffrey_wz_reed.jpg" alt="espinal and bdb by jeffrey wz reed" width="600" height="403" /></p> <p>Council Member Espinal and Mayor de Blasio (photo: Jeffry W Reed)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">About a year ago, the City Council approved a comprehensive rezoning plan for East New York, the first of a dozen neighborhoods that the city targeted for new land use rules in an effort to develop more housing, including affordable housing, and improve community amenities. As with any rezoning, the plan approved in April 2016 was many months in the making and negotiated in close consultation with the local City Council member, in this case Rafael Espinal, who had significant influence over the designs and final say on the plan’s passage in the Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">Now, Espinal, his district, and the de Blasio administration are seeing the early stages of the East New York Neighborhood Plan put into action, though the effects of the rezoning will only be seen and felt in stages over decades. The plan brings with it major investments in the community, but also more density and gentrification, neighborhood improvements that can benefit current residents while also endangering their ability to afford the area long-term.</p> <p dir="ltr">In an interview last week at his legislative office in Downtown Manhattan, Council Member Espinal touted what he delivered for his community, and praised the city’s commitment to fulfilling its many promises as it gets ready to begin repaving streets, designing public parks, and opening a much-awaited community center by the end of this year.</p> <p dir="ltr">While critics of the final deal reached by Espinal and the de Blasio administration worry that even the rent-stabilized affordable housing will not be affordable enough for current residents, no one can deny that hundreds of millions of dollars are flowing into a community that has among the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">In negotiating the plan with the administration, Espinal faced immense political pressure while attempting to balance parallel and competing interests -- an administration that wanted to prioritize housing development; a community that wanted deeper affordability than was being offered; and a neighborhood that needed jobs and economic development after years of stagnation and being underserved. Espinal came out of negotiations with $267 million in promised capital investments -- money for schools, parks, infrastructure -- in what will likely be the largest neighborhood rezoning the de Blasio administration attempts.</p> <p dir="ltr">Of the 10 to 15 neighborhoods the de Blasio administration <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6287-east-new-york-deal-sets-precedent-for-wave-of-rezonings" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may attempt to rezone</a>, East New York’s is the only plan that has passed thus far. The rezonings are about neighborhood development, but also key to the mayor’s plan to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing. The East New York rezoning process itself was a major test of the administration’s commitment to equity in development and to ensuring that investment in communities doesn’t mean wholesale gentrification and displacement, issues that will be watched over time.</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6287-east-new-york-deal-sets-precedent-for-wave-of-rezonings" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">East New York Deal Sets Precedent for Wave of Rezonings</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr">Espinal said the city has followed through so far, having allocated $90 million to the plan already. “There was this commitment from the administration that they were going to get to work as soon [the rezoning plan] was passed,” he said. “And I have to say that they stayed true to that commitment.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Espinal listed off progress on the various projects underway -- the district’s first state-of-the-art community center in decades is expected to open by the end of this year; the Brooklyn Parks Department has received funding for a number of local projects and is set to begin work; the Department of Transportation is ready to “put the shovel in the ground next month” for the planned streetscaping of Atlantic Avenue; and the nonprofit Phipps Houses is ready to break ground by the end of the summer on a lot to build 1,000 units of 100-percent permanently affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city has also received applications for developing another 200 units at a city-owned site, again for housing that will be 100-percent permanently affordable -- meaning that rent caps will be in place to ensure that residents of specific income bands don’t pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent. The specifics of those income thresholds was part of the debate over the rezoning and has been part of the overall discussion of de Blasio’s housing plan, with some elected officials and activists pushing for deeper levels of affordability.</p> <p dir="ltr">The East New York plan includes two of four options for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, which requires developers to set aside a certain percentage of units under rent thresholds amid other market-rate units. One of the bands requires that 20 percent of new units be created for households making up to 40 percent of Area Median Income ($31,080 for a household of three) and the second option requires 25 percent of units at 60 percent AMI (including 10 percent at 40 percent AMI). Developers will be able to choose which of the two options they prefer when building on a parcel of land.</p> <p dir="ltr">Additionally, a working group of city agencies is studying the legalization of basement apartment units, and is due to issue its report soon, based on which $12 million in city funding could potentially help homeowners retrofit about 1,200 basements for residential purposes, creating another potential source of housing affordable to lower-income residents.&nbsp;That funding has yet to be allocated but is one of the commitments made by the administration.</p> <p dir="ltr">For another key piece of the plan, the School Construction Authority is seeking public review for a 1,000-seat public school, and two community visioning sessions have been held so far. And, a Workforce1 job training center, run by the city’s Department of Small Business Services, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6664-part-of-rezoning-plan-city-opens-new-career-help-center-in-east-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">opened in December.</a></p> <p dir="ltr">“So everything that we fought for and everything that the mayor committed to delivering is actually coming to fruition,” Espinal said. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6664-part-of-rezoning-plan-city-opens-new-career-help-center-in-east-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Part of Rezoning Plan, City Opens New Career Center in East New York</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, the process is not without its anxieties. With rapid development comes gentrification, for better and worse, and there is fear about rising rents and displacement -- for both residential and commercial tenants. De Blasio has long-argued that the best thing for New Yorkers, especially low-income residents, is to harness development and gain concessions from developers. He has also shown a willingness to invest city money into affordable housing and community parks, among other things.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though the neighborhood may have the blessing of capital commitments from the mayor, even those might not be immune to the larger pressures of the annual budget process at the city, state and the federal level.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There’s no real way to legally hold [the administration] accountable,” admitted Espinal. “But I think being the first rezoning put us at an advantage, in that, since we were the first, [the mayor] had to make good on this first project in order to convince other members, in order to show the city, that he was committed in doing the right thing by every community.”</p> <p dir="ltr">To bolster accountability and transparency, the City Council <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2637116&amp;GUID=AB629863-4E14-4F88-8AEC-D03AED71CD90&amp;FullText=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">passed legislation</a> in December, sponsored by Espinal, Public Advocate Letitia James, and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, which <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6314-legislation-aimed-at-holding-city-accountable-for-rezoning-commitments" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mandates</a> that the administration maintain an online public list of commitments made during a land use review process, including rezonings. The details of that online portal are being ironed out with the administration and it “should come live pretty soon,” Espinal said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Concerns about rising costs and gentrification are harder to allay. Before the rezoning plan passed, community advocates warned about the effect a rezoning could have on the neighborhood. New York Communities for Change was one group that opposed the plan, and protested Espinal’s support for it, mainly calling the affordability levels of the housing inadequate. They even <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/protests-planned-east-new-york-rezoning-plan-article-1.2598517" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">threatened</a> to run a primary candidate against him in his upcoming reelection bid (though it appears they are not following through).</p> <p dir="ltr">In the weeks leading up the Council’s vote on the rezoning, and on the day of the vote itself, the groups held rallies, calling for a “no” vote from Espinal, which would’ve effectively killed the plan altogether. The full City Council, by tradition, not statute, votes with the local representative on land use matters. With Espinal’s blessing, and a lot of praise from colleagues for the deal he struck, the plan passed nearly unanimously. The one “no” vote was from neighboring Council Member Inez Barron, who actually represents a small piece of the rezoned area herself. Barron worried about affordability and gentrification.</p> <p dir="ltr">“One year later, tenants are still being harassed, rents are rising, and we still have a rezoning plan that will not create affordable units for the people of East New York,” said Renata Pumarol, deputy director of New York Communities for Change, in an email.</p> <p dir="ltr">Among the adverse effects that NYCC claims the rezoning has caused are rising rents along the L Train corridor and along the 2,3,4 and 5 subway lines, minimal affordable housing development, predatory land grabs, and tenant harassment. Pumarol said in the email, as an example, that monthly rents at Marcus Garvey Village for certain families increased from $1700 last year to $2100.</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6309-homeowners-stand-to-gain-in-areas-to-be-rezoned-if-they-can-keep-their-homes">Homeowners Stand to Gain in Areas to be Rezoned, If They Can Keep Their Homes</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr">Espinal brushed aside the criticism that was levelled against him, even as he acknowledged that housing speculation was an expected trend that was hard to contain.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I agree that we should find ways to create more affordability in these plans,” he said, “but the position I was in at the time, it wasn’t feasible. I was given these certain tools and what I was able to do was maximize every tool that was on the table that the agencies had to build affordable housing.” Espinal said he would gladly stand with those same community groups to fight for affordable housing but he had to move forward with the rezoning, “because I wasn’t just building affordable housing, I was also giving my constituents the tools they need to deal with the forces of gentrification as it comes into the community.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Housing speculation kicked off <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/01/east-new-york-gentrification.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">well ahead of </a>the plan even being approved as word spread that the city had identified East New York for redevelopment. The rezoning plan attempted to ameliorate some of those effects, by creating a Homeowner Helpdesk and by providing legal assistance to those facing eviction in housing court, a program that was <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20170213/civic-center/housing-court-de-blasio-mark-viverito-levine-lawyer-landlord" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recently fully funded</a> by the mayor.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It’s a snowball that started rolling a long time ago, coming in from Williamsburg,” Espinal said, referring to one neighborhood among several that de Blasio often cites when talking about misguided past rezonings that did not deliver for the community already there. “Bushwick has seen a lot of gentrification, and has seen a lot of the negative effects of that because government didn’t intervene at all,” Espinal added, mentioning another of the neighborhoods de Blasio also cites.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/plans/east-new-york/east-new-york-1.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/eny_map_key.jpg" alt="eny map key" width="400" height="259" style="margin: 0px 8px 0px 0px; float: left;" /></a>The Council member emphasized the need for the city to step in, as it has with the rezoning. “For anyone to say, ‘Oh we shouldn’t invest in these neighborhood because it’s gonna raise speculation,’ you know I think that’s just wrong,” he said. “I grew up there and as a kid all I wanted was the city and state to invest all this money in the neighborhood because I wanted a better park...I was a kid watching TV, seeing the high schools, and I’m like, ‘how come my high school doesn’t look that way?’”</p> <p dir="ltr">The city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy is also dependent on drawing real estate developers to a neighborhood. That’s part of what the city is relying on for meeting a 10-year target of 6,000 new units in East New York, with at least half of them affordable. And the market pressures that may affect the community, Espinal said, would be offset by first creating 1,200-1,300 units of permanent affordable housing within the next two years.</p> <p dir="ltr">The challenges for the community aren’t limited to the stock and costs of affordable housing. Relatedly, though, East New York has one of the city’s largest concentrations of homeless families. The Partnership for the Homeless <a href="http://partnershipforthehomeless.org/pages/81/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">estimates</a> that more than a third of East New York families are poor and nearly 40 percent of its children live in poverty.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio has struggled to control homelessness citywide, and often references his affordable housing plan as one of ways the city will reduce homelessness in the long-term. The rezoning plan says nothing directly of taking on homelessness, and a new homelessness plan the mayor recently outlined dictates the opening of 90 new shelters while the city stops using commercial hotels and scatter-site apartments to house homeless New Yorkers.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is unclear how many new shelters the city may target for East New York. But, part of the rezoning deal involved the closure of two homeless shelters in the district.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor has promised a new shelter siting policy that prioritizes proximity to a homeless person’s most recent address and support center, keeping homeless people close to their communities. This principle raises concerns in communities like East New York that shelters could be concentrated in already-overburdened neighborhoods. That cyclical logic is what bothers Espinal.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’m very concerned when [the mayor] says that every neighborhood will have to pay their fair share,” Espinal said. The idea that “depending on how many homeless are coming out of your neighborhood will determine how many homeless shelters you have in your community,” Espinal said, “if we’re going to follow that philosophy then that means East New York would get a large group of those shelters and I don’t think that’s fair...this could mean that we’re gonna get two brand new shelters after we’ve closed down two that we committed to close.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor’s homeless shelter siting plan could run up against the City Council’s own proposed legislation, spearheaded by Speaker Mark-Viverito and Council Member Brad Lander, to modernize the city’s fair share guidelines that determine the siting of municipal facilities. The Council’s proposals would require a more equitable distribution of facilities across the five boroughs, which may not necessarily align with the mayor’s homeless shelter plan, which he calls a community-focused approach. “We’re going to change our shelter system to reflect the needs of each community board,” the mayor said in announcing the new approach. “We want people to be close to home. But we want everyone to do their fair share – every community board needs to be part of the solution.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Espinal supports the fair share legislation and also wants to see a “compassionate” homelessness policy that keeps people close to their neighborhoods, two things that aren’t mutually exclusive, he said. “I think the issue is taking a family from Brooklyn and housing them in the Bronx,” he said, “and then saying, ‘How are you going to get to school every morning in Brooklyn?”</p> <p>He went on, “If you’re in the immediate area or a neighborhood near where your school is, I think that would work a lot better. I know my neighbors in Queens, which is just a few blocks to the north and a few blocks to the east, are a little shy of housing homeless shelters in their areas. But you know, these neighborhoods are right next door, why not put a shelter in the community board next door to mine?”</p> <div> <p dir="ltr">Presented with Espinal’s comments, a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio said in an email, “We are committed to engaging communities as we open shelter sites across the five boroughs, taking into account community feedback and working to address neighborhood concerns.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Jaclyn Rothenberg, the spokesperson, noted that the city is canceling the use of 360 emergency hotels and cluster sites, which will ultimately lead to a 45 percent reduction in the city’s shelter footprint. Brooklyn alone has about 93 shelters, 48 cluster sites and 22 hotel shelters, according to an <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2017/02/27/city-data-reveals-where-all-nyc-homeless-shelters-are-located.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NY1 analysis</a> based on a Freedom of Information Law request, released a day before the mayor announced his new policy.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to city data, there are 1,197 cases, including 2,703 individuals, in shelters who hail from Community Board 5, which covers East New York. At the same time, about 1,368 cases or 2,171 individuals are currently housed in shelters actually situated in that community board. In the same area, there are 64 apartment units in cluster sites housing 201 individuals and 242 beds in commercial hotels that hold 411 individuals.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We encourage all communities to join us at the table as we move forward," Rothenberg said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Naturally, Espinal also worries about how proposed federal budget cuts may also affect the neighborhood, even if they don’t necessarily affect the city’s rezoning commitments. “I represent a neighborhood that’s one of the lowest income communities in the city and we’re gonna face the same problems that any inner city community will face,” he said, citing education and health care as two important streams of federal funding. A repeal of the Affordable Care Act would be a particularly stinging blow to his community, he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">The future is not all anxiety and uncertainty, however. Along with the city’s commitments, Espinal recently received a welcome piece of news in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-14-billion-vital-brooklyn-initiative-transform-central-brooklyn" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vital Brooklyn</a> proposal, which would invest $1.4 billion in Central Brooklyn, including parts of East New York and Bushwick. The plan, according to a spokesperson for the governor, was months in the making and sought input from local and state legislators.</p> <p dir="ltr">Vital Brooklyn includes investments in education, job creation, affordable housing, healthy food options, open and green spaces, among others. Espinal, who was with the governor at the announcement, said it brought back memories of the East New York plan which similarly addressed a comprehensive range of needs for the community. “I can’t speak to how much of that $1.4 billion is coming into East New York itself but you know it’s only going to enhance the work we’ve done,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked, Espinal said he’d like to see the mayor and governor coordinate on the overlapping parts of the plans, but he doesn’t hold out hope for the feuding leaders, both Democrats like Espinal. “I would love to see coordination but if they decide to do things with their own priority and prerogative then I think that’s fine as well,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think it’s no secret what the relationship is,” he added with a chuckle, when asked if he thinks the mayor and governor can work together. “But I think they can. I don’t think there’s anything controversial in investing in low-income communities. It’ll better serve the community if they’re able to come together and come up with a comprehensive plan that will match the needs of the neighborhood.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The Department of City Planning is currently studying a number of neighborhoods for the next rezoning after East New York. Furthest along in the process are Greater East Midtown and Downtown Far Rockaway, which are both undergoing public review, as well as East Harlem. The city is also conducting an environmental impact study in the Bay Street Corridor in Staten Island while another potential rezoning study, in <a href="http://citylimits.org/2016/06/02/city-says-flushing-rezoning-is-paused-not-dead-some-investments-still-on-track/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Flushing, Queens</a>, was “paused” in late-May after facing opposition from local legislators.</p> <p dir="ltr">Most of these neighborhoods eyed for rezoning are smaller than East New York, but each has its own socioeconomic and even political complexities. Espinal, having been through the process, is now the sounding board for the Council members who will be in the hot seat next as they negotiate their own rezonings with the administration. “They all reach out to me,” Espinal said proudly. “They all worry about not getting the best deal out of the administration. And they ask advice about what was it that I pushed for and how did I push for it, also dealing with the political pressures too.”</p> Last year, at the land use committee vote to approve the East New York plan, Council Member David Greenfield, the committee chair, called it a “unicorn deal” that set the bar for other rezonings. “This is the new standard that’s being set in the city that quite frankly everybody else will chase,” he said. “But rest assured I can tell you, as the chair of the land use committee, they’re not gonna capture it.”</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Note - this article has been updated.</div>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/espinal_and_bdb_by_jeffrey_wz_reed.jpg" alt="espinal and bdb by jeffrey wz reed" width="600" height="403" /></p> <p>Council Member Espinal and Mayor de Blasio (photo: Jeffry W Reed)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">About a year ago, the City Council approved a comprehensive rezoning plan for East New York, the first of a dozen neighborhoods that the city targeted for new land use rules in an effort to develop more housing, including affordable housing, and improve community amenities. As with any rezoning, the plan approved in April 2016 was many months in the making and negotiated in close consultation with the local City Council member, in this case Rafael Espinal, who had significant influence over the designs and final say on the plan’s passage in the Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">Now, Espinal, his district, and the de Blasio administration are seeing the early stages of the East New York Neighborhood Plan put into action, though the effects of the rezoning will only be seen and felt in stages over decades. The plan brings with it major investments in the community, but also more density and gentrification, neighborhood improvements that can benefit current residents while also endangering their ability to afford the area long-term.</p> <p dir="ltr">In an interview last week at his legislative office in Downtown Manhattan, Council Member Espinal touted what he delivered for his community, and praised the city’s commitment to fulfilling its many promises as it gets ready to begin repaving streets, designing public parks, and opening a much-awaited community center by the end of this year.</p> <p dir="ltr">While critics of the final deal reached by Espinal and the de Blasio administration worry that even the rent-stabilized affordable housing will not be affordable enough for current residents, no one can deny that hundreds of millions of dollars are flowing into a community that has among the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">In negotiating the plan with the administration, Espinal faced immense political pressure while attempting to balance parallel and competing interests -- an administration that wanted to prioritize housing development; a community that wanted deeper affordability than was being offered; and a neighborhood that needed jobs and economic development after years of stagnation and being underserved. Espinal came out of negotiations with $267 million in promised capital investments -- money for schools, parks, infrastructure -- in what will likely be the largest neighborhood rezoning the de Blasio administration attempts.</p> <p dir="ltr">Of the 10 to 15 neighborhoods the de Blasio administration <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6287-east-new-york-deal-sets-precedent-for-wave-of-rezonings" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may attempt to rezone</a>, East New York’s is the only plan that has passed thus far. The rezonings are about neighborhood development, but also key to the mayor’s plan to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing. The East New York rezoning process itself was a major test of the administration’s commitment to equity in development and to ensuring that investment in communities doesn’t mean wholesale gentrification and displacement, issues that will be watched over time.</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6287-east-new-york-deal-sets-precedent-for-wave-of-rezonings" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">East New York Deal Sets Precedent for Wave of Rezonings</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr">Espinal said the city has followed through so far, having allocated $90 million to the plan already. “There was this commitment from the administration that they were going to get to work as soon [the rezoning plan] was passed,” he said. “And I have to say that they stayed true to that commitment.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Espinal listed off progress on the various projects underway -- the district’s first state-of-the-art community center in decades is expected to open by the end of this year; the Brooklyn Parks Department has received funding for a number of local projects and is set to begin work; the Department of Transportation is ready to “put the shovel in the ground next month” for the planned streetscaping of Atlantic Avenue; and the nonprofit Phipps Houses is ready to break ground by the end of the summer on a lot to build 1,000 units of 100-percent permanently affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city has also received applications for developing another 200 units at a city-owned site, again for housing that will be 100-percent permanently affordable -- meaning that rent caps will be in place to ensure that residents of specific income bands don’t pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent. The specifics of those income thresholds was part of the debate over the rezoning and has been part of the overall discussion of de Blasio’s housing plan, with some elected officials and activists pushing for deeper levels of affordability.</p> <p dir="ltr">The East New York plan includes two of four options for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, which requires developers to set aside a certain percentage of units under rent thresholds amid other market-rate units. One of the bands requires that 20 percent of new units be created for households making up to 40 percent of Area Median Income ($31,080 for a household of three) and the second option requires 25 percent of units at 60 percent AMI (including 10 percent at 40 percent AMI). Developers will be able to choose which of the two options they prefer when building on a parcel of land.</p> <p dir="ltr">Additionally, a working group of city agencies is studying the legalization of basement apartment units, and is due to issue its report soon, based on which $12 million in city funding could potentially help homeowners retrofit about 1,200 basements for residential purposes, creating another potential source of housing affordable to lower-income residents.&nbsp;That funding has yet to be allocated but is one of the commitments made by the administration.</p> <p dir="ltr">For another key piece of the plan, the School Construction Authority is seeking public review for a 1,000-seat public school, and two community visioning sessions have been held so far. And, a Workforce1 job training center, run by the city’s Department of Small Business Services, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6664-part-of-rezoning-plan-city-opens-new-career-help-center-in-east-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">opened in December.</a></p> <p dir="ltr">“So everything that we fought for and everything that the mayor committed to delivering is actually coming to fruition,” Espinal said. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6664-part-of-rezoning-plan-city-opens-new-career-help-center-in-east-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Part of Rezoning Plan, City Opens New Career Center in East New York</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, the process is not without its anxieties. With rapid development comes gentrification, for better and worse, and there is fear about rising rents and displacement -- for both residential and commercial tenants. De Blasio has long-argued that the best thing for New Yorkers, especially low-income residents, is to harness development and gain concessions from developers. He has also shown a willingness to invest city money into affordable housing and community parks, among other things.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though the neighborhood may have the blessing of capital commitments from the mayor, even those might not be immune to the larger pressures of the annual budget process at the city, state and the federal level.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There’s no real way to legally hold [the administration] accountable,” admitted Espinal. “But I think being the first rezoning put us at an advantage, in that, since we were the first, [the mayor] had to make good on this first project in order to convince other members, in order to show the city, that he was committed in doing the right thing by every community.”</p> <p dir="ltr">To bolster accountability and transparency, the City Council <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2637116&amp;GUID=AB629863-4E14-4F88-8AEC-D03AED71CD90&amp;FullText=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">passed legislation</a> in December, sponsored by Espinal, Public Advocate Letitia James, and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, which <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6314-legislation-aimed-at-holding-city-accountable-for-rezoning-commitments" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mandates</a> that the administration maintain an online public list of commitments made during a land use review process, including rezonings. The details of that online portal are being ironed out with the administration and it “should come live pretty soon,” Espinal said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Concerns about rising costs and gentrification are harder to allay. Before the rezoning plan passed, community advocates warned about the effect a rezoning could have on the neighborhood. New York Communities for Change was one group that opposed the plan, and protested Espinal’s support for it, mainly calling the affordability levels of the housing inadequate. They even <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/protests-planned-east-new-york-rezoning-plan-article-1.2598517" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">threatened</a> to run a primary candidate against him in his upcoming reelection bid (though it appears they are not following through).</p> <p dir="ltr">In the weeks leading up the Council’s vote on the rezoning, and on the day of the vote itself, the groups held rallies, calling for a “no” vote from Espinal, which would’ve effectively killed the plan altogether. The full City Council, by tradition, not statute, votes with the local representative on land use matters. With Espinal’s blessing, and a lot of praise from colleagues for the deal he struck, the plan passed nearly unanimously. The one “no” vote was from neighboring Council Member Inez Barron, who actually represents a small piece of the rezoned area herself. Barron worried about affordability and gentrification.</p> <p dir="ltr">“One year later, tenants are still being harassed, rents are rising, and we still have a rezoning plan that will not create affordable units for the people of East New York,” said Renata Pumarol, deputy director of New York Communities for Change, in an email.</p> <p dir="ltr">Among the adverse effects that NYCC claims the rezoning has caused are rising rents along the L Train corridor and along the 2,3,4 and 5 subway lines, minimal affordable housing development, predatory land grabs, and tenant harassment. Pumarol said in the email, as an example, that monthly rents at Marcus Garvey Village for certain families increased from $1700 last year to $2100.</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6309-homeowners-stand-to-gain-in-areas-to-be-rezoned-if-they-can-keep-their-homes">Homeowners Stand to Gain in Areas to be Rezoned, If They Can Keep Their Homes</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr">Espinal brushed aside the criticism that was levelled against him, even as he acknowledged that housing speculation was an expected trend that was hard to contain.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I agree that we should find ways to create more affordability in these plans,” he said, “but the position I was in at the time, it wasn’t feasible. I was given these certain tools and what I was able to do was maximize every tool that was on the table that the agencies had to build affordable housing.” Espinal said he would gladly stand with those same community groups to fight for affordable housing but he had to move forward with the rezoning, “because I wasn’t just building affordable housing, I was also giving my constituents the tools they need to deal with the forces of gentrification as it comes into the community.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Housing speculation kicked off <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/01/east-new-york-gentrification.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">well ahead of </a>the plan even being approved as word spread that the city had identified East New York for redevelopment. The rezoning plan attempted to ameliorate some of those effects, by creating a Homeowner Helpdesk and by providing legal assistance to those facing eviction in housing court, a program that was <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20170213/civic-center/housing-court-de-blasio-mark-viverito-levine-lawyer-landlord" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recently fully funded</a> by the mayor.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It’s a snowball that started rolling a long time ago, coming in from Williamsburg,” Espinal said, referring to one neighborhood among several that de Blasio often cites when talking about misguided past rezonings that did not deliver for the community already there. “Bushwick has seen a lot of gentrification, and has seen a lot of the negative effects of that because government didn’t intervene at all,” Espinal added, mentioning another of the neighborhoods de Blasio also cites.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/plans/east-new-york/east-new-york-1.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/eny_map_key.jpg" alt="eny map key" width="400" height="259" style="margin: 0px 8px 0px 0px; float: left;" /></a>The Council member emphasized the need for the city to step in, as it has with the rezoning. “For anyone to say, ‘Oh we shouldn’t invest in these neighborhood because it’s gonna raise speculation,’ you know I think that’s just wrong,” he said. “I grew up there and as a kid all I wanted was the city and state to invest all this money in the neighborhood because I wanted a better park...I was a kid watching TV, seeing the high schools, and I’m like, ‘how come my high school doesn’t look that way?’”</p> <p dir="ltr">The city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy is also dependent on drawing real estate developers to a neighborhood. That’s part of what the city is relying on for meeting a 10-year target of 6,000 new units in East New York, with at least half of them affordable. And the market pressures that may affect the community, Espinal said, would be offset by first creating 1,200-1,300 units of permanent affordable housing within the next two years.</p> <p dir="ltr">The challenges for the community aren’t limited to the stock and costs of affordable housing. Relatedly, though, East New York has one of the city’s largest concentrations of homeless families. The Partnership for the Homeless <a href="http://partnershipforthehomeless.org/pages/81/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">estimates</a> that more than a third of East New York families are poor and nearly 40 percent of its children live in poverty.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio has struggled to control homelessness citywide, and often references his affordable housing plan as one of ways the city will reduce homelessness in the long-term. The rezoning plan says nothing directly of taking on homelessness, and a new homelessness plan the mayor recently outlined dictates the opening of 90 new shelters while the city stops using commercial hotels and scatter-site apartments to house homeless New Yorkers.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is unclear how many new shelters the city may target for East New York. But, part of the rezoning deal involved the closure of two homeless shelters in the district.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor has promised a new shelter siting policy that prioritizes proximity to a homeless person’s most recent address and support center, keeping homeless people close to their communities. This principle raises concerns in communities like East New York that shelters could be concentrated in already-overburdened neighborhoods. That cyclical logic is what bothers Espinal.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’m very concerned when [the mayor] says that every neighborhood will have to pay their fair share,” Espinal said. The idea that “depending on how many homeless are coming out of your neighborhood will determine how many homeless shelters you have in your community,” Espinal said, “if we’re going to follow that philosophy then that means East New York would get a large group of those shelters and I don’t think that’s fair...this could mean that we’re gonna get two brand new shelters after we’ve closed down two that we committed to close.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor’s homeless shelter siting plan could run up against the City Council’s own proposed legislation, spearheaded by Speaker Mark-Viverito and Council Member Brad Lander, to modernize the city’s fair share guidelines that determine the siting of municipal facilities. The Council’s proposals would require a more equitable distribution of facilities across the five boroughs, which may not necessarily align with the mayor’s homeless shelter plan, which he calls a community-focused approach. “We’re going to change our shelter system to reflect the needs of each community board,” the mayor said in announcing the new approach. “We want people to be close to home. But we want everyone to do their fair share – every community board needs to be part of the solution.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Espinal supports the fair share legislation and also wants to see a “compassionate” homelessness policy that keeps people close to their neighborhoods, two things that aren’t mutually exclusive, he said. “I think the issue is taking a family from Brooklyn and housing them in the Bronx,” he said, “and then saying, ‘How are you going to get to school every morning in Brooklyn?”</p> <p>He went on, “If you’re in the immediate area or a neighborhood near where your school is, I think that would work a lot better. I know my neighbors in Queens, which is just a few blocks to the north and a few blocks to the east, are a little shy of housing homeless shelters in their areas. But you know, these neighborhoods are right next door, why not put a shelter in the community board next door to mine?”</p> <div> <p dir="ltr">Presented with Espinal’s comments, a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio said in an email, “We are committed to engaging communities as we open shelter sites across the five boroughs, taking into account community feedback and working to address neighborhood concerns.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Jaclyn Rothenberg, the spokesperson, noted that the city is canceling the use of 360 emergency hotels and cluster sites, which will ultimately lead to a 45 percent reduction in the city’s shelter footprint. Brooklyn alone has about 93 shelters, 48 cluster sites and 22 hotel shelters, according to an <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2017/02/27/city-data-reveals-where-all-nyc-homeless-shelters-are-located.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NY1 analysis</a> based on a Freedom of Information Law request, released a day before the mayor announced his new policy.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to city data, there are 1,197 cases, including 2,703 individuals, in shelters who hail from Community Board 5, which covers East New York. At the same time, about 1,368 cases or 2,171 individuals are currently housed in shelters actually situated in that community board. In the same area, there are 64 apartment units in cluster sites housing 201 individuals and 242 beds in commercial hotels that hold 411 individuals.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We encourage all communities to join us at the table as we move forward," Rothenberg said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Naturally, Espinal also worries about how proposed federal budget cuts may also affect the neighborhood, even if they don’t necessarily affect the city’s rezoning commitments. “I represent a neighborhood that’s one of the lowest income communities in the city and we’re gonna face the same problems that any inner city community will face,” he said, citing education and health care as two important streams of federal funding. A repeal of the Affordable Care Act would be a particularly stinging blow to his community, he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">The future is not all anxiety and uncertainty, however. Along with the city’s commitments, Espinal recently received a welcome piece of news in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-14-billion-vital-brooklyn-initiative-transform-central-brooklyn" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vital Brooklyn</a> proposal, which would invest $1.4 billion in Central Brooklyn, including parts of East New York and Bushwick. The plan, according to a spokesperson for the governor, was months in the making and sought input from local and state legislators.</p> <p dir="ltr">Vital Brooklyn includes investments in education, job creation, affordable housing, healthy food options, open and green spaces, among others. Espinal, who was with the governor at the announcement, said it brought back memories of the East New York plan which similarly addressed a comprehensive range of needs for the community. “I can’t speak to how much of that $1.4 billion is coming into East New York itself but you know it’s only going to enhance the work we’ve done,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked, Espinal said he’d like to see the mayor and governor coordinate on the overlapping parts of the plans, but he doesn’t hold out hope for the feuding leaders, both Democrats like Espinal. “I would love to see coordination but if they decide to do things with their own priority and prerogative then I think that’s fine as well,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think it’s no secret what the relationship is,” he added with a chuckle, when asked if he thinks the mayor and governor can work together. “But I think they can. I don’t think there’s anything controversial in investing in low-income communities. It’ll better serve the community if they’re able to come together and come up with a comprehensive plan that will match the needs of the neighborhood.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The Department of City Planning is currently studying a number of neighborhoods for the next rezoning after East New York. Furthest along in the process are Greater East Midtown and Downtown Far Rockaway, which are both undergoing public review, as well as East Harlem. The city is also conducting an environmental impact study in the Bay Street Corridor in Staten Island while another potential rezoning study, in <a href="http://citylimits.org/2016/06/02/city-says-flushing-rezoning-is-paused-not-dead-some-investments-still-on-track/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Flushing, Queens</a>, was “paused” in late-May after facing opposition from local legislators.</p> <p dir="ltr">Most of these neighborhoods eyed for rezoning are smaller than East New York, but each has its own socioeconomic and even political complexities. Espinal, having been through the process, is now the sounding board for the Council members who will be in the hot seat next as they negotiate their own rezonings with the administration. “They all reach out to me,” Espinal said proudly. “They all worry about not getting the best deal out of the administration. And they ask advice about what was it that I pushed for and how did I push for it, also dealing with the political pressures too.”</p> Last year, at the land use committee vote to approve the East New York plan, Council Member David Greenfield, the committee chair, called it a “unicorn deal” that set the bar for other rezonings. “This is the new standard that’s being set in the city that quite frankly everybody else will chase,” he said. “But rest assured I can tell you, as the chair of the land use committee, they’re not gonna capture it.”</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Note - this article has been updated.</div>
Part of Rezoning Plan, City Opens New Career Center in East New York 2016-12-11T05:00:00+00:00 2016-12-11T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6664:part-of-rezoning-plan-city-opens-new-career-help-center-in-east-new-york Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/bdb_espinal_town_hall.jpg" alt="bdb espinal town hall" width="600" height="398" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; CM Espinal (photo: Jeffrey Reed for the City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>After serving jail time in 2014, Anthony McGlashan, a resident of East New York, Brooklyn, struggled to find employment for three years. While he had a certification from the Anthem Institute in the field of Information Technology, he continued to be rejected by employers due to his lack of experience and his criminal background. McGlashan then turned to one of New York City’s Workforce1 Centers, a city initiative that provides free career services by pairing employers with workers, holding workshops for resume and interview preparation, and other resources to aid the job search.</p> <p>In August 2015, McGlashan enrolled in Employment Works, a city program designed to match individuals with criminal histories with full-time, permanent positions in an attempt to reduce recidivism. Through workshops and the support of the program, McGlashan was able to secure an IT support position with the State of New York Unified Court System.</p> <p>“It’s been awhile, it was a struggle,” McGlashan said. “I almost felt like giving up at one time. It was only three years, but it felt much longer than that.”</p> <p>“The program pushed me to look for a more permanent, full-time position,” he added. “It shows you what you have to do in life to get something, to fight for it. Stay ambitious and determined.”</p> <p>Those previously involved with the criminal justice system often face significant difficulties when looking for permanent job opportunities. Despite serving their time, a criminal history makes employees much less likely to be hired. To eliminate this type of employment discrimination by employers, New York City passed <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/media/fair-chance-act-campaign.page" target="_blank">the Fair Chance Act</a> in October of 2015, forbidding employers from asking for the criminal records of job applicants until a job offer has been made.</p> <p>To help further break down barriers faced when looking for a job after a conviction, Mayor Bill de Blasio, working with City Council Member Rafael Espinal and Commissioner Gregg Bishop of the Department of Small Business Services (SBS), is opening a new Workforce1 center in East New York, Brooklyn on Monday. The center, part of the East New York Neighborhood Plan that was <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6287-east-new-york-deal-sets-precedent-for-wave-of-rezonings" target="_blank">negotiated by Espinal and the de Blasio administration and passed through the City Council</a>, is tailored to the specific needs of this neighborhood.</p> <p>East New York has a high percentage of out-of-work, out-of-school youth and individuals with criminal backgrounds, according to the city. As part of the East New York rezoning that passed earlier this year, the career center is the nineteenth such center across the city. It will cost about $700,000 annually to run, according to SBS, with that money coming through a federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grant. The funding for creating the facility, about $165,000, came from the $276 million allocated for community development in the East New York plan, which encompasses a key stretch of Espinal’s district that will soon be home to new housing, retail, and other development, along with other community services, like a new school. It is an underdeveloped area with high concentrations of poverty and the first neighborhood rezoned under the de Blasio affordable housing plan.</p> <p>“We are investing in the people of East New York,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement accompanying the announcement of the new workforce center’s opening. “We are committed to providing the training, the education and the job-placements families need to work their way into the middle class.”</p> <p>Council Member Espinal, who <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6287-east-new-york-deal-sets-precedent-for-wave-of-rezonings" target="_blank">negotiated with the de Blasio administration</a> to pass the multi-faceted, “anti-gentrification” rezoning for his district in April, called the high unemployment rate in Brooklyn, especially in East New York, “unacceptable.”</p> <p>“The economic disparities in our city that have put a strain on so many New Yorker’s must be addressed,” Espinal said in a statement. “That is why I pushed so hard to secure this Workforce1 Center as part of the East New York Neighborhood Rezoning Plan. After all, a house is not affordable without a job.”</p> <p>Some of the debate centered on the East New York plan -- and other rezonings being considered around the city -- revolved around the levels of affordability for new rent-stabilized housing in the rezoned area. New housing in East New York will be deeply subsidized by the city, but there are still concerns of displacement. Relatedly, Espinal and others rallied on Saturday against predatory homeowner speculation that has been occurring in the area in anticipation of community improvements and rising property value.</p> <p>“All New Yorker’s should have access to good paying jobs and the tools they need to secure a bright future for their families,” Espinal said. “I am excited that the center has opened so quickly and look forward to the opportunities it will create for our community.”</p> <p>Alex Vitale, a Brooklyn College sociology professor, said opening this career center in East New York reflects the mayor’s understanding of the biggest challenge facing young people of color: unemployment.</p> <p>“High levels of joblessness among these young people is a major contribution to participation in underground economies of drug dealing, property crime, and prostitution,” Vitale said in an email.</p> <p>While these centers provide job-searching resources, Vitale said the mayor should continue to identify more ways for unemployed youth to get jobs, increasing public and private sector opportunity.</p> <p>“The question is whether these centers will produce an overall increase in employment or merely rearrange who gets the few jobs that are out there,” Vitale said. “The mayor should also take steps to significantly increase the number of jobs for these young people, through public employment if the private sector is unable or unwilling to do it.”</p> <p>According to the city, the new East New York center includes partnerships with community-based organizations. Espinal points out that while the unemployment rate continues to drop nationally, it has remained higher in Brooklyn, and it is even higher in East New York.</p> <p>“A quality career opportunity can be a ticket out of poverty for all New Yorkers, including those who were formerly acquainted with the criminal justice system,” said Bishop, the city’s commissioner of small business services, in a statement. “This career center will be an asset for the entire East New York community.”</p> <p>

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by Devin Gannon for Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: details of the funding for the career center have been clarified from the original version of this article.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/bdb_espinal_town_hall.jpg" alt="bdb espinal town hall" width="600" height="398" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; CM Espinal (photo: Jeffrey Reed for the City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>After serving jail time in 2014, Anthony McGlashan, a resident of East New York, Brooklyn, struggled to find employment for three years. While he had a certification from the Anthem Institute in the field of Information Technology, he continued to be rejected by employers due to his lack of experience and his criminal background. McGlashan then turned to one of New York City’s Workforce1 Centers, a city initiative that provides free career services by pairing employers with workers, holding workshops for resume and interview preparation, and other resources to aid the job search.</p> <p>In August 2015, McGlashan enrolled in Employment Works, a city program designed to match individuals with criminal histories with full-time, permanent positions in an attempt to reduce recidivism. Through workshops and the support of the program, McGlashan was able to secure an IT support position with the State of New York Unified Court System.</p> <p>“It’s been awhile, it was a struggle,” McGlashan said. “I almost felt like giving up at one time. It was only three years, but it felt much longer than that.”</p> <p>“The program pushed me to look for a more permanent, full-time position,” he added. “It shows you what you have to do in life to get something, to fight for it. Stay ambitious and determined.”</p> <p>Those previously involved with the criminal justice system often face significant difficulties when looking for permanent job opportunities. Despite serving their time, a criminal history makes employees much less likely to be hired. To eliminate this type of employment discrimination by employers, New York City passed <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/media/fair-chance-act-campaign.page" target="_blank">the Fair Chance Act</a> in October of 2015, forbidding employers from asking for the criminal records of job applicants until a job offer has been made.</p> <p>To help further break down barriers faced when looking for a job after a conviction, Mayor Bill de Blasio, working with City Council Member Rafael Espinal and Commissioner Gregg Bishop of the Department of Small Business Services (SBS), is opening a new Workforce1 center in East New York, Brooklyn on Monday. The center, part of the East New York Neighborhood Plan that was <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6287-east-new-york-deal-sets-precedent-for-wave-of-rezonings" target="_blank">negotiated by Espinal and the de Blasio administration and passed through the City Council</a>, is tailored to the specific needs of this neighborhood.</p> <p>East New York has a high percentage of out-of-work, out-of-school youth and individuals with criminal backgrounds, according to the city. As part of the East New York rezoning that passed earlier this year, the career center is the nineteenth such center across the city. It will cost about $700,000 annually to run, according to SBS, with that money coming through a federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grant. The funding for creating the facility, about $165,000, came from the $276 million allocated for community development in the East New York plan, which encompasses a key stretch of Espinal’s district that will soon be home to new housing, retail, and other development, along with other community services, like a new school. It is an underdeveloped area with high concentrations of poverty and the first neighborhood rezoned under the de Blasio affordable housing plan.</p> <p>“We are investing in the people of East New York,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement accompanying the announcement of the new workforce center’s opening. “We are committed to providing the training, the education and the job-placements families need to work their way into the middle class.”</p> <p>Council Member Espinal, who <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6287-east-new-york-deal-sets-precedent-for-wave-of-rezonings" target="_blank">negotiated with the de Blasio administration</a> to pass the multi-faceted, “anti-gentrification” rezoning for his district in April, called the high unemployment rate in Brooklyn, especially in East New York, “unacceptable.”</p> <p>“The economic disparities in our city that have put a strain on so many New Yorker’s must be addressed,” Espinal said in a statement. “That is why I pushed so hard to secure this Workforce1 Center as part of the East New York Neighborhood Rezoning Plan. After all, a house is not affordable without a job.”</p> <p>Some of the debate centered on the East New York plan -- and other rezonings being considered around the city -- revolved around the levels of affordability for new rent-stabilized housing in the rezoned area. New housing in East New York will be deeply subsidized by the city, but there are still concerns of displacement. Relatedly, Espinal and others rallied on Saturday against predatory homeowner speculation that has been occurring in the area in anticipation of community improvements and rising property value.</p> <p>“All New Yorker’s should have access to good paying jobs and the tools they need to secure a bright future for their families,” Espinal said. “I am excited that the center has opened so quickly and look forward to the opportunities it will create for our community.”</p> <p>Alex Vitale, a Brooklyn College sociology professor, said opening this career center in East New York reflects the mayor’s understanding of the biggest challenge facing young people of color: unemployment.</p> <p>“High levels of joblessness among these young people is a major contribution to participation in underground economies of drug dealing, property crime, and prostitution,” Vitale said in an email.</p> <p>While these centers provide job-searching resources, Vitale said the mayor should continue to identify more ways for unemployed youth to get jobs, increasing public and private sector opportunity.</p> <p>“The question is whether these centers will produce an overall increase in employment or merely rearrange who gets the few jobs that are out there,” Vitale said. “The mayor should also take steps to significantly increase the number of jobs for these young people, through public employment if the private sector is unable or unwilling to do it.”</p> <p>According to the city, the new East New York center includes partnerships with community-based organizations. Espinal points out that while the unemployment rate continues to drop nationally, it has remained higher in Brooklyn, and it is even higher in East New York.</p> <p>“A quality career opportunity can be a ticket out of poverty for all New Yorkers, including those who were formerly acquainted with the criminal justice system,” said Bishop, the city’s commissioner of small business services, in a statement. “This career center will be an asset for the entire East New York community.”</p> <p>

***
by Devin Gannon for Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: details of the funding for the career center have been clarified from the original version of this article.</p>
Homeowners Stand to Gain in Areas to be Rezoned, If They Can Keep Their Homes 2016-04-28T04:00:00+00:00 2016-04-28T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6309:homeowners-stand-to-gain-in-areas-to-be-rezoned-if-they-can-keep-their-homes Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14298580034_c75bdb858d_z.jpg" width="600" height="399" alt="de blasio homeowners sign sandy" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio (photo: Rob Bennett, Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">As plans to spur new development in areas around New York City proceed, mostly silence surrounds the experience of homeowners who are being pressured by investors to sell. Prior to the City Council’s approval of rezoning East New York, Brooklyn last week, there had been little public discussion of how or whether to ameliorate real estate speculation on small homes. At least in East New York, some homeowner protections have been introduced to the plan, but investor-backed speculation, to some extent, still seems to be part of the city-wide housing agenda.</p> <p dir="ltr">Facing a shortage of housing attainable for moderate- and low-income residents, Mayor Bill de Blasio has stressed the importance of creating a comprehensive affordable housing plan, part of his larger agenda to combat inequality. De Blasio is attempting to harness the sweep of gentrification that continues to displace residents – both renters and small home owners - who are being priced and bought out, especially in the “next” neighborhoods where prices are rising rapidly.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We know right now that we can do a lot to stop evictions from rental apartments,” de Blasio said in a March <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/de-blasios-affordable-housing-fight-shifts-neighborhood-battles/" target="_blank">interview</a> with WNYC. “We don’t have as good a model to protect homeowners that might be the subject of speculation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor is working with the City Council on much of his housing plan, including tenant protections, new affordable housing requirements, and the rezoning of as many as 15 neighborhoods across the city. East New York’s is the first such rezoning plan to be approved by a Council vote.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Council itself has been especially focused on protecting tenants from eviction. When asked, though, about protections for financially-strapped homeowners who will have trouble resisting aggressive speculation, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito also indicated, like the mayor, that the subject has not been thoroughly discussed. Acknowledging pressure on homeowners as a challenge in a “very hot” market, she said, “Those are things we can talk about as we think about initiatives and existing legal services and getting to more targeted populations.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In the revised East New York rezoning plan, the city has committed to establishing a “Homeowner Helpdesk,” which will be a community-based support service with financial and legal counselors offering advice to homeowners facing overbearing speculators who are drawn in by low prices and the potential for high price growth that comes with the ability to build higher. The city will also provide low-income homeowners with loans and small grants for critical repairs through the Home Improvement Program and Senior Citizen Assistance Program, among others.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), which subsidizes the construction of affordable housing, also says it will work with the Department of Environmental Protection to implement water rate relief programs, and is also looking into the possibility of establishing a “Cease and Desist Zone,” where homeowners would be protected from unwanted solicitation. Buying, however, is still a principal tenet of the agenda to have real estate developers build much of the city’s new affordable housing stock.</p> <p dir="ltr">Part of Mark-Viverito’s East Harlem district is also on the list to be rezoned, as well as neighborhoods including Flushing West, Long Island City, a Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx, and a Bay Street Corridor on Staten Island.</p> <p dir="ltr">The rise in sales prices and the interest investors are showing in one-to-four unit houses in areas eyed for rezoning indicate that homeowners may increasingly become the targets of forceful, even predatory, buyers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mark-Viverito mentioned the calls she herself receives to sell her East Harlem home, while “keys for cash” flyers proliferate in the neighborhoods on the shifting lines of gentrification. Often, even more aggressive tactics are taken by those looking to invest early when a neighborhood appears to be considered for improvement.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Stakeholders and Stakes</strong><br />All homeowners stand to gain from increasing property values in neighborhoods slated for rezoning. Those with moderate incomes and unburdened by mortgages are in particularly good position, whether they decide to take the money and run or stay vested. But many, often most, of the homeowners in areas pending rezoning have relatively low incomes and face significant pressures like mortgage obligations and the cost of maintaining old housing. As investors see greater opportunity in neighborhoods the city plans to upzone, this latter group of homeowners becomes more vulnerable to buyout offers that don’t reflect the value of their assets.</p> <p dir="ltr">For small home owners, the ability of government intervention to prevent displacement and promote affordable housing options falls into a grey area. “Obviously, the first thing we would say to anybody is to encourage nobody to respond to anything unless they get some sort of guidance,” Mark-Viverito said in March of homeowners being approached to sell. “These are challenges that we face in a market that is very hot, you know, that is putting a lot of pressures.”</p> <p dir="ltr">While Mark-Viverito may offer a tip to fellow homeowners - some of whom speak limited English and many of whom are seniors - and the city provides some advice and loan services, homeowners appear to be largely on their own as the city encourages investment in underdeveloped communities. As part of the plan to rezone East New York, the city aims to subsidize the construction of new deeply affordable housing on private land, but in many cases, developers must first buy land from existing homeowners.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Gentrification, rezoning it all trickles and impacts,” said Darma Diaz, a homeowner in Cypress Hills, which is partially included in the East New York rezoning plan. “We definitely know that rents in New York City are high and apartments are hard to find, but it makes [living in the city] that much more challenging when you have the pressure of investors wanting and pursuing and making it really financially lucrative to sell your home.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz has been living in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn since the late 1970s and has owned a home there since 2007. She is worried that small home owners have not received enough attention throughout the city-wide discussion of rezoning as part of the mayor’s affordable housing agenda. “We knew that building more units was necessary for our community, but I think what [the mayor and City Council] did not take into account was the impact that the speculators were gonna have on small home owners.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, in part using legislative tools passed through the City Council in March, includes leveraging property value growth that will come with changing land use regulations to allow greater housing density, encourage construction, and require developers to build tens of thousands of new units of affordable housing. De Blasio’s overall plan is to build and preserve a total of 200,000 units of affordable housing over ten years with varying rent regulations affordable to low-, moderate-, and middle-income New Yorkers. Another 160,000 market-rate units are part of the plan.</p> <p dir="ltr">Benjamin Dulchin, executive director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), told Gotham Gazette that the areas pending rezoning are typically regions of the city with high concentrations of low-rise buildings. Now with low housing density, developers will soon be allowed to build higher in these neighborhoods, creating additional market-rate apartments along with mandated affordable units.</p> <p dir="ltr">The buildings that would need to be torn down to make room for the higher, denser housing necessary to achieve the mayor’s goal of 80,000 newly built affordable units are also often the kinds of buildings - one-to-four family houses - that are occupied by the owner.</p> <p dir="ltr">In East New York, a majority of all housing is in buildings with fewer than six units. According to the Coalition for Community Advancement, a group of neighborhood organizations independently monitoring the planning process and pushing for deeper affordability levels, roughly three-quarters of the buildings on sale in East New York are one-to-four family houses.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Department of City Planning’s <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/plans/east-new-york/east-new-york-plan.page" target="_blank">East New York Community Plan</a>, the revised version of which was passed just by the City Council, proposed to change land use rules to allow six- to 14-story buildings to be constructed, which could more than double the area’s population density. In the next two years, HPD plans to build 1,200 new affordable housing units in East New York and, by 2024, seeks to make affordable half of all new units developed in that community.</p> <p dir="ltr">Even before rezoning proposals are approved through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which is the public process involving many city actors that any major land use change must go through, the increase in property value that comes with rezoning has potential to make waves among buyers and investors - and thus, existing homeowners.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the steady sales price growth of New York City real estate over the past five years (20 if you allow for some dips) is cooling, annual price growth in East Brooklyn, which includes Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Bushwick, Crown Heights, and East New York, increased to a high 20.5 percent in February, exceeding the Brooklyn-wide growth rate by about 300 percent, according to a <a href="http://streeteasy.com/blog/february-2016-market-report/" target="_blank">StreetEasy report</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Alan Lightfeldt, a data scientist at StreetEasy, said that it is impossible to tell what impact the new affordable housing legislation will have on home sales because of the complexity of factors that affect prices, such as the “endemic demand” for homes - the built-in demand that a large city with a population of aspiring homeowners, like New York, almost always has today.</p> <p dir="ltr">That demand is part of the general trend of gentrification, radiating outward as the population continues to grow, business centers expand, and the city becomes <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/27/nyregion/anxiety-aside-new-york-sees-drop-in-crime.html?_r=0" target="_blank">safer</a>. The latest hot neighborhoods are those where prices are still affordable to moderate- and middle-income residents, and that have public transportation infrastructure connecting them to the rest of the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">Paula Crespo, a senior planner at the Pratt Center for Community Development, who works with the Coalition for Community Advancement, provided Gotham Gazette with data that the sales prices of one-to-four family homes has increased by 13 percent in East New York since the rezoning was announced in 2014. Yet, they are still relatively low compared to the city- and borough-wide median sales prices.</p> <p dir="ltr">The combination of low prices and high price growth makes places like East New York incredibly appetizing to real estate speculators who seek to turn a profit. When speculation is rampant, homeowners - both current and prospective - feel the effects.</p> <p dir="ltr">From a market perspective, other considerations aside, “when an area sees widespread value change, especially through external factors like rezoning,” Lightfeldt said, “homeowners usually benefit.” Being able to choose when to sell gives homeowners, like investors, the ability to capitalize on the increase in their property’s value.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Hardships of the Small Home Owner</strong><br />For homeowners who are in debt and facing financial hardship, however, the agency to choose whether and when to sell is not always theirs. Up against wealthy buyers attracted by favorable prices and even more favorable price growth, homeowners in areas under rezoning consideration face the weighty task of holding out against offers to buy. Giving in may satisfy immediate financial needs, but, for the lowest-income earners, it almost certainly means displacement from the community as speculation ratchets-up prices.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think it’s dollars and cents,” said Diaz, who works with the Coalition for Community Advancement in Cypress Hills. “They’re capitalizing on people who may be financially strapped, and that’s a way to harass them, and makes them think…they can pay off their debt and go buy something else. OK, and where are they going to buy something else in Cypress Hills or New York City as a whole?”</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the Coalition for Community Advancement, the median income of homeowners living in one-to-four family houses in East New York is nearly $19,000 below the city-wide median, making it difficult to meet housing and maintenance expenses, including mortgage and loan payments, property tax payments, utilities, and repairs. Because of their effect on taxes and everyday neighborhood expenses, rising property values can actually hurt a homeowner who wants to stay in their house and in their community.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the zip codes that comprise East New York, census data from 2010 show that, of the 15,157 owner-occupied housing units, 12,286 were owned with a mortgage or loan. Less than one-fifth of homeowners were free and clear. For many of these homeowners, the risk of foreclosure is high and buy-out offers, even relatively low ones, may be hard to resist. (It should be noted that the East New York rezoning does not include the entirety of the neighborhood, but a significant portion of it.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Some of the homes in East New York have already changed hands as a result of foreclosure. The 2008 housing collapse resulted in millions of foreclosures nationwide, and in New York City a second wave of foreclosures early this decade further destabilized homeowners. Census surveys in 2010 and 2014 show that the number of owner-occupied units in one East New York zip code fell by 217, or about three percent, in the intervening years.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, East New York reported the fourth highest foreclosure rate in the city, according to data from the Coalition for Community Advancement.</p> <p dir="ltr">The foreclosure crisis has not been lost on unscrupulous opportunists, who have inundated New York City homeowners with unlicensed and often illegal mortgage refinancing offers. According to a 2014 <a href="http://www.preventloanscams.org/newsroom/press-releases/body/Who-Can-You-Trust.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> by the Center for NYC Neighborhoods in conjunction with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, “New York homeowners report larger losses to scammers than in the rest of the country.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Because such foreclosure rescue scams are so costly to their victims – they often involve the redirection of mortgage payments towards fraudulent restructuring services – and in many cases lead to more urgent mortgage trouble, they compound the risk of displacement of homeowners who are, by definition, already in distress, and incentivize buy-outs below the potential market prices of the near-future.</p> <p dir="ltr">The areas hit hardest by these scams – Southeast Brooklyn, Southeast Queens, and the Northwest Bronx – are also places where rezoning is being discussed.</p> <p dir="ltr">In addition to the financial stresses that accompany onerous mortgage obligations, the Coalition for Community Advancement reports that a majority of homes in East New York – 64 percent – have a water or sewer lien, demonstrating the level of economic distress faced by homeowners to pay for essentials. Adding to the cost of staying, most of the small housing stock there was built prior to 1950 and, according to several sources, many homes need serious repairs. Increasing property value also means that property taxes will rise, an additional burden to homeowners who do not wish to sell.</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz, who does not intend to sell her home despite regular solicitation from buyers, says its assessed value has gone up $8,000 in the past year, and that her property tax payments have increased by about $116 a month.</p> <p dir="ltr">The homeowners in areas to be rezoned represent more vulnerable and historically disadvantaged groups that face greater barriers to keeping their homes and greater challenges if they lose them. According to Coalition data, nearly half of all small homeowners in East New York are senior citizens and 89 percent are either black or Hispanic.</p> <p dir="ltr">Many senior citizens in East New York depend on retirement benefits, and some have experienced a significant reduction in income upon retiring. Discussing the challenges faced by seniors in her neighborhood, Diaz said, “I was speaking to a senior just on Sunday, and her income basically decreased by $32,000 when retiring. So that’s a big indicator.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Ring of Investors</strong><br />A mark of community fracture, homebuyers seeking to take advantage of favorable conditions in the market are less and less first-time buyers and end-users. Increasingly, they are investors and big firms using their buying power to flip real estate quickly. The Center for NYC Neighborhoods, which works with the city and state to facilitate home ownership and prevent foreclosure, recently <a href="http://cnycn.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/CNYCN-NYC-Flipping-Analysis.pdf" target="_blank">reported</a> that house flipping in New York City is at a five-year high, with more than 1,800 one-to-four unit homes flipped last year.</p> <p dir="ltr">Speculators, often using public records to identify which doors to knock on, are seeing gross return 29 percent higher than the country-wide rate. It is a practice highlighted by the <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/shows/neighborhood/" target="_blank">There Goes The Neighborhood</a> podcast from WNYC radio and The Nation, which investigates themes of housing, race, and gentrification in New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cypress Hills had the highest median gross return on flipped one-to-four unit houses in the city in 2015, and East New York as a whole experienced the highest volume of flips. The house next to Diaz’s in Cypress Hills, she said, has been bought and resold three times since she bought her home in 2007.</p> <p dir="ltr">Investor-backed buyers have the capital to buy houses that many first-time buyers do not. As a result, they can make cash purchases on houses in foreclosure directly from the bank, renovate them quickly, and sell them or rent out rooms in a significantly higher price tier than many of the current residents of East New York and other neighborhoods can afford. According to the Center’s data, most homes that were originally affordable to families making 95 percent of the area median income (AMI) last year - about $75,000 annually for a family of three - were resold at prices affordable to families making 163 percent of AMI, sometimes only months later.</p> <p dir="ltr">At times, as in <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/20/realestate/commercial/brooklyn-homes-draw-australian-investors.html?_r=0" target="_blank">the case of Dixon Advisory</a>, the Australian firm that has bought up large swaths in Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Crown Heights, investors are buying houses with the intent of converting them into market-rate rental units, rather than making them affordable or building more units, a portion of which would have to be made affordable under MIH. Turning units in one-to-four family houses, currently among the more affordable rental options in the area according to Dulchin of ANHD, into market-rate housing would restrict the number of affordable housing units available for preservation in rezoned areas, as well as the potential number of new affordable units that could be built if the land were to be redeveloped.</p> <p dir="ltr">The decrease in affordability of ownership means that many longtime renters will not be able to own property in their neighborhood following rezoning. “For me owning a home was one of life’s plans,” said Diaz. “I know what it is to have two-point-five jobs and say that’s what you are gonna do.” For families who have lived in Cypress Hills all their lives, she said, “it would take some sacrifices to be able to do that.”</p> <p dir="ltr">HPD offers a down payment assistance program for low-income, first-time buyers who can receive up to $15,000 toward a down payment, as well as some low-interest loans for repairs and energy efficiency improvements. Even with assistance funding, though, most homes in East New York will not be affordable to residents there when they are being flipped.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>A Challenge to Affordable Housing Options</strong><br />Home speculation has the potential to impact Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing goals. In addition to feeling pressure from speculators in the areas targeted for rezoning, homeowners also house a significant portion of renters in these communities, people who risk displacement if market prices rise ahead of the development of new affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to Humberto Martinez, an urban planner at Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, part of the Coalition for Community Advancement, over 34,000 people live in owner-occupied homes, roughly 40 percent of East New York residents.</p> <p dir="ltr">If homeowners sell their homes en masse to speculators seeking to flip houses into higher price brackets or to create market-rate rental units, many of these renters will be displaced from their homes. According to the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, “The rents required to sustain the resale prices of flipped properties...far exceed the median rents in their boroughs.” Before the mayor’s affordable housing agenda even rolls out in East New York, both renters and former area homeowners may have to leave the community.</p> <p dir="ltr">Unregulated one-to-four unit, owner-occupied buildings are a “hidden supply of affordable housing,” said Dulchin. Because landlords live next to their tenants and often have personal relationships with them, these rental units tend to lag behind the market, providing housing options for some of the lowest-income earners.</p> <p dir="ltr">“One of my cohorts who is also a small home owner, he rents to working Section 8 families,” said Diaz. “With the increase of the taxes it’s made it difficult for the rents to be at the level that they are now. When the homeowner’s expenses exceed those subsidies that they’re getting, they’re gonna have to go outside the box and will no longer be able to rent to those that [depend on public assistance] programs.”</p> <p dir="ltr">David Shichman, director of homelessness prevention at New Alternatives for Children Inc., says that if rents in unregulated buildings are too far below market rates it is a sign of inadequate housing. Often there is doubling- and tripling-up, which is considered a form of homelessness.</p> <p dir="ltr">East New York, in addition to being an area with the potential to greatly increase housing density, was also put forward for rezoning, according to Shichman, because it is “a top catchment area” of eviction and homelessness. As rental prices rise, it is becoming increasingly common for single-resident occupancy units (SROs) to house more than one tenant, which increases burdensome water and sewer charges and compounds the need for repairs.</p> <p dir="ltr">While there was some effort to incorporate homeowner protections into the East New York plan, it seems that the sale of one-to-four unit houses from homeowners to developers is key for enough land to be made available to construct new housing in these low-rise areas. Small homes - under six units - contain 60 percent of all current housing units in East New York. All the same, HPD plans to build three-quarters of the 1,200 new units of affordable housing on privately-owned land over the next two years. Without high-volume buying of small homes by developers, there might not be enough available land for HPD’s development plan to unfold.</p> <p dir="ltr">A senior HPD official said that land speculation simply cannot be stopped, but it can be dampened by Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), which places affordability requirements on developers that could deter those seeking to exploit the market. In an <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/01/" target="_blank">interview</a> last year with New York Magazine, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen said, “I’m not here to be punitive. We want these guys to build.”</p> <p>Whether aggressive speculation at the level experienced by current East New York homeowners is inevitable is under dispute. Paula Crespo, in an email, stated, “The mere announcement [that] the plan [to rezone East New York] would happen has fueled speculation.”</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14298580034_c75bdb858d_z.jpg" width="600" height="399" alt="de blasio homeowners sign sandy" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio (photo: Rob Bennett, Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">As plans to spur new development in areas around New York City proceed, mostly silence surrounds the experience of homeowners who are being pressured by investors to sell. Prior to the City Council’s approval of rezoning East New York, Brooklyn last week, there had been little public discussion of how or whether to ameliorate real estate speculation on small homes. At least in East New York, some homeowner protections have been introduced to the plan, but investor-backed speculation, to some extent, still seems to be part of the city-wide housing agenda.</p> <p dir="ltr">Facing a shortage of housing attainable for moderate- and low-income residents, Mayor Bill de Blasio has stressed the importance of creating a comprehensive affordable housing plan, part of his larger agenda to combat inequality. De Blasio is attempting to harness the sweep of gentrification that continues to displace residents – both renters and small home owners - who are being priced and bought out, especially in the “next” neighborhoods where prices are rising rapidly.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We know right now that we can do a lot to stop evictions from rental apartments,” de Blasio said in a March <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/de-blasios-affordable-housing-fight-shifts-neighborhood-battles/" target="_blank">interview</a> with WNYC. “We don’t have as good a model to protect homeowners that might be the subject of speculation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor is working with the City Council on much of his housing plan, including tenant protections, new affordable housing requirements, and the rezoning of as many as 15 neighborhoods across the city. East New York’s is the first such rezoning plan to be approved by a Council vote.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Council itself has been especially focused on protecting tenants from eviction. When asked, though, about protections for financially-strapped homeowners who will have trouble resisting aggressive speculation, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito also indicated, like the mayor, that the subject has not been thoroughly discussed. Acknowledging pressure on homeowners as a challenge in a “very hot” market, she said, “Those are things we can talk about as we think about initiatives and existing legal services and getting to more targeted populations.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In the revised East New York rezoning plan, the city has committed to establishing a “Homeowner Helpdesk,” which will be a community-based support service with financial and legal counselors offering advice to homeowners facing overbearing speculators who are drawn in by low prices and the potential for high price growth that comes with the ability to build higher. The city will also provide low-income homeowners with loans and small grants for critical repairs through the Home Improvement Program and Senior Citizen Assistance Program, among others.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), which subsidizes the construction of affordable housing, also says it will work with the Department of Environmental Protection to implement water rate relief programs, and is also looking into the possibility of establishing a “Cease and Desist Zone,” where homeowners would be protected from unwanted solicitation. Buying, however, is still a principal tenet of the agenda to have real estate developers build much of the city’s new affordable housing stock.</p> <p dir="ltr">Part of Mark-Viverito’s East Harlem district is also on the list to be rezoned, as well as neighborhoods including Flushing West, Long Island City, a Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx, and a Bay Street Corridor on Staten Island.</p> <p dir="ltr">The rise in sales prices and the interest investors are showing in one-to-four unit houses in areas eyed for rezoning indicate that homeowners may increasingly become the targets of forceful, even predatory, buyers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mark-Viverito mentioned the calls she herself receives to sell her East Harlem home, while “keys for cash” flyers proliferate in the neighborhoods on the shifting lines of gentrification. Often, even more aggressive tactics are taken by those looking to invest early when a neighborhood appears to be considered for improvement.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Stakeholders and Stakes</strong><br />All homeowners stand to gain from increasing property values in neighborhoods slated for rezoning. Those with moderate incomes and unburdened by mortgages are in particularly good position, whether they decide to take the money and run or stay vested. But many, often most, of the homeowners in areas pending rezoning have relatively low incomes and face significant pressures like mortgage obligations and the cost of maintaining old housing. As investors see greater opportunity in neighborhoods the city plans to upzone, this latter group of homeowners becomes more vulnerable to buyout offers that don’t reflect the value of their assets.</p> <p dir="ltr">For small home owners, the ability of government intervention to prevent displacement and promote affordable housing options falls into a grey area. “Obviously, the first thing we would say to anybody is to encourage nobody to respond to anything unless they get some sort of guidance,” Mark-Viverito said in March of homeowners being approached to sell. “These are challenges that we face in a market that is very hot, you know, that is putting a lot of pressures.”</p> <p dir="ltr">While Mark-Viverito may offer a tip to fellow homeowners - some of whom speak limited English and many of whom are seniors - and the city provides some advice and loan services, homeowners appear to be largely on their own as the city encourages investment in underdeveloped communities. As part of the plan to rezone East New York, the city aims to subsidize the construction of new deeply affordable housing on private land, but in many cases, developers must first buy land from existing homeowners.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Gentrification, rezoning it all trickles and impacts,” said Darma Diaz, a homeowner in Cypress Hills, which is partially included in the East New York rezoning plan. “We definitely know that rents in New York City are high and apartments are hard to find, but it makes [living in the city] that much more challenging when you have the pressure of investors wanting and pursuing and making it really financially lucrative to sell your home.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz has been living in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn since the late 1970s and has owned a home there since 2007. She is worried that small home owners have not received enough attention throughout the city-wide discussion of rezoning as part of the mayor’s affordable housing agenda. “We knew that building more units was necessary for our community, but I think what [the mayor and City Council] did not take into account was the impact that the speculators were gonna have on small home owners.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, in part using legislative tools passed through the City Council in March, includes leveraging property value growth that will come with changing land use regulations to allow greater housing density, encourage construction, and require developers to build tens of thousands of new units of affordable housing. De Blasio’s overall plan is to build and preserve a total of 200,000 units of affordable housing over ten years with varying rent regulations affordable to low-, moderate-, and middle-income New Yorkers. Another 160,000 market-rate units are part of the plan.</p> <p dir="ltr">Benjamin Dulchin, executive director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), told Gotham Gazette that the areas pending rezoning are typically regions of the city with high concentrations of low-rise buildings. Now with low housing density, developers will soon be allowed to build higher in these neighborhoods, creating additional market-rate apartments along with mandated affordable units.</p> <p dir="ltr">The buildings that would need to be torn down to make room for the higher, denser housing necessary to achieve the mayor’s goal of 80,000 newly built affordable units are also often the kinds of buildings - one-to-four family houses - that are occupied by the owner.</p> <p dir="ltr">In East New York, a majority of all housing is in buildings with fewer than six units. According to the Coalition for Community Advancement, a group of neighborhood organizations independently monitoring the planning process and pushing for deeper affordability levels, roughly three-quarters of the buildings on sale in East New York are one-to-four family houses.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Department of City Planning’s <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/plans/east-new-york/east-new-york-plan.page" target="_blank">East New York Community Plan</a>, the revised version of which was passed just by the City Council, proposed to change land use rules to allow six- to 14-story buildings to be constructed, which could more than double the area’s population density. In the next two years, HPD plans to build 1,200 new affordable housing units in East New York and, by 2024, seeks to make affordable half of all new units developed in that community.</p> <p dir="ltr">Even before rezoning proposals are approved through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which is the public process involving many city actors that any major land use change must go through, the increase in property value that comes with rezoning has potential to make waves among buyers and investors - and thus, existing homeowners.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the steady sales price growth of New York City real estate over the past five years (20 if you allow for some dips) is cooling, annual price growth in East Brooklyn, which includes Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Bushwick, Crown Heights, and East New York, increased to a high 20.5 percent in February, exceeding the Brooklyn-wide growth rate by about 300 percent, according to a <a href="http://streeteasy.com/blog/february-2016-market-report/" target="_blank">StreetEasy report</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Alan Lightfeldt, a data scientist at StreetEasy, said that it is impossible to tell what impact the new affordable housing legislation will have on home sales because of the complexity of factors that affect prices, such as the “endemic demand” for homes - the built-in demand that a large city with a population of aspiring homeowners, like New York, almost always has today.</p> <p dir="ltr">That demand is part of the general trend of gentrification, radiating outward as the population continues to grow, business centers expand, and the city becomes <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/27/nyregion/anxiety-aside-new-york-sees-drop-in-crime.html?_r=0" target="_blank">safer</a>. The latest hot neighborhoods are those where prices are still affordable to moderate- and middle-income residents, and that have public transportation infrastructure connecting them to the rest of the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">Paula Crespo, a senior planner at the Pratt Center for Community Development, who works with the Coalition for Community Advancement, provided Gotham Gazette with data that the sales prices of one-to-four family homes has increased by 13 percent in East New York since the rezoning was announced in 2014. Yet, they are still relatively low compared to the city- and borough-wide median sales prices.</p> <p dir="ltr">The combination of low prices and high price growth makes places like East New York incredibly appetizing to real estate speculators who seek to turn a profit. When speculation is rampant, homeowners - both current and prospective - feel the effects.</p> <p dir="ltr">From a market perspective, other considerations aside, “when an area sees widespread value change, especially through external factors like rezoning,” Lightfeldt said, “homeowners usually benefit.” Being able to choose when to sell gives homeowners, like investors, the ability to capitalize on the increase in their property’s value.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Hardships of the Small Home Owner</strong><br />For homeowners who are in debt and facing financial hardship, however, the agency to choose whether and when to sell is not always theirs. Up against wealthy buyers attracted by favorable prices and even more favorable price growth, homeowners in areas under rezoning consideration face the weighty task of holding out against offers to buy. Giving in may satisfy immediate financial needs, but, for the lowest-income earners, it almost certainly means displacement from the community as speculation ratchets-up prices.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think it’s dollars and cents,” said Diaz, who works with the Coalition for Community Advancement in Cypress Hills. “They’re capitalizing on people who may be financially strapped, and that’s a way to harass them, and makes them think…they can pay off their debt and go buy something else. OK, and where are they going to buy something else in Cypress Hills or New York City as a whole?”</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the Coalition for Community Advancement, the median income of homeowners living in one-to-four family houses in East New York is nearly $19,000 below the city-wide median, making it difficult to meet housing and maintenance expenses, including mortgage and loan payments, property tax payments, utilities, and repairs. Because of their effect on taxes and everyday neighborhood expenses, rising property values can actually hurt a homeowner who wants to stay in their house and in their community.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the zip codes that comprise East New York, census data from 2010 show that, of the 15,157 owner-occupied housing units, 12,286 were owned with a mortgage or loan. Less than one-fifth of homeowners were free and clear. For many of these homeowners, the risk of foreclosure is high and buy-out offers, even relatively low ones, may be hard to resist. (It should be noted that the East New York rezoning does not include the entirety of the neighborhood, but a significant portion of it.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Some of the homes in East New York have already changed hands as a result of foreclosure. The 2008 housing collapse resulted in millions of foreclosures nationwide, and in New York City a second wave of foreclosures early this decade further destabilized homeowners. Census surveys in 2010 and 2014 show that the number of owner-occupied units in one East New York zip code fell by 217, or about three percent, in the intervening years.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, East New York reported the fourth highest foreclosure rate in the city, according to data from the Coalition for Community Advancement.</p> <p dir="ltr">The foreclosure crisis has not been lost on unscrupulous opportunists, who have inundated New York City homeowners with unlicensed and often illegal mortgage refinancing offers. According to a 2014 <a href="http://www.preventloanscams.org/newsroom/press-releases/body/Who-Can-You-Trust.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> by the Center for NYC Neighborhoods in conjunction with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, “New York homeowners report larger losses to scammers than in the rest of the country.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Because such foreclosure rescue scams are so costly to their victims – they often involve the redirection of mortgage payments towards fraudulent restructuring services – and in many cases lead to more urgent mortgage trouble, they compound the risk of displacement of homeowners who are, by definition, already in distress, and incentivize buy-outs below the potential market prices of the near-future.</p> <p dir="ltr">The areas hit hardest by these scams – Southeast Brooklyn, Southeast Queens, and the Northwest Bronx – are also places where rezoning is being discussed.</p> <p dir="ltr">In addition to the financial stresses that accompany onerous mortgage obligations, the Coalition for Community Advancement reports that a majority of homes in East New York – 64 percent – have a water or sewer lien, demonstrating the level of economic distress faced by homeowners to pay for essentials. Adding to the cost of staying, most of the small housing stock there was built prior to 1950 and, according to several sources, many homes need serious repairs. Increasing property value also means that property taxes will rise, an additional burden to homeowners who do not wish to sell.</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz, who does not intend to sell her home despite regular solicitation from buyers, says its assessed value has gone up $8,000 in the past year, and that her property tax payments have increased by about $116 a month.</p> <p dir="ltr">The homeowners in areas to be rezoned represent more vulnerable and historically disadvantaged groups that face greater barriers to keeping their homes and greater challenges if they lose them. According to Coalition data, nearly half of all small homeowners in East New York are senior citizens and 89 percent are either black or Hispanic.</p> <p dir="ltr">Many senior citizens in East New York depend on retirement benefits, and some have experienced a significant reduction in income upon retiring. Discussing the challenges faced by seniors in her neighborhood, Diaz said, “I was speaking to a senior just on Sunday, and her income basically decreased by $32,000 when retiring. So that’s a big indicator.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Ring of Investors</strong><br />A mark of community fracture, homebuyers seeking to take advantage of favorable conditions in the market are less and less first-time buyers and end-users. Increasingly, they are investors and big firms using their buying power to flip real estate quickly. The Center for NYC Neighborhoods, which works with the city and state to facilitate home ownership and prevent foreclosure, recently <a href="http://cnycn.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/CNYCN-NYC-Flipping-Analysis.pdf" target="_blank">reported</a> that house flipping in New York City is at a five-year high, with more than 1,800 one-to-four unit homes flipped last year.</p> <p dir="ltr">Speculators, often using public records to identify which doors to knock on, are seeing gross return 29 percent higher than the country-wide rate. It is a practice highlighted by the <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/shows/neighborhood/" target="_blank">There Goes The Neighborhood</a> podcast from WNYC radio and The Nation, which investigates themes of housing, race, and gentrification in New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cypress Hills had the highest median gross return on flipped one-to-four unit houses in the city in 2015, and East New York as a whole experienced the highest volume of flips. The house next to Diaz’s in Cypress Hills, she said, has been bought and resold three times since she bought her home in 2007.</p> <p dir="ltr">Investor-backed buyers have the capital to buy houses that many first-time buyers do not. As a result, they can make cash purchases on houses in foreclosure directly from the bank, renovate them quickly, and sell them or rent out rooms in a significantly higher price tier than many of the current residents of East New York and other neighborhoods can afford. According to the Center’s data, most homes that were originally affordable to families making 95 percent of the area median income (AMI) last year - about $75,000 annually for a family of three - were resold at prices affordable to families making 163 percent of AMI, sometimes only months later.</p> <p dir="ltr">At times, as in <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/20/realestate/commercial/brooklyn-homes-draw-australian-investors.html?_r=0" target="_blank">the case of Dixon Advisory</a>, the Australian firm that has bought up large swaths in Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Crown Heights, investors are buying houses with the intent of converting them into market-rate rental units, rather than making them affordable or building more units, a portion of which would have to be made affordable under MIH. Turning units in one-to-four family houses, currently among the more affordable rental options in the area according to Dulchin of ANHD, into market-rate housing would restrict the number of affordable housing units available for preservation in rezoned areas, as well as the potential number of new affordable units that could be built if the land were to be redeveloped.</p> <p dir="ltr">The decrease in affordability of ownership means that many longtime renters will not be able to own property in their neighborhood following rezoning. “For me owning a home was one of life’s plans,” said Diaz. “I know what it is to have two-point-five jobs and say that’s what you are gonna do.” For families who have lived in Cypress Hills all their lives, she said, “it would take some sacrifices to be able to do that.”</p> <p dir="ltr">HPD offers a down payment assistance program for low-income, first-time buyers who can receive up to $15,000 toward a down payment, as well as some low-interest loans for repairs and energy efficiency improvements. Even with assistance funding, though, most homes in East New York will not be affordable to residents there when they are being flipped.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>A Challenge to Affordable Housing Options</strong><br />Home speculation has the potential to impact Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing goals. In addition to feeling pressure from speculators in the areas targeted for rezoning, homeowners also house a significant portion of renters in these communities, people who risk displacement if market prices rise ahead of the development of new affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to Humberto Martinez, an urban planner at Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, part of the Coalition for Community Advancement, over 34,000 people live in owner-occupied homes, roughly 40 percent of East New York residents.</p> <p dir="ltr">If homeowners sell their homes en masse to speculators seeking to flip houses into higher price brackets or to create market-rate rental units, many of these renters will be displaced from their homes. According to the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, “The rents required to sustain the resale prices of flipped properties...far exceed the median rents in their boroughs.” Before the mayor’s affordable housing agenda even rolls out in East New York, both renters and former area homeowners may have to leave the community.</p> <p dir="ltr">Unregulated one-to-four unit, owner-occupied buildings are a “hidden supply of affordable housing,” said Dulchin. Because landlords live next to their tenants and often have personal relationships with them, these rental units tend to lag behind the market, providing housing options for some of the lowest-income earners.</p> <p dir="ltr">“One of my cohorts who is also a small home owner, he rents to working Section 8 families,” said Diaz. “With the increase of the taxes it’s made it difficult for the rents to be at the level that they are now. When the homeowner’s expenses exceed those subsidies that they’re getting, they’re gonna have to go outside the box and will no longer be able to rent to those that [depend on public assistance] programs.”</p> <p dir="ltr">David Shichman, director of homelessness prevention at New Alternatives for Children Inc., says that if rents in unregulated buildings are too far below market rates it is a sign of inadequate housing. Often there is doubling- and tripling-up, which is considered a form of homelessness.</p> <p dir="ltr">East New York, in addition to being an area with the potential to greatly increase housing density, was also put forward for rezoning, according to Shichman, because it is “a top catchment area” of eviction and homelessness. As rental prices rise, it is becoming increasingly common for single-resident occupancy units (SROs) to house more than one tenant, which increases burdensome water and sewer charges and compounds the need for repairs.</p> <p dir="ltr">While there was some effort to incorporate homeowner protections into the East New York plan, it seems that the sale of one-to-four unit houses from homeowners to developers is key for enough land to be made available to construct new housing in these low-rise areas. Small homes - under six units - contain 60 percent of all current housing units in East New York. All the same, HPD plans to build three-quarters of the 1,200 new units of affordable housing on privately-owned land over the next two years. Without high-volume buying of small homes by developers, there might not be enough available land for HPD’s development plan to unfold.</p> <p dir="ltr">A senior HPD official said that land speculation simply cannot be stopped, but it can be dampened by Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), which places affordability requirements on developers that could deter those seeking to exploit the market. In an <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/01/" target="_blank">interview</a> last year with New York Magazine, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen said, “I’m not here to be punitive. We want these guys to build.”</p> <p>Whether aggressive speculation at the level experienced by current East New York homeowners is inevitable is under dispute. Paula Crespo, in an email, stated, “The mere announcement [that] the plan [to rezone East New York] would happen has fueled speculation.”</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
With Clock Ticking, East New York Negotiations to Heat Up 2016-04-04T00:52:30+00:00 2016-04-04T00:52:30+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6262:with-clock-ticking-east-new-york-negotiations-to-heat-up Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/espinal_east_new_york_hearing.jpg" alt="espinal east new york hearing" height="418" width="600" /></p> <p>City Council Member Espinal (photo: William Alatriste)&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>With only two weeks left for the City Council to vote on the proposed rezoning of East New York, all eyes are on City Council Member Rafael Espinal, who is leading negotiations with the de Blasio administration and whose approval of a revised plan will determine its fate. Espinal has promised significant improvements to <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/plans/east-new-york/east-new-york-1.page" target="_blank">the plan</a> put forward by the city and community organizers and advocates are calling on him to reject the rezoning if it does not deliver what they see as adequate affordable housing, local hiring, and other provisions.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Espinal's colleagues and many others are looking to him as the East New York negotiations with the de Blasio administration will set the precedent for rezonings across the five boroughs.</p> <p>The city's proposal to rezone East New York was passed almost unanimously by the City Planning Commission on February 24, giving the City Council the next fifty days to vote on it as part of the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The neighborhood is the first of 15 the city plans to rezone as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio's ambitious plan to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing. The plan aims to change land use rules and implement community improvements in order to make East New York more desirable and liveable, while fostering development that will include thousands of new units of housing, many of them with rent regulations.</p> <p>Negotiations so far have been slow going, leading to a series of news reports this past week indicating that Espinal and others on the City Council side of the bargaining table are frustrated with the de Blasio administration. The parties are set to hold another meeting on Monday afternoon at City Hall, which participants hope will yield progress.</p> <p>"There's a lot of frustration because we've proposed changes to the plan and we've been waiting for [the administration] to come back to us," said Espinal, whose district covers a vast swathe of the area in the plan - the City Council traditionally defers to the local Council member to approve or disapprove land use deals.</p> <p>Espinal has made his priorities clear: "serious anti-displacement measures, a strong jobs plan and truly affordable housing." While he insists there has been no push back from the administration against his demands, the lack of movement seems to be testing his patience.</p> <p>"The clock is ticking," he said. "We've been working on this for over a year. It's time to talk turkey." Espinal did say that one cause for delay was that both the administration and Council had been preoccupied until last week with the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposals, two citywide zoning amendments that lay the groundwork for the neighborhood rezonings that are set to go from East New York to Flushing, corridors in the Bronx and on Staten Island, East Harlem, and beyond.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration has reiterated its commitment to the process. "The city is currently having very productive conversations with Council Member Espinal on the East New York rezoning plan," said Austin Finan, a spokesperson for the mayor, in a statement. "Since the beginning of the East New York planning process, we have been and remain committed to ensuring that the final proposal to be voted on by the City Council meets the affordable housing and community infrastructure needs of East New York residents."</p> <p>Espinal will meet with city officials on Monday to hammer out the details of the East New York plan. On the Council side of the table, he'll be joined by Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, and Council Member David Greenfield, chair of the land use committee. Also expected to participate are the Council's land use director, Raju Mann, and the chief of staff to Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Ramon Martinez.</p> <p>According to a source with knowledge of the discussions around the rezoning, key sticking points include not only ensuring deeper levels of affordability in new housing, but also extending affordability for about 1,000 current residents whose rent-regulated apartments are nearing expiration of their terms; details of the city's commitment to a Workforce1 job training center; and progress around adding school seats and day-care slots - two areas of need in the administration's final environmental impact assessment of the rezoning plan.</p> <p>"We have an opportunity to show that we are attacking inequality head on in East New York and the administration needs to take this issue seriously as we negotiate the first rezoning under MIH and ZQA," said Council Member Richards in a statement. "The lack of progress thus far on these negotiations is deeply concerning and we need to see legitimate movement soon to ensure that the needs of the community and Council Member Espinal are met."</p> <p>All the stakeholders -- Espinal, his colleagues, community leaders, housing advocates, de Blasio administration officials, real estate developers, and others -- recognize that these rezoning negotiations will set the tone for the next fourteen and determine the future of housing and development in the city for decades to come.</p> <p>"What I'm doing in East New York is the reason I ran for office," Espinal said. "It's an opportunity to create the strongest affordable housing plan in the city and set a precedent for how the rest of the city approaches rezoning." He has received strong support from his colleagues who, he said, "feel that whatever deal I'm able to reach with the administration, they can work off of when their neighborhoods are up for rezoning."</p> <p>Council Member Peter Koo from Queens is likely to be next in the hot-seat as the Flushing West rezoning proposal moves through the ULURP process.</p> <p>"We're certainly watching what happens in East New York closely," Koo said in an email, "but the Flushing West rezoning proposal is significantly different. Our rezoning area is on the waterfront which limits depth, and the LaGuardia flight path limits height. Flushing also has serious infrastructure needs that a large-scale rezoning of this nature would need to address. So we're watching East New York to see how the city responds to the community because Flushing also has a long list of needs."</p> <p>Housing advocates also recognize the immense pressure that Espinal is facing, although different groups have taken varied approaches to respond.</p> <p>"The guy's in a difficult spot," said Jonathan Furlong, zoning technical assistance coordinator, Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development. "What he decides in East New York has vast and far reaching implications for the Bronx, East Harlem, Flushing, Upper Manhattan."</p> <p>ANHD has provided technical assistance to the Coalition for Community Advancement, a collaborative effort by housing advocates to address issues of rezoning across the city, communicating with administration officials, elected representatives, and residents. Members have met with Espinal numerous times to air their concerns and will also be meeting with Council Speaker Mark-Viverito.</p> <p>The CCA has called for a scaling back of the East New York plan and has proposed its own alternative community plan. Besides more affordability for current residents, they want manufacturing sites removed from the plan to protect manufacturing jobs, a $15-million small homes preservation fund, the preservation of the Arlington Village development as affordable housing, and mechanisms to set aside space for community facilities.</p> <p>On Sunday, the coalition held a rally outside City Hall to tell the Council to vote against the rezoning plan unless these proposals are embraced. The group said Sunday night that about 120 people rallied, including community members, State Senator Martin Dilan and Assembly Member Latrice Walker.</p> <p>Furlong commended Espinal for being firm with the administration, but faulted him for not being more vocal on specific proposals. "It's tough to get a read on him," he said of the Council member.</p> <p>New York Communities for Change, a grassroots advocacy group, has been more critical. NYCC released <a href="http://nycommunities.org/how-deepen-affordability-east-new-york" target="_blank">a report</a> titled "Educating Espinal: How to Deepen Affordability for Thousands of Apartments in East New York and Protect Low-Income Residents" in which they directly called on Espinal to fight for more affordability in the plan.</p> <p>"The Council member has not yet come out in support of a growing cry in the community for deeper affordability for low-income families," said Jonathan Westin, NYCC executive director. The group, which claims about 1,000 members, has two demands: 50 percent of units in new developments affordable for families making about 40 percent of the $77,000 annual area median income (AMI), and union jobs for workers in any new construction along upzoned areas. AMI is a federally-calculated number for all of New York City and surrounding counties. The area median income in East New York is significantly lower - about $35,000 per year for a family of four, about the same as 40% of AMI.</p> <p>"We're pushing that if that's not part of the plan, he should vote "no,"" said Westin. "He should not vote against the interests of his constituents."</p> <p>Asked recently about the East New York rezoning and the pushback it has received, Mayor de Blasio said that development and gentrification are taking place all over the city and that the city must take action to harness it. On WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/mayor-de-blasio-public-housing/" target="_blank">the mayor said</a> on March 18 that "the worst thing in the world is to do nothing about" gentrification. "And bluntly," he said, "that was the broad approach of the previous administration and I point to neighborhoods like Bushwick and Bed-Stuy as classic examples where there was no rezoning" to offer developers more in exchange for community benefits.</p> <p>Saying that there needs to be "a coherent governmental response" to gentrification and displacement, de Blasio said that "rezonings are absolutely necessary to create that affordability...if we don't do it, you'll see displacement with no countervailing action by the government." The mayor indicated that the East New York plan will include many affordable units for both lower- and middle-income residents.</p> <p>It is negotiations on the plan that will yield the full details of what that government response is, in East New York and elsewhere.</p> <p>On Thursday, New York Communities for Change led a rally in East New York, blocking traffic along Atlantic Avenue to draw attention to their demands. "Along Atlantic Avenue is where lots of developers have bought property and stand to make a windfall of profits from the rezoning," said Westin. "We need to ensure that with the increase in density that they get from the rezoning, there are deep affordability standards and real job standards for workers building these buildings."</p> <p>Espinal was blunt about NYCC's efforts. "I don't need any educating," he said of their report. "I was born and raised there. I know exactly the struggles my constituents are going through."</p> <p>Insisting that he prefers a "pragmatic approach," Espinal said he wants a holistic plan that covers all constituents and their needs, and that the administration has been receptive.</p> <p>"To be fair, they've been listening," Espinal said. "But the time to listen is over. It's time to take action."</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated with details of the Sunday rally.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/espinal_east_new_york_hearing.jpg" alt="espinal east new york hearing" height="418" width="600" /></p> <p>City Council Member Espinal (photo: William Alatriste)&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>With only two weeks left for the City Council to vote on the proposed rezoning of East New York, all eyes are on City Council Member Rafael Espinal, who is leading negotiations with the de Blasio administration and whose approval of a revised plan will determine its fate. Espinal has promised significant improvements to <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/plans/east-new-york/east-new-york-1.page" target="_blank">the plan</a> put forward by the city and community organizers and advocates are calling on him to reject the rezoning if it does not deliver what they see as adequate affordable housing, local hiring, and other provisions.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Espinal's colleagues and many others are looking to him as the East New York negotiations with the de Blasio administration will set the precedent for rezonings across the five boroughs.</p> <p>The city's proposal to rezone East New York was passed almost unanimously by the City Planning Commission on February 24, giving the City Council the next fifty days to vote on it as part of the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The neighborhood is the first of 15 the city plans to rezone as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio's ambitious plan to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing. The plan aims to change land use rules and implement community improvements in order to make East New York more desirable and liveable, while fostering development that will include thousands of new units of housing, many of them with rent regulations.</p> <p>Negotiations so far have been slow going, leading to a series of news reports this past week indicating that Espinal and others on the City Council side of the bargaining table are frustrated with the de Blasio administration. The parties are set to hold another meeting on Monday afternoon at City Hall, which participants hope will yield progress.</p> <p>"There's a lot of frustration because we've proposed changes to the plan and we've been waiting for [the administration] to come back to us," said Espinal, whose district covers a vast swathe of the area in the plan - the City Council traditionally defers to the local Council member to approve or disapprove land use deals.</p> <p>Espinal has made his priorities clear: "serious anti-displacement measures, a strong jobs plan and truly affordable housing." While he insists there has been no push back from the administration against his demands, the lack of movement seems to be testing his patience.</p> <p>"The clock is ticking," he said. "We've been working on this for over a year. It's time to talk turkey." Espinal did say that one cause for delay was that both the administration and Council had been preoccupied until last week with the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposals, two citywide zoning amendments that lay the groundwork for the neighborhood rezonings that are set to go from East New York to Flushing, corridors in the Bronx and on Staten Island, East Harlem, and beyond.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration has reiterated its commitment to the process. "The city is currently having very productive conversations with Council Member Espinal on the East New York rezoning plan," said Austin Finan, a spokesperson for the mayor, in a statement. "Since the beginning of the East New York planning process, we have been and remain committed to ensuring that the final proposal to be voted on by the City Council meets the affordable housing and community infrastructure needs of East New York residents."</p> <p>Espinal will meet with city officials on Monday to hammer out the details of the East New York plan. On the Council side of the table, he'll be joined by Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, and Council Member David Greenfield, chair of the land use committee. Also expected to participate are the Council's land use director, Raju Mann, and the chief of staff to Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Ramon Martinez.</p> <p>According to a source with knowledge of the discussions around the rezoning, key sticking points include not only ensuring deeper levels of affordability in new housing, but also extending affordability for about 1,000 current residents whose rent-regulated apartments are nearing expiration of their terms; details of the city's commitment to a Workforce1 job training center; and progress around adding school seats and day-care slots - two areas of need in the administration's final environmental impact assessment of the rezoning plan.</p> <p>"We have an opportunity to show that we are attacking inequality head on in East New York and the administration needs to take this issue seriously as we negotiate the first rezoning under MIH and ZQA," said Council Member Richards in a statement. "The lack of progress thus far on these negotiations is deeply concerning and we need to see legitimate movement soon to ensure that the needs of the community and Council Member Espinal are met."</p> <p>All the stakeholders -- Espinal, his colleagues, community leaders, housing advocates, de Blasio administration officials, real estate developers, and others -- recognize that these rezoning negotiations will set the tone for the next fourteen and determine the future of housing and development in the city for decades to come.</p> <p>"What I'm doing in East New York is the reason I ran for office," Espinal said. "It's an opportunity to create the strongest affordable housing plan in the city and set a precedent for how the rest of the city approaches rezoning." He has received strong support from his colleagues who, he said, "feel that whatever deal I'm able to reach with the administration, they can work off of when their neighborhoods are up for rezoning."</p> <p>Council Member Peter Koo from Queens is likely to be next in the hot-seat as the Flushing West rezoning proposal moves through the ULURP process.</p> <p>"We're certainly watching what happens in East New York closely," Koo said in an email, "but the Flushing West rezoning proposal is significantly different. Our rezoning area is on the waterfront which limits depth, and the LaGuardia flight path limits height. Flushing also has serious infrastructure needs that a large-scale rezoning of this nature would need to address. So we're watching East New York to see how the city responds to the community because Flushing also has a long list of needs."</p> <p>Housing advocates also recognize the immense pressure that Espinal is facing, although different groups have taken varied approaches to respond.</p> <p>"The guy's in a difficult spot," said Jonathan Furlong, zoning technical assistance coordinator, Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development. "What he decides in East New York has vast and far reaching implications for the Bronx, East Harlem, Flushing, Upper Manhattan."</p> <p>ANHD has provided technical assistance to the Coalition for Community Advancement, a collaborative effort by housing advocates to address issues of rezoning across the city, communicating with administration officials, elected representatives, and residents. Members have met with Espinal numerous times to air their concerns and will also be meeting with Council Speaker Mark-Viverito.</p> <p>The CCA has called for a scaling back of the East New York plan and has proposed its own alternative community plan. Besides more affordability for current residents, they want manufacturing sites removed from the plan to protect manufacturing jobs, a $15-million small homes preservation fund, the preservation of the Arlington Village development as affordable housing, and mechanisms to set aside space for community facilities.</p> <p>On Sunday, the coalition held a rally outside City Hall to tell the Council to vote against the rezoning plan unless these proposals are embraced. The group said Sunday night that about 120 people rallied, including community members, State Senator Martin Dilan and Assembly Member Latrice Walker.</p> <p>Furlong commended Espinal for being firm with the administration, but faulted him for not being more vocal on specific proposals. "It's tough to get a read on him," he said of the Council member.</p> <p>New York Communities for Change, a grassroots advocacy group, has been more critical. NYCC released <a href="http://nycommunities.org/how-deepen-affordability-east-new-york" target="_blank">a report</a> titled "Educating Espinal: How to Deepen Affordability for Thousands of Apartments in East New York and Protect Low-Income Residents" in which they directly called on Espinal to fight for more affordability in the plan.</p> <p>"The Council member has not yet come out in support of a growing cry in the community for deeper affordability for low-income families," said Jonathan Westin, NYCC executive director. The group, which claims about 1,000 members, has two demands: 50 percent of units in new developments affordable for families making about 40 percent of the $77,000 annual area median income (AMI), and union jobs for workers in any new construction along upzoned areas. AMI is a federally-calculated number for all of New York City and surrounding counties. The area median income in East New York is significantly lower - about $35,000 per year for a family of four, about the same as 40% of AMI.</p> <p>"We're pushing that if that's not part of the plan, he should vote "no,"" said Westin. "He should not vote against the interests of his constituents."</p> <p>Asked recently about the East New York rezoning and the pushback it has received, Mayor de Blasio said that development and gentrification are taking place all over the city and that the city must take action to harness it. On WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/mayor-de-blasio-public-housing/" target="_blank">the mayor said</a> on March 18 that "the worst thing in the world is to do nothing about" gentrification. "And bluntly," he said, "that was the broad approach of the previous administration and I point to neighborhoods like Bushwick and Bed-Stuy as classic examples where there was no rezoning" to offer developers more in exchange for community benefits.</p> <p>Saying that there needs to be "a coherent governmental response" to gentrification and displacement, de Blasio said that "rezonings are absolutely necessary to create that affordability...if we don't do it, you'll see displacement with no countervailing action by the government." The mayor indicated that the East New York plan will include many affordable units for both lower- and middle-income residents.</p> <p>It is negotiations on the plan that will yield the full details of what that government response is, in East New York and elsewhere.</p> <p>On Thursday, New York Communities for Change led a rally in East New York, blocking traffic along Atlantic Avenue to draw attention to their demands. "Along Atlantic Avenue is where lots of developers have bought property and stand to make a windfall of profits from the rezoning," said Westin. "We need to ensure that with the increase in density that they get from the rezoning, there are deep affordability standards and real job standards for workers building these buildings."</p> <p>Espinal was blunt about NYCC's efforts. "I don't need any educating," he said of their report. "I was born and raised there. I know exactly the struggles my constituents are going through."</p> <p>Insisting that he prefers a "pragmatic approach," Espinal said he wants a holistic plan that covers all constituents and their needs, and that the administration has been receptive.</p> <p>"To be fair, they've been listening," Espinal said. "But the time to listen is over. It's time to take action."</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated with details of the Sunday rally.</p>
Peter Liang’s Conviction Shouldn't Be Dividing the Asian American Community 2016-02-26T00:40:29+00:00 2016-02-26T00:40:29+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6194:peter-liangs-conviction-shouldnt-be-dividing-the-asian-american-community Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/14360926258_c197e6b963_z.jpg" alt="nypd sea" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(Diana Robinson/Mayoral Photography Office)&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>Rookie New York Police Department Officer Peter Liang was on patrol in an East New York housing project in November 2014 when a bullet from his gun ricocheted off a wall and killed 28-year-old Akai Gurley, a black man. The uproar over Gurley’s death culminated in <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/12/nyregion/officer-peter-liang-convicted-in-fatal-shooting-of-akai-gurley-in-brooklyn.html?_r=0" target="_blank">Liang’s conviction</a> of second-degree manslaughter this month, provoking an unusually strong but misguided reaction from the Asian American community.</p> <p dir="ltr">The anger boils down to the notion that Liang was the subject of selective prosecution. In other words, he did not go through the same judicial process as the white officers who have gotten away with killing young black men. Framing Liang’s conviction in this context is not only insincere but misleading. If we were to follow this trend of unaccountability, we would essentially call for Liang’s freedom—something that would run counter to the concept of justice and, more importantly, devalue Gurley’s life.</p> <p dir="ltr">We need to consider whether this incident actually illustrates discrimination against Asian Americans or reinforces the reality that white police officers are not being held responsible for the loss of black lives. If the goal of the recent rallies across the nation is to indeed raise awareness of the latter problem, then opponents of Liang’s conviction should have organized long before his trial. Demonstrating now, as New York Times Magazine contributor Jay Caspian Kang succinctly puts it, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/23/magazine/how-should-asian-americans-feel-about-the-peter-liang-protests.html?_r=0" target="_blank">“deforms the stated intentions.”</a> It also comes across as self-serving rather than a righteous stand against injustice.</p> <p dir="ltr">I say this in light of the more evident challenges that Asian Americans face. We are unfairly pitted against our black and Latino peers as the “model minority” and perceived as perpetual foreigners. The list of such bigoted behavior against Asian Americans is well-documented. Sadly, however, it has also prompted an unnecessary victim mentality—one that now suggests that Liang is an example of how Asian Americans, like black people, suffer from a miscarriage of justice.</p> <p dir="ltr">Our status as a minority does not automatically give us the right to share in the experience of others who are more heavily affected, as Asia Times contributor George Koo <a href="http://atimes.com/2016/02/peter-liang-is-unlucky-to-be-an-asian-new-york-cop/" target="_blank">would have us believe</a>.<a href="http://atimes.com/2016/02/peter-liang-is-unlucky-to-be-an-asian-new-york-cop/"> </a>The truth is that Asian Americans, as a whole, are far less likely than blacks to be targeted by law enforcement or incarcerated. We cannot liken the severity of Liang’s conviction to the death of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/18/nyregion/eric-garner-death-anniversary.html" target="_blank">Eric Garner</a> or <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/08/13/us/ferguson-missouri-town-under-siege-after-police-shooting.html" target="_blank">Michael Brown</a>, whose passings sparked serious conversations on our country’s execution of criminal justice. We cannot say that Liang and Gurley are both victims. Liang killed a black male; Gurley was a black male who was killed.</p> <p dir="ltr">When I think of incidents in which our system has actually betrayed Asians and Asian Americans, I am immediately reminded of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/18/national/18CHIN.html?pagewanted=all" target="_blank">Vincent Chin</a>, whose deadly beating in 1982 by white auto worker Ronald Ebens and his stepson resulted in just a penalty of three years of probation and a fine.</p> <p dir="ltr">I think of <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2003/oct/31/local/me-sanjose31" target="_blank">Cau Bich Tran</a>, whose shooting by Officer Chad Marshall in 2003 failed to lead to an indictment. I remember the death of <a href="http://www.mprnews.org/story/2009/05/28/fonglee_verdict" target="_blank">Fong Lee</a>, whose family burst into tears after Officer Jason Andersen was acquitted of using excessive force back in 2006. These are explicit instances in which I question whether Asian lives matter too.</p> <p dir="ltr">To somehow portray Liang as the unfair target of what was ultimately a standard legal procedure is a disservice to Gurley, Garner, Brown, Chin, Tran, and Lee. We cannot choose to suddenly designate ourselves as a marginalized minority when the merit of the facts in Liang’s case clearly outweigh the connection we have to him as Asian Americans. Liang and I are of the same community, but his particular crusade is not mine.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Justin Chan is an editorial production associate at The New Yorker. He most recently served as <a href="http://mic.com/articles/76529/young-asian-americans-spend-too-much-money#.nxjuNVZ5n" target="_blank">a columnist</a> at Mic, where he explored the media's emasculation of Asian American men and the rise in spending among Asian American youth. You can follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JChan1109" target="_blank">@jchan1109</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/14360926258_c197e6b963_z.jpg" alt="nypd sea" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(Diana Robinson/Mayoral Photography Office)&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>Rookie New York Police Department Officer Peter Liang was on patrol in an East New York housing project in November 2014 when a bullet from his gun ricocheted off a wall and killed 28-year-old Akai Gurley, a black man. The uproar over Gurley’s death culminated in <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/12/nyregion/officer-peter-liang-convicted-in-fatal-shooting-of-akai-gurley-in-brooklyn.html?_r=0" target="_blank">Liang’s conviction</a> of second-degree manslaughter this month, provoking an unusually strong but misguided reaction from the Asian American community.</p> <p dir="ltr">The anger boils down to the notion that Liang was the subject of selective prosecution. In other words, he did not go through the same judicial process as the white officers who have gotten away with killing young black men. Framing Liang’s conviction in this context is not only insincere but misleading. If we were to follow this trend of unaccountability, we would essentially call for Liang’s freedom—something that would run counter to the concept of justice and, more importantly, devalue Gurley’s life.</p> <p dir="ltr">We need to consider whether this incident actually illustrates discrimination against Asian Americans or reinforces the reality that white police officers are not being held responsible for the loss of black lives. If the goal of the recent rallies across the nation is to indeed raise awareness of the latter problem, then opponents of Liang’s conviction should have organized long before his trial. Demonstrating now, as New York Times Magazine contributor Jay Caspian Kang succinctly puts it, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/23/magazine/how-should-asian-americans-feel-about-the-peter-liang-protests.html?_r=0" target="_blank">“deforms the stated intentions.”</a> It also comes across as self-serving rather than a righteous stand against injustice.</p> <p dir="ltr">I say this in light of the more evident challenges that Asian Americans face. We are unfairly pitted against our black and Latino peers as the “model minority” and perceived as perpetual foreigners. The list of such bigoted behavior against Asian Americans is well-documented. Sadly, however, it has also prompted an unnecessary victim mentality—one that now suggests that Liang is an example of how Asian Americans, like black people, suffer from a miscarriage of justice.</p> <p dir="ltr">Our status as a minority does not automatically give us the right to share in the experience of others who are more heavily affected, as Asia Times contributor George Koo <a href="http://atimes.com/2016/02/peter-liang-is-unlucky-to-be-an-asian-new-york-cop/" target="_blank">would have us believe</a>.<a href="http://atimes.com/2016/02/peter-liang-is-unlucky-to-be-an-asian-new-york-cop/"> </a>The truth is that Asian Americans, as a whole, are far less likely than blacks to be targeted by law enforcement or incarcerated. We cannot liken the severity of Liang’s conviction to the death of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/18/nyregion/eric-garner-death-anniversary.html" target="_blank">Eric Garner</a> or <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/08/13/us/ferguson-missouri-town-under-siege-after-police-shooting.html" target="_blank">Michael Brown</a>, whose passings sparked serious conversations on our country’s execution of criminal justice. We cannot say that Liang and Gurley are both victims. Liang killed a black male; Gurley was a black male who was killed.</p> <p dir="ltr">When I think of incidents in which our system has actually betrayed Asians and Asian Americans, I am immediately reminded of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/18/national/18CHIN.html?pagewanted=all" target="_blank">Vincent Chin</a>, whose deadly beating in 1982 by white auto worker Ronald Ebens and his stepson resulted in just a penalty of three years of probation and a fine.</p> <p dir="ltr">I think of <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2003/oct/31/local/me-sanjose31" target="_blank">Cau Bich Tran</a>, whose shooting by Officer Chad Marshall in 2003 failed to lead to an indictment. I remember the death of <a href="http://www.mprnews.org/story/2009/05/28/fonglee_verdict" target="_blank">Fong Lee</a>, whose family burst into tears after Officer Jason Andersen was acquitted of using excessive force back in 2006. These are explicit instances in which I question whether Asian lives matter too.</p> <p dir="ltr">To somehow portray Liang as the unfair target of what was ultimately a standard legal procedure is a disservice to Gurley, Garner, Brown, Chin, Tran, and Lee. We cannot choose to suddenly designate ourselves as a marginalized minority when the merit of the facts in Liang’s case clearly outweigh the connection we have to him as Asian Americans. Liang and I are of the same community, but his particular crusade is not mine.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Justin Chan is an editorial production associate at The New Yorker. He most recently served as <a href="http://mic.com/articles/76529/young-asian-americans-spend-too-much-money#.nxjuNVZ5n" target="_blank">a columnist</a> at Mic, where he explored the media's emasculation of Asian American men and the rise in spending among Asian American youth. You can follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JChan1109" target="_blank">@jchan1109</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
Real Affordable Housing for Our Communities 2016-02-09T02:51:13+00:00 2016-02-09T02:51:13+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6156:real-affordable-housing-for-our-communities Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24323097475_1eee850d3f_z.jpg" alt="de blasio housing constituent" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office</p> <hr /> <p>When I think about my family's future in New York City, I wonder: will there be an affordable, safe, and healthy apartment where I can raise my children and still be able to provide them with everything else that they need?</p> <p>This is the question that our city government has to address if it wants to protect low-income and working class New Yorkers.</p> <p>My husband and I live in Bushwick in a one-bedroom apartment with our three children—one of whom has special needs—and my sister. We pay more than $1,200 per month—more than half of our income, which comes from my husband's job in a fruit and vegetable store. For the last two years, we've been looking to find somewhere better—somewhere more affordable, with more space for our children. Our landlord wants us out, too, because he wants to renovate and charge new tenants more as Bushwick gentrifies.</p> <p>But there's nowhere for us to go. Even studios near where we live are now renting for $1,400-$1,500—too much money, and too little space, for our family of six.</p> <p>In recent weeks, the city has heard much debate on how to create and preserve affordable housing. The most talked-about item has been the Mayor's Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) plan, which would exchange zoning changes to allow more housing construction for, in most neighborhoods, the requirement that 25–30 percent of apartments be affordable to people earning 60 to 80 percent of Area Median Income (AMI).</p> <p>The problem with the plan is that it won't solve the problem for working class New Yorkers like me.</p> <p>Sixty percent of Area Median Income is almost $47,000 for a family of three, and many New Yorkers are far from earning that. My family of six earns about half that much.</p> <p>As a recent Real Affordability for All (RAFA) report found, in many of the neighborhoods that are being rezoned—like East New York, the South Bronx, and East Harlem—the average income is far below 60 percent of Area Median Income. So, when I look at the MIH plan, I wonder: "affordable" housing for whom? Certainly not for local residents like me.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio stood on the right side with our communities in the Fight for $15, to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour for the 3.2 million low-wage workers in our state who currently earn less. But the reality is that, even once our families win the $15 per hour that we so desperately need, the vast majority of the housing being proposed in the MIH plan will not be affordable to us.</p> <p>We ask the Mayor to reconsider his plan and expand affordability to preserve and build genuinely affordable housing.</p> <p>***<br />Susana Salas is a member of Make the Road New York, the largest grassroots community organization in New York offering services and organizing the immigrant community. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/MaketheRoadNY" target="_blank">@maketheroadny</a>.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24323097475_1eee850d3f_z.jpg" alt="de blasio housing constituent" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office</p> <hr /> <p>When I think about my family's future in New York City, I wonder: will there be an affordable, safe, and healthy apartment where I can raise my children and still be able to provide them with everything else that they need?</p> <p>This is the question that our city government has to address if it wants to protect low-income and working class New Yorkers.</p> <p>My husband and I live in Bushwick in a one-bedroom apartment with our three children—one of whom has special needs—and my sister. We pay more than $1,200 per month—more than half of our income, which comes from my husband's job in a fruit and vegetable store. For the last two years, we've been looking to find somewhere better—somewhere more affordable, with more space for our children. Our landlord wants us out, too, because he wants to renovate and charge new tenants more as Bushwick gentrifies.</p> <p>But there's nowhere for us to go. Even studios near where we live are now renting for $1,400-$1,500—too much money, and too little space, for our family of six.</p> <p>In recent weeks, the city has heard much debate on how to create and preserve affordable housing. The most talked-about item has been the Mayor's Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) plan, which would exchange zoning changes to allow more housing construction for, in most neighborhoods, the requirement that 25–30 percent of apartments be affordable to people earning 60 to 80 percent of Area Median Income (AMI).</p> <p>The problem with the plan is that it won't solve the problem for working class New Yorkers like me.</p> <p>Sixty percent of Area Median Income is almost $47,000 for a family of three, and many New Yorkers are far from earning that. My family of six earns about half that much.</p> <p>As a recent Real Affordability for All (RAFA) report found, in many of the neighborhoods that are being rezoned—like East New York, the South Bronx, and East Harlem—the average income is far below 60 percent of Area Median Income. So, when I look at the MIH plan, I wonder: "affordable" housing for whom? Certainly not for local residents like me.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio stood on the right side with our communities in the Fight for $15, to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour for the 3.2 million low-wage workers in our state who currently earn less. But the reality is that, even once our families win the $15 per hour that we so desperately need, the vast majority of the housing being proposed in the MIH plan will not be affordable to us.</p> <p>We ask the Mayor to reconsider his plan and expand affordability to preserve and build genuinely affordable housing.</p> <p>***<br />Susana Salas is a member of Make the Road New York, the largest grassroots community organization in New York offering services and organizing the immigrant community. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/MaketheRoadNY" target="_blank">@maketheroadny</a>.</p> The City's Next Steps to Ensure Vibrant, Creative Communities 2016-02-03T00:18:43+00:00 2016-02-03T00:18:43+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6139:the-citys-next-steps-to-ensure-vibrant-creative-communities Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/nyc_culture.jpg" alt="nyc culture" width="600" height="600" /></p> <p>photo via <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCulture/status/677536770293108736" target="_blank">@NYCulture</a></p> <hr /> <p>Earlier this month, the city's Department of Cultural Affairs announced a promising new program aimed at strengthening cultural organizations in targeted neighborhoods. The initiative, known as <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcla/html/funding/cadp.shtml" target="_blank">Building Community Capacity</a>, was introduced in conjunction with Mayor de Blasio's rezoning proposal in East New York, where the program will be launched.</p> <p>The new initiative is consistent with several of the recommendations from <a href="https://nycfuture.org/research/publications/creative-new-york-2015" target="_blank">Creative New York</a>, the Center for an Urban Future's recent report on the city's arts economy. The report found that a number of small and mid-size arts organizations in low- and middle-income neighborhoods are financially strained. To address this issue, it encouraged the de Blasio administration to integrate the arts into its rezoning proposals, ensuring that existing artists and arts organizations are supported, preserved, and fortified.</p> <p>In recent years, government support for New York City cultural organizations has declined significantly. Adjusted for inflation, programmatic and operating grants from the National Endowment for the Arts fell by 15 percent, from the New York State Council on the Arts by 37 percent, and from the city's Department of Cultural Affairs by 16 percent. As a result, cultural organizations have become increasingly dependent on private philanthropy. Many mid-size and small organizations have struggled with this adjustment. In 2012, for instance, we identified 14 "mid-sized" performing arts venues whose revenue did not cover expenses.</p> <p>Small organizations are also under pressure, particularly those located outside of Manhattan and those serving communities of color. Among New York organizations that explicitly listed their constituents as non-white, earned revenue—primarily attendance fees—covered 32 percent of their expenses, compared to 55 percent for those with a general audience. Likewise, individual and board donations covered only 11 percent of expenses for these organizations, but a much higher 21 percent for those serving a general audience.</p> <p>Given the extensive challenges facing small and midsized art organizations—particularly those in communities outside of Manhattan—it's encouraging to see the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) focus on fortifying these groups.</p> <p>While the specifics of the DCLA program will be developed in partnership with local community members and organizations, Building Community Capacity has several worthwhile objectives. They include: helping organizations with board development and fundraising capacity, equipping arts leaders with essential management skills, activating underused spaces for cultural activities, and streamlining the permitting process.</p> <p>To address these challenges and achieve these goals, DCLA and community-based cultural organizations should look to nonprofits and other city agencies for inspiration. To assist with board development and fundraising capacity, for instance, DCLA could replicate the Robin Hood Foundation's Board Placement Program. Robin Hood helps connect talented, committed and wealthy individuals with social service nonprofits throughout the city. The DCLA could provide a similar matchmaker role for small cultural nonprofits.</p> <p>Likewise, to help arts administrators develop their management skills, DCLA should look to the New York City Economic Development Corporation's Fashion Fellows, a yearlong training and networking program for rising stars in fashion management. The DCLA could introduce a similar platform for administrators at cultural nonprofits in low-income neighborhoods.</p> <p>As East New York artists and arts organizations search for affordable and underutilized performance and rehearsal facilities, they should partner with the Department of Education. Schools in East New York (District 19) contain 46 "primary" and "non-primary" dance rooms, 64 music rooms, 50 theater classrooms, and 61 auditoriums. After school hours, most are left unoccupied. Opening these facilities in the evenings and on weekends could provide stable, affordable space to hundreds of local artists, helping them remain in the neighborhoods where they live and work.</p> <p>Finally, to streamline the permitting process and enliven vacant retail spaces in the target neighborhoods, DCLA should look to the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre &amp; Broadcasting (MOFTB) or the Street Activity Permit Office (SAPO) for assistance. The current permitting process is extremely cumbersome and expensive, requiring individual approval from several agencies, including the police and fire departments.</p> <p>For film and street fairs, on the other hand, the MOFTB and SAPO have established a one-stop-shop, helping to simplify this bureaucratic tangle. Given their resources and expertise, the MOFTB or SAPO could assume permitting duties for all East New York performances and exhibitions, on a pilot-basis. If it runs smoothly, the city should consider delegating all performing and visual arts related permitting to one of these two agencies.</p> <p>With the Building Community Capacity program, the de Blasio administration is redoubling its efforts to strengthen local organizations and improve access to the arts in all of the city's neighborhoods. From permitting to management training, board development to activating underused spaces, the Mayor's initiative can help build more vibrant, resilient and creative neighborhoods.</p> <p>***<br />Adam Forman&nbsp;is a Senior Researcher at <a href="https://nycfuture.org/" target="_blank">the Center for an Urban Future</a>.</p> <p>

***
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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/nyc_culture.jpg" alt="nyc culture" width="600" height="600" /></p> <p>photo via <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCulture/status/677536770293108736" target="_blank">@NYCulture</a></p> <hr /> <p>Earlier this month, the city's Department of Cultural Affairs announced a promising new program aimed at strengthening cultural organizations in targeted neighborhoods. The initiative, known as <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcla/html/funding/cadp.shtml" target="_blank">Building Community Capacity</a>, was introduced in conjunction with Mayor de Blasio's rezoning proposal in East New York, where the program will be launched.</p> <p>The new initiative is consistent with several of the recommendations from <a href="https://nycfuture.org/research/publications/creative-new-york-2015" target="_blank">Creative New York</a>, the Center for an Urban Future's recent report on the city's arts economy. The report found that a number of small and mid-size arts organizations in low- and middle-income neighborhoods are financially strained. To address this issue, it encouraged the de Blasio administration to integrate the arts into its rezoning proposals, ensuring that existing artists and arts organizations are supported, preserved, and fortified.</p> <p>In recent years, government support for New York City cultural organizations has declined significantly. Adjusted for inflation, programmatic and operating grants from the National Endowment for the Arts fell by 15 percent, from the New York State Council on the Arts by 37 percent, and from the city's Department of Cultural Affairs by 16 percent. As a result, cultural organizations have become increasingly dependent on private philanthropy. Many mid-size and small organizations have struggled with this adjustment. In 2012, for instance, we identified 14 "mid-sized" performing arts venues whose revenue did not cover expenses.</p> <p>Small organizations are also under pressure, particularly those located outside of Manhattan and those serving communities of color. Among New York organizations that explicitly listed their constituents as non-white, earned revenue—primarily attendance fees—covered 32 percent of their expenses, compared to 55 percent for those with a general audience. Likewise, individual and board donations covered only 11 percent of expenses for these organizations, but a much higher 21 percent for those serving a general audience.</p> <p>Given the extensive challenges facing small and midsized art organizations—particularly those in communities outside of Manhattan—it's encouraging to see the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) focus on fortifying these groups.</p> <p>While the specifics of the DCLA program will be developed in partnership with local community members and organizations, Building Community Capacity has several worthwhile objectives. They include: helping organizations with board development and fundraising capacity, equipping arts leaders with essential management skills, activating underused spaces for cultural activities, and streamlining the permitting process.</p> <p>To address these challenges and achieve these goals, DCLA and community-based cultural organizations should look to nonprofits and other city agencies for inspiration. To assist with board development and fundraising capacity, for instance, DCLA could replicate the Robin Hood Foundation's Board Placement Program. Robin Hood helps connect talented, committed and wealthy individuals with social service nonprofits throughout the city. The DCLA could provide a similar matchmaker role for small cultural nonprofits.</p> <p>Likewise, to help arts administrators develop their management skills, DCLA should look to the New York City Economic Development Corporation's Fashion Fellows, a yearlong training and networking program for rising stars in fashion management. The DCLA could introduce a similar platform for administrators at cultural nonprofits in low-income neighborhoods.</p> <p>As East New York artists and arts organizations search for affordable and underutilized performance and rehearsal facilities, they should partner with the Department of Education. Schools in East New York (District 19) contain 46 "primary" and "non-primary" dance rooms, 64 music rooms, 50 theater classrooms, and 61 auditoriums. After school hours, most are left unoccupied. Opening these facilities in the evenings and on weekends could provide stable, affordable space to hundreds of local artists, helping them remain in the neighborhoods where they live and work.</p> <p>Finally, to streamline the permitting process and enliven vacant retail spaces in the target neighborhoods, DCLA should look to the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre &amp; Broadcasting (MOFTB) or the Street Activity Permit Office (SAPO) for assistance. The current permitting process is extremely cumbersome and expensive, requiring individual approval from several agencies, including the police and fire departments.</p> <p>For film and street fairs, on the other hand, the MOFTB and SAPO have established a one-stop-shop, helping to simplify this bureaucratic tangle. Given their resources and expertise, the MOFTB or SAPO could assume permitting duties for all East New York performances and exhibitions, on a pilot-basis. If it runs smoothly, the city should consider delegating all performing and visual arts related permitting to one of these two agencies.</p> <p>With the Building Community Capacity program, the de Blasio administration is redoubling its efforts to strengthen local organizations and improve access to the arts in all of the city's neighborhoods. From permitting to management training, board development to activating underused spaces, the Mayor's initiative can help build more vibrant, resilient and creative neighborhoods.</p> <p>***<br />Adam Forman&nbsp;is a Senior Researcher at <a href="https://nycfuture.org/" target="_blank">the Center for an Urban Future</a>.</p> <p>

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Criminal Justice Reform Act is No Alternative to Broken Windows Policing 2016-01-24T19:01:27+00:00 2016-01-24T19:01:27+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6112:criminal-justice-reform-act-is-no-alternative-to-broken-windows-policing Super User <p dir="ltr">&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/bratton_times_sq_group.jpg" alt="bratton times sq group" height="409" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">NYPD ceremony in Times Square (photo: @CommissBratton)</p> <hr /> <p>Monday morning the City Council will begin consideration of a series of bills, called the <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=457235&amp;GUID=63127871-E21F-4241-B2F1-44A3EA6AFA2F&amp;Options=info&amp;Search" target="_blank">Criminal Justice Reform Act</a>, which would limit the use of criminal penalties to manage a variety of low level “quality of life” offenses such as public drinking, park code violations, noise, and public urination. City Council Member Vanessa Gibson, chair of the public safety committee, said she hopes these changes will reduce the problem of excessive criminalization in communities of color, a sentiment echoed by Council Member Rory Lancman, chair of the courts committee, <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/easing-up-low-level-crimes/" target="_blank">on WNYC radio</a> last Friday. Lancman noted that too many areas of the city have experienced overpolicing and overcriminalization.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Act, being spearheaded by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, &nbsp;already has broad support in the Council and the endorsement of NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, and thus, Mayor de Blasio. It's encouraging that political leaders in New York City are exploring ways of reducing the impact of the criminal justice system on communities of color, but this package of reforms is at best a baby step, and at worst, may open the door to more racially discriminatory police actions.</p> <p dir="ltr">The bills, if passed, would create new civil penalty options for these offences by allowing police to choose between a criminal summons and a civil one when encountering an offender, a choice made based on departmental guidelines. The criminal codes remain on the books per Bratton’s insistence, which he says is necessary so that officers can demand identification, conduct searches, and perform background checks.</p> <p dir="ltr">With a criminal summons, people must appear in summons court and if they fail to do so a warrant is issued for their arrest. Over a million such arrest warrants are currently on the books, leading to numerous unfortunate encounters with the police, such as being arrested on the way to work or to pick children up from school.</p> <p dir="ltr">The new civil process, to be administered by the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, will be more like traffic court in which people must pay a fine or perform community service, but no warrant will result from failure to comply. Instead, a <a href="https://www.nycourts.gov/courts/nyc/civil/collectingjudg.shtml" target="_blank">civil judgement</a> will be issued, which could result in the garnishment of wages or bank accounts, or seizure of property. This might also affect one’s credit rating. None of this will result in incarceration, which is positive, but the penalties can still be substantial, with fines ranging from $25 to $250 for a first offense.</p> <p dir="ltr">In addition, these financial penalties are likely to fall heaviest on areas where quality-of-life, or broken windows, enforcement is the most widespread, removing resources from already poor communities. While some will escape these penalties through community service programs, many working poor will not.</p> <p dir="ltr">Vincent Riggins, chair of the public safety committee of Community Board 5 in East New York has actually called for the return of half of all those fines to the local community board to be spent on community development projects. It is a great idea that would reduce the financial incentive that has driven excessive and discriminatory summonsing in places like Ferguson, MO.</p> <p dir="ltr">Riggins has raised another important point. By leaving these offenses on the books, rather than truly decriminalizing them, the door is left open for the kinds of invasive policing experienced under stop, question, and frisk in recent years. By keeping open alcohol an offense, police will have “reasonable suspicion” to stop anyone drinking a beverage in a bag or unmarked container, potentially leading to exactly the kinds of unwarranted police intrusions that we have worked so hard to reduce. While Bratton rightly touts reductions in police enforcement encounters, racial disparities persist.</p> <p dir="ltr">Another area of concern is the discretionary nature of the new rules. The NYPD insisted that it would only support the bill if it retained the ability to treat these offences as criminal when officers felt it appropriate. This gives them the ability to demand ID and run people for warrants. But what will determine who gets a civil summons, who gets a criminal one, and who gets run for warrants? There is a real risk that the more punitive practices will become heavily concentrated in exactly those poor, non-white communities that bore the brunt of stop, question, and frisk, and who bear the burden of most criminal summonses and low level arrests now.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Gibson says that there will be a process of determining policies for guiding officer discretion, and that the City Council is calling for the default to be a civil summons. This outcome, however, is far from assured, since the ultimate decision rests with the NYPD and the officer on the street. Therefore, there is a real risk that the police will perceive the need to take harsher and more invasive action in exactly the same places they do now, with milder penalties reserved for more prosperous parts of the city. If these changes are enacted, this must be monitored closely, something Council Members Jumaane Williams and Mark Levine are proposing through a bill mandating reporting by the NYPD.</p> <p dir="ltr">Any reduction in the use of criminal penalties is welcome, but this measure retains an adherence to using punitive mechanisms to manage so called quality-of-life problems in keeping with the deeply <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5199-neoconservative-roots-broken-windows-policing-theory-nypd-bratton-vitale" target="_blank">conservative Broken Windows theory</a>. There is nothing in the bill to develop non-punitive mechanisms for addressing community problems.</p> <p dir="ltr">As one caller <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/easing-up-low-level-crimes/" target="_blank">to WNYC</a> pointed out, the current criminal penalties seem to be largely ineffective in reducing the amount of public urination, why should the civil penalties be any more effective? They won’t. The reality is that public bathrooms are largely non-existent in New York City. Other major cities around the world have much more developed amenities in place and have largely avoided this problem. If you don’t want people to pee in public, give them functional and accessible public bathrooms, not a choice between criminal and civil sanctions.</p> <p dir="ltr">In addition, a lot of quality-of-life problems are driven by pervasive underemployment for youth of color, a lack of positive social activities for young people, and widespread homelessness. While the Mayor and City Council have started to acknowledge the extent of some of these problems, their focus has been primarily on hiring more police and tinkering with what kind of punitive sanctions to use, rather than a major redistribution of resources away from police, courts, and prisons, and towards housing, healthcare, and youth services.</p> <p dir="ltr">In his book The Silent Black Majority, Michael Fortner shows that the push for criminal justice solutions to community problems was supported by many in poor black communities and my own research on the rise of quality-of-life policing in the ‘90s shows the same thing. But what I also found was that these communities also called for youth centers, improved housing, and better schools, but what they got was only the policing and prisons. It’s time our political leaders quit asking the NYPD for permission to really shift resources away from the criminal justice system and towards improving communities in positive ways.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Los Angeles, the <a href="http://www.youth4justice.org/take-action/la-for-youth-1-campaign" target="_blank">Youth Justice Coalition</a> has called for redirecting 1% of all criminal justice spending ($100 million) in the county towards youth jobs, community centers, and violence reduction outreach workers. That would be real reform. The <a href="http://www.policereformorganizingproject.org/" target="_blank">Police Reform Organizing Project</a> here in New York is currently exploring a similar initiative on an even broader scale. Crime and disorder matter and need to be addressed, but we must strive to develop affirming rather than punitive solutions whenever possible. If the City Council is serious about reducing the negative impacts of the criminal justice system, it should start by revisiting its decision to expand the NYPD. More police with more discretion is not the answer.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Alex S. Vitale is&nbsp;associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and author of City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics. He is senior policy adviser to the Police Reform Organizing Project and serves on the New York State Advisory Committee to the US Civil Rights Commission. You can follow him on Twitter:&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/avitale" target="_blank">@avitale</a></p> <p dir="ltr">

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<p dir="ltr">&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/bratton_times_sq_group.jpg" alt="bratton times sq group" height="409" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">NYPD ceremony in Times Square (photo: @CommissBratton)</p> <hr /> <p>Monday morning the City Council will begin consideration of a series of bills, called the <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=457235&amp;GUID=63127871-E21F-4241-B2F1-44A3EA6AFA2F&amp;Options=info&amp;Search" target="_blank">Criminal Justice Reform Act</a>, which would limit the use of criminal penalties to manage a variety of low level “quality of life” offenses such as public drinking, park code violations, noise, and public urination. City Council Member Vanessa Gibson, chair of the public safety committee, said she hopes these changes will reduce the problem of excessive criminalization in communities of color, a sentiment echoed by Council Member Rory Lancman, chair of the courts committee, <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/easing-up-low-level-crimes/" target="_blank">on WNYC radio</a> last Friday. Lancman noted that too many areas of the city have experienced overpolicing and overcriminalization.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Act, being spearheaded by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, &nbsp;already has broad support in the Council and the endorsement of NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, and thus, Mayor de Blasio. It's encouraging that political leaders in New York City are exploring ways of reducing the impact of the criminal justice system on communities of color, but this package of reforms is at best a baby step, and at worst, may open the door to more racially discriminatory police actions.</p> <p dir="ltr">The bills, if passed, would create new civil penalty options for these offences by allowing police to choose between a criminal summons and a civil one when encountering an offender, a choice made based on departmental guidelines. The criminal codes remain on the books per Bratton’s insistence, which he says is necessary so that officers can demand identification, conduct searches, and perform background checks.</p> <p dir="ltr">With a criminal summons, people must appear in summons court and if they fail to do so a warrant is issued for their arrest. Over a million such arrest warrants are currently on the books, leading to numerous unfortunate encounters with the police, such as being arrested on the way to work or to pick children up from school.</p> <p dir="ltr">The new civil process, to be administered by the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, will be more like traffic court in which people must pay a fine or perform community service, but no warrant will result from failure to comply. Instead, a <a href="https://www.nycourts.gov/courts/nyc/civil/collectingjudg.shtml" target="_blank">civil judgement</a> will be issued, which could result in the garnishment of wages or bank accounts, or seizure of property. This might also affect one’s credit rating. None of this will result in incarceration, which is positive, but the penalties can still be substantial, with fines ranging from $25 to $250 for a first offense.</p> <p dir="ltr">In addition, these financial penalties are likely to fall heaviest on areas where quality-of-life, or broken windows, enforcement is the most widespread, removing resources from already poor communities. While some will escape these penalties through community service programs, many working poor will not.</p> <p dir="ltr">Vincent Riggins, chair of the public safety committee of Community Board 5 in East New York has actually called for the return of half of all those fines to the local community board to be spent on community development projects. It is a great idea that would reduce the financial incentive that has driven excessive and discriminatory summonsing in places like Ferguson, MO.</p> <p dir="ltr">Riggins has raised another important point. By leaving these offenses on the books, rather than truly decriminalizing them, the door is left open for the kinds of invasive policing experienced under stop, question, and frisk in recent years. By keeping open alcohol an offense, police will have “reasonable suspicion” to stop anyone drinking a beverage in a bag or unmarked container, potentially leading to exactly the kinds of unwarranted police intrusions that we have worked so hard to reduce. While Bratton rightly touts reductions in police enforcement encounters, racial disparities persist.</p> <p dir="ltr">Another area of concern is the discretionary nature of the new rules. The NYPD insisted that it would only support the bill if it retained the ability to treat these offences as criminal when officers felt it appropriate. This gives them the ability to demand ID and run people for warrants. But what will determine who gets a civil summons, who gets a criminal one, and who gets run for warrants? There is a real risk that the more punitive practices will become heavily concentrated in exactly those poor, non-white communities that bore the brunt of stop, question, and frisk, and who bear the burden of most criminal summonses and low level arrests now.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Gibson says that there will be a process of determining policies for guiding officer discretion, and that the City Council is calling for the default to be a civil summons. This outcome, however, is far from assured, since the ultimate decision rests with the NYPD and the officer on the street. Therefore, there is a real risk that the police will perceive the need to take harsher and more invasive action in exactly the same places they do now, with milder penalties reserved for more prosperous parts of the city. If these changes are enacted, this must be monitored closely, something Council Members Jumaane Williams and Mark Levine are proposing through a bill mandating reporting by the NYPD.</p> <p dir="ltr">Any reduction in the use of criminal penalties is welcome, but this measure retains an adherence to using punitive mechanisms to manage so called quality-of-life problems in keeping with the deeply <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5199-neoconservative-roots-broken-windows-policing-theory-nypd-bratton-vitale" target="_blank">conservative Broken Windows theory</a>. There is nothing in the bill to develop non-punitive mechanisms for addressing community problems.</p> <p dir="ltr">As one caller <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/easing-up-low-level-crimes/" target="_blank">to WNYC</a> pointed out, the current criminal penalties seem to be largely ineffective in reducing the amount of public urination, why should the civil penalties be any more effective? They won’t. The reality is that public bathrooms are largely non-existent in New York City. Other major cities around the world have much more developed amenities in place and have largely avoided this problem. If you don’t want people to pee in public, give them functional and accessible public bathrooms, not a choice between criminal and civil sanctions.</p> <p dir="ltr">In addition, a lot of quality-of-life problems are driven by pervasive underemployment for youth of color, a lack of positive social activities for young people, and widespread homelessness. While the Mayor and City Council have started to acknowledge the extent of some of these problems, their focus has been primarily on hiring more police and tinkering with what kind of punitive sanctions to use, rather than a major redistribution of resources away from police, courts, and prisons, and towards housing, healthcare, and youth services.</p> <p dir="ltr">In his book The Silent Black Majority, Michael Fortner shows that the push for criminal justice solutions to community problems was supported by many in poor black communities and my own research on the rise of quality-of-life policing in the ‘90s shows the same thing. But what I also found was that these communities also called for youth centers, improved housing, and better schools, but what they got was only the policing and prisons. It’s time our political leaders quit asking the NYPD for permission to really shift resources away from the criminal justice system and towards improving communities in positive ways.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Los Angeles, the <a href="http://www.youth4justice.org/take-action/la-for-youth-1-campaign" target="_blank">Youth Justice Coalition</a> has called for redirecting 1% of all criminal justice spending ($100 million) in the county towards youth jobs, community centers, and violence reduction outreach workers. That would be real reform. The <a href="http://www.policereformorganizingproject.org/" target="_blank">Police Reform Organizing Project</a> here in New York is currently exploring a similar initiative on an even broader scale. Crime and disorder matter and need to be addressed, but we must strive to develop affirming rather than punitive solutions whenever possible. If the City Council is serious about reducing the negative impacts of the criminal justice system, it should start by revisiting its decision to expand the NYPD. More police with more discretion is not the answer.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Alex S. Vitale is&nbsp;associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and author of City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics. He is senior policy adviser to the Police Reform Organizing Project and serves on the New York State Advisory Committee to the US Civil Rights Commission. You can follow him on Twitter:&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/avitale" target="_blank">@avitale</a></p> <p dir="ltr">

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Rezoning Discussion Shifts to Food Access, At Least for One Breakfast 2015-11-22T21:51:53+00:00 2015-11-22T21:51:53+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6003:rezoning-discussion-shifts-to-food-access-at-least-for-one-breakfast Super User <p dir="ltr"><img alt="red hook harvest via greencityforce" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/red_hook_harvest_via_greencityforce.jpg" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Red Hook Houses harvesting (photo <a href="https://twitter.com/GreenCityForce/media" target="_blank">via @GreenCityForce</a>)</p> <hr /> <p>In the midst of city-wide controversy surrounding two <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5988-de-blasio-housing-chief-looks-to-allay-fears-build-support-for-rezonings" target="_blank">new zoning proposals</a>connected to Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s affordable housing plan, health and housing experts gathered to discuss how zoning could impact something else: food.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I hope that by the end of today‘s discussion,“ said Nevin Cohen, associate professor at the CUNY School of Public Health, “we will see how spatial planning shapes local food environments and, therefore, how critical it is when we make decisions about how to change a neighborhood’s landscape.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Part of a breakfast series put on by the New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College, the event, Zoning and the City‘s Food System: Opportunities to Shape Healthier Food Environments in NYC, brought together a full room of interested parties - students, advocates, and others - at the CUNY Graduate Center. They met at a breakfast event as community boards, housing activists, preservations, elected officials, and others consider the de Blasio administration’s ambitious rezoning plans, which have received quite a bit of pushback so far.</p> <p dir="ltr">While de Blasio’s plans for adding housing stock and density to several city neighborhoods like East New York, East Harlem, Flushing, and elsewhere have received a great deal of attention, food access is almost never part of the discussion.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cohen introduced and moderated a conversation with three other speakers: Javier Lopez, deputy director of the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Center for Developed Equity; Daniel Hernandez, deputy Commissioner for neighborhood strategies at the city’s Department of Housing and Preservation; and Shy Lauris, director of community development at Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation.</p> <p dir="ltr">Zoning plays a large part in shaping food environments, the panelists explained. For all of the opaque jargon--FARs, RCM, RFPs--what zoning laws do is fairly straightforward: set limits on what a piece of land can or cannot be used for. This includes determining what function a building can fulfill (residential, commercial, manufacturing, etc.), the population density that a building can support (think low- or high-density housing), maximum building height, the amount of space various structures can occupy, and the proportional guidelines for different spatial types (i.e. the ratio of landscaped space to traffic lanes or to parking lots).</p> <p dir="ltr">Each panelist gave an individual presentation focusing on current and possible health-oriented zoning initiatives before the discussion evolved into a more fluid, open forum also including audience members.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lopez, of DOHMH, spoke about standardizing health requirements in the city‘s neighborhood planning process, creating a sort of health checklist for city planners to incorporate into development.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Right now it is kind of being done in an ad hoc way,“ he said, “when you have conversations on transportation, on health, on education, all that has to be formalized…We believe that if we formalized it, other agencies could be more responsive to the public health conversations that are taking place.”</p> <p dir="ltr">He continued saying that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene‘s brand new <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/data/nyc-health-profiles.shtml" target="_blank">Community Health Profiles</a> could serve as guidelines to future neighborhood development. The profiles include community district specific statistics on things like citizen supermarket access; resident smoking, eating, and exercise habits; air pollution; and more.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lopez also talked with excitement about progressive zoning policies from <a href="http://seedstock.com/2014/05/27/10-american-cities-lead-the-way-with-urban-agriculture-ordinances/" target="_blank">other cities</a> that New York could look to adopt.</p> <p dir="ltr">In “<a href="http://www.rewritebaltimore.org/" target="_blank">Transform Baltimore</a>,” for instance, the city‘s zoning overhaul of 2014, Baltimore amended its zoning code to simplify the process of beginning an urban farm and preserving community gardens. “Transform” also adopted a broader array of health-oriented zoning policies that included increasing development around transit hubs, preserving open space, and creating mixed-use housing (buildings that double as residential and commercial spaces).</p> <p dir="ltr">The last of these measures - mixed-use housing - Hernandez pointed to in his presentation as something the city‘s proposed Zoning for Quality and Affordability text amendment (ZQA) seeks to increase. By raising the maximum building height in certain neighborhoods by five feet, the amendment allows the bottom floors of residential developments to serve as high-quality retail space. This can often lead to new food markets, reducing distances residents and families have to travel from their homes to access a range of food.</p> <p dir="ltr">ZQA, along with its sister bill, the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing text amendment (MIH), is currently receiving stiff <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5972-east-harlem-tenants-group-rejects-de-blasio-housing-plan-offer-its-own" target="_blank">opposition</a> from community boards across New York, but Hernandez thinks this opposition is misguided. Much of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5988-de-blasio-housing-chief-looks-to-allay-fears-build-support-for-rezonings" target="_blank">the hesitation among New Yorkers</a> surrounds residential affordability and fears of gentrification and rising prices.</p> <p dir="ltr">“HPD was developing retail buildings with really bad retail space, or bottom ground floor space,” Hernandez said. “So we <a href="http://designtrust.org/projects/groundwork/" target="_blank">worked</a> with Design Trust for Public Space to identify how the buildings could increase in height and still be contextual within the existing historic fabric of neighborhoods. To be honest [the plan] is not being received too well, people think that the five foot increase is a way for developers to get additional [<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/zone/glossary.shtml" target="_blank">floor area ratio</a>], but it’s actually not…[DOHMH is] working with [several city agencies] to bring different types of incentives and programs to small businesses in order to fill the retail space.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Supermarkets will also move in, Hernandez said. He explained ZQA would enable the city to “more deliberately” pedal its <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/misc/html/2009/fresh.shtml" target="_blank">FRESH</a> (Food Retail Expansion to Support Health) program, which provides zoning and financial incentives to developers and grocers when they build supermarkets in neighborhoods with a lack of healthy food options.</p> <p style="text-align: center;" dir="ltr"><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" alt="urban farm via nycfood" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/urban_farm_via_nycfood.jpg" width="400" height="300" />[an urban farm, via <a href="https://twitter.com/nycfood" target="_blank">@nycfood</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr">Shy Lauris is in charge of a development in East New York that serves as a concrete example of what Hernandez speaks about. At the <a href="http://nycfoodpolicy.org/" target="_blank">Food Policy Center</a> event, Lauris showed the audience a development located at Pitkin Avenue and Berriman Street that was just beginning construction. The building, a model of what HPD envisions for many other parts of the city, will include 60 affordable rental units, with a FRESH subsidized supermarket on the ground floor. The building will also include a public community garden with private plots for each tenant.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lauris, however, emphasized the role of financing in the project, saying it could not have happened were it not for the increase in density that the city granted the developer. The greater number of units allowed gave Lauris and her community the revenue to build the type of building they wanted. These decisions are at the essence of the de Blasio housing plan, with its rezoning proposals at the center, which allow for greater density and development incentives in order to spur new units - both market and “affordable” - and new retail.</p> <p dir="ltr">“In order to have food on that lot, you need to have economies of scale“ she said, “you need to finance construction and it’s very difficult to do...in order to make this work we needed more density.“</p> <p dir="ltr">Nevin Cohen, who worked with the Design Trust for Public Space to <a href="http://designtrust.org/publications/five-borough-farm/" target="_blank">develop favorable zoning policies</a> for rooftop agriculture in the city in 2012, added that financing is also what‘s holding back that movement, which spurs local food sourcing.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the event drew to a close, where exactly additional financing might come from remained unclear. Hernandez said he hoped the food-friendly-living market will grow similar to the way energy conservation has over the past decade (think solar panels).</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have an amazing opportunity to effect the marketplace,“ he said. “In previous years when the green building and energy efficiency movement was just beginning, HPD worked closely with [<a href="http://www.usgbc.org/" target="_blank">the U.S. Green Building Council</a>] as well as the Enterprise Green Communities program to identify ways to require anything that we financed to be green and energy efficient. Now these standards are a part of all pipelines. We require developers to comply with the green communities program at a minimum, but that often leads to developers competing to build the best building.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Money does not grow on basil leaves, though, and the financial incentives that tipped developers toward supporting energy efficient practices do not exist for community gardens. Hernandez hopes that food-conscious construction paradigms like Via Verde, which won the New Housing New York (NHNY) Legacy Competition, will push the market to demand healthier construction practices, but the economic hurdles still prove daunting.</p> <p dir="ltr">Referring to the struggle to get developers to adopt sustainable energy standards, Hernandez said, “It wasn’t until we were able to monetize the savings to the developer that they became interested. But then there was an increase in construction cost we had to manage and it wasn’t until there was more market demand from people that it began to push the construction industry to make changes.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Pausing for a moment, he concluded, “I am not sure how to monetize health incentives.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Colin O’Connor for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a><br /><a href="https://twitter.com/colinqoconnor93" target="_blank">@colinqoconnor93</a></p> <p dir="ltr"><img alt="red hook harvest via greencityforce" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/red_hook_harvest_via_greencityforce.jpg" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Red Hook Houses harvesting (photo <a href="https://twitter.com/GreenCityForce/media" target="_blank">via @GreenCityForce</a>)</p> <hr /> <p>In the midst of city-wide controversy surrounding two <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5988-de-blasio-housing-chief-looks-to-allay-fears-build-support-for-rezonings" target="_blank">new zoning proposals</a>connected to Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s affordable housing plan, health and housing experts gathered to discuss how zoning could impact something else: food.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I hope that by the end of today‘s discussion,“ said Nevin Cohen, associate professor at the CUNY School of Public Health, “we will see how spatial planning shapes local food environments and, therefore, how critical it is when we make decisions about how to change a neighborhood’s landscape.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Part of a breakfast series put on by the New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College, the event, Zoning and the City‘s Food System: Opportunities to Shape Healthier Food Environments in NYC, brought together a full room of interested parties - students, advocates, and others - at the CUNY Graduate Center. They met at a breakfast event as community boards, housing activists, preservations, elected officials, and others consider the de Blasio administration’s ambitious rezoning plans, which have received quite a bit of pushback so far.</p> <p dir="ltr">While de Blasio’s plans for adding housing stock and density to several city neighborhoods like East New York, East Harlem, Flushing, and elsewhere have received a great deal of attention, food access is almost never part of the discussion.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cohen introduced and moderated a conversation with three other speakers: Javier Lopez, deputy director of the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Center for Developed Equity; Daniel Hernandez, deputy Commissioner for neighborhood strategies at the city’s Department of Housing and Preservation; and Shy Lauris, director of community development at Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation.</p> <p dir="ltr">Zoning plays a large part in shaping food environments, the panelists explained. For all of the opaque jargon--FARs, RCM, RFPs--what zoning laws do is fairly straightforward: set limits on what a piece of land can or cannot be used for. This includes determining what function a building can fulfill (residential, commercial, manufacturing, etc.), the population density that a building can support (think low- or high-density housing), maximum building height, the amount of space various structures can occupy, and the proportional guidelines for different spatial types (i.e. the ratio of landscaped space to traffic lanes or to parking lots).</p> <p dir="ltr">Each panelist gave an individual presentation focusing on current and possible health-oriented zoning initiatives before the discussion evolved into a more fluid, open forum also including audience members.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lopez, of DOHMH, spoke about standardizing health requirements in the city‘s neighborhood planning process, creating a sort of health checklist for city planners to incorporate into development.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Right now it is kind of being done in an ad hoc way,“ he said, “when you have conversations on transportation, on health, on education, all that has to be formalized…We believe that if we formalized it, other agencies could be more responsive to the public health conversations that are taking place.”</p> <p dir="ltr">He continued saying that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene‘s brand new <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/data/nyc-health-profiles.shtml" target="_blank">Community Health Profiles</a> could serve as guidelines to future neighborhood development. The profiles include community district specific statistics on things like citizen supermarket access; resident smoking, eating, and exercise habits; air pollution; and more.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lopez also talked with excitement about progressive zoning policies from <a href="http://seedstock.com/2014/05/27/10-american-cities-lead-the-way-with-urban-agriculture-ordinances/" target="_blank">other cities</a> that New York could look to adopt.</p> <p dir="ltr">In “<a href="http://www.rewritebaltimore.org/" target="_blank">Transform Baltimore</a>,” for instance, the city‘s zoning overhaul of 2014, Baltimore amended its zoning code to simplify the process of beginning an urban farm and preserving community gardens. “Transform” also adopted a broader array of health-oriented zoning policies that included increasing development around transit hubs, preserving open space, and creating mixed-use housing (buildings that double as residential and commercial spaces).</p> <p dir="ltr">The last of these measures - mixed-use housing - Hernandez pointed to in his presentation as something the city‘s proposed Zoning for Quality and Affordability text amendment (ZQA) seeks to increase. By raising the maximum building height in certain neighborhoods by five feet, the amendment allows the bottom floors of residential developments to serve as high-quality retail space. This can often lead to new food markets, reducing distances residents and families have to travel from their homes to access a range of food.</p> <p dir="ltr">ZQA, along with its sister bill, the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing text amendment (MIH), is currently receiving stiff <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5972-east-harlem-tenants-group-rejects-de-blasio-housing-plan-offer-its-own" target="_blank">opposition</a> from community boards across New York, but Hernandez thinks this opposition is misguided. Much of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5988-de-blasio-housing-chief-looks-to-allay-fears-build-support-for-rezonings" target="_blank">the hesitation among New Yorkers</a> surrounds residential affordability and fears of gentrification and rising prices.</p> <p dir="ltr">“HPD was developing retail buildings with really bad retail space, or bottom ground floor space,” Hernandez said. “So we <a href="http://designtrust.org/projects/groundwork/" target="_blank">worked</a> with Design Trust for Public Space to identify how the buildings could increase in height and still be contextual within the existing historic fabric of neighborhoods. To be honest [the plan] is not being received too well, people think that the five foot increase is a way for developers to get additional [<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/zone/glossary.shtml" target="_blank">floor area ratio</a>], but it’s actually not…[DOHMH is] working with [several city agencies] to bring different types of incentives and programs to small businesses in order to fill the retail space.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Supermarkets will also move in, Hernandez said. He explained ZQA would enable the city to “more deliberately” pedal its <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/misc/html/2009/fresh.shtml" target="_blank">FRESH</a> (Food Retail Expansion to Support Health) program, which provides zoning and financial incentives to developers and grocers when they build supermarkets in neighborhoods with a lack of healthy food options.</p> <p style="text-align: center;" dir="ltr"><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" alt="urban farm via nycfood" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/urban_farm_via_nycfood.jpg" width="400" height="300" />[an urban farm, via <a href="https://twitter.com/nycfood" target="_blank">@nycfood</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr">Shy Lauris is in charge of a development in East New York that serves as a concrete example of what Hernandez speaks about. At the <a href="http://nycfoodpolicy.org/" target="_blank">Food Policy Center</a> event, Lauris showed the audience a development located at Pitkin Avenue and Berriman Street that was just beginning construction. The building, a model of what HPD envisions for many other parts of the city, will include 60 affordable rental units, with a FRESH subsidized supermarket on the ground floor. The building will also include a public community garden with private plots for each tenant.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lauris, however, emphasized the role of financing in the project, saying it could not have happened were it not for the increase in density that the city granted the developer. The greater number of units allowed gave Lauris and her community the revenue to build the type of building they wanted. These decisions are at the essence of the de Blasio housing plan, with its rezoning proposals at the center, which allow for greater density and development incentives in order to spur new units - both market and “affordable” - and new retail.</p> <p dir="ltr">“In order to have food on that lot, you need to have economies of scale“ she said, “you need to finance construction and it’s very difficult to do...in order to make this work we needed more density.“</p> <p dir="ltr">Nevin Cohen, who worked with the Design Trust for Public Space to <a href="http://designtrust.org/publications/five-borough-farm/" target="_blank">develop favorable zoning policies</a> for rooftop agriculture in the city in 2012, added that financing is also what‘s holding back that movement, which spurs local food sourcing.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the event drew to a close, where exactly additional financing might come from remained unclear. Hernandez said he hoped the food-friendly-living market will grow similar to the way energy conservation has over the past decade (think solar panels).</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have an amazing opportunity to effect the marketplace,“ he said. “In previous years when the green building and energy efficiency movement was just beginning, HPD worked closely with [<a href="http://www.usgbc.org/" target="_blank">the U.S. Green Building Council</a>] as well as the Enterprise Green Communities program to identify ways to require anything that we financed to be green and energy efficient. Now these standards are a part of all pipelines. We require developers to comply with the green communities program at a minimum, but that often leads to developers competing to build the best building.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Money does not grow on basil leaves, though, and the financial incentives that tipped developers toward supporting energy efficient practices do not exist for community gardens. Hernandez hopes that food-conscious construction paradigms like Via Verde, which won the New Housing New York (NHNY) Legacy Competition, will push the market to demand healthier construction practices, but the economic hurdles still prove daunting.</p> <p dir="ltr">Referring to the struggle to get developers to adopt sustainable energy standards, Hernandez said, “It wasn’t until we were able to monetize the savings to the developer that they became interested. But then there was an increase in construction cost we had to manage and it wasn’t until there was more market demand from people that it began to push the construction industry to make changes.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Pausing for a moment, he concluded, “I am not sure how to monetize health incentives.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Colin O’Connor for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a><br /><a href="https://twitter.com/colinqoconnor93" target="_blank">@colinqoconnor93</a></p> Stakeholders Urge Adams to Reject East New York Community Plan 2015-11-24T21:21:45+00:00 2015-11-24T21:21:45+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6006:stakeholders-urge-adams-to-reject-east-new-york-community-plan Super User <p dir="ltr"><img alt="eric adams via twitter bpericadams" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/eric_adams_via_twitter_bpericadams.jpg" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p dir="ltr">BK BP Adams at an event (photo via @bpericadams)</p> <hr /> <p>At Brooklyn Borough Hall on Monday, Borough President Eric Adams held a public hearing on the de Blasio administration’s controversial <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/east_new_york/presentation_092015.pdf">East New York Community Plan</a>. After remarks from City Council representatives at the packed-to-capacity hearing, stakeholders from the affected area urged Adams to reject it.</p> <p dir="ltr">“What I’m gonna stand here and talk about is you putting yourself in the position of these community members, young and old, who are coming to you and asking you to just look at the mayor’s plan and just understand that it’s crap,” Jasbir Singh, Brooklyn organizer for the advocacy group Faith In New York, said at the hearing, addressing Adams directly.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though most opinions expressed were less harsh, only two people - officials from the City Planning Department who provided a powerpoint of plan details at the hearing’s start - voiced approval for the proposal, at least in its current form. The plan aims to create affordable housing units, protect existing ones, and strengthen the economy of the area proposed for rezoning, which contains East New York, Cypress Hills, and Ocean Hill.</p> <p dir="ltr">The area has high poverty rates and is largely populated by people of color. There are limited work and transportation options. It is an area that could be upzoned to allow more retail space, as well as new housing development. The administration’s plan seeks to create new housing that will include “affordable” units, while also fostering new business and jobs as buildings are “mixed-use,” meaning retail on the ground floor with housing atop.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday at Borough Hall, participants urged the city officials present to vote against the proposal. Though it has already been rejected by Community Board 5 (East New York, Cypress Hills, Highland Park, New Lots, City Line, Starrett City, and Ridgewood), Community Board 16 (Brownsville and Ocean Hill) could endorse it when it votes at the end of the month. These votes are advisory, though - the City Council is expected to vote on the plan in 2016. The Council typically follows the lead of the local rep(s), which is this case are Council Members Rafael Espinal and Inez Barron.</p> <p dir="ltr">The East New York area is one initial proving ground for the de Blasio administration’s larger rezoning and housing plans - plans that are being met with resistance all over the city and are likely to be tweaked before they are presented to the Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">Most of the concerns expressed Monday were about the proposal’s potential to displace residents of the rezoned area. Around 50 percent of the approximately 6,300 housing units created for the East New York Community Plan are slated to be affordable units. The remainder are market-rate.</p> <p dir="ltr">During her remarks at the start of the hearing, Council Member Barron held up a sheet of paper with two pie graphs. One showed the current East New York community by percentage of income levels and the other showed the same statistics as forecast after the rezoning, she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">If the proposal is implemented, Barron said, the majority of East New York residents will earn salaries of $75,000 and up, a group that currently composes only 18 percent of the neighborhood population. (It was not immediately clear where Barron’s data came from.)</p> <p dir="ltr">“I also want to say that they don't tell you the size of the units. So, we need two and three bedrooms, some of us will obviously need four-bedroom apartments,” Barron said. “But we don't know, of the units that they're going to bring in that they call affordable, how many bedrooms there are going to be.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Barron reaffirmed her stance on the proposal: as it currently exists, she does not support it. Council Member Espinal, who represents most of the area proposed for rezoning, expressed the same stance in his remarks.</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite some concerns mentioned about the proposal’s economic plan, which does not require that businesses interested in East New York pay workers a “living wage,” most concerns voiced were about the plan’s potential to displace residents.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We are deeply concerned about displacement and urge the city to study the impact of rezoning on displacement in other areas such as Park Slope [and] Williamsburg in order to develop an understanding of what rezoning will really mean to low-income East New Yorkers,” Jamal Burgess, Future of Tomorrow youth organizer and Cypress Hills resident, said. “Through the years, we have seen gentrification in Williamsburg, Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, Harlem, covered up by urban renewal projects.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In the plan, one of the strategies listed for the protection of existing affordable housing is providing free legal representation from the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force for people facing harassment by landlords. Several who spoke at Monday’s hearing reported that they had personally experienced this type of harassment, and doubted the capability of the legal representation strategy to fight it.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I cannot accept a legal clinic at face value as being able to solve that problem,” five-year East New York resident Barbara Champion said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio has personally guaranteed such legal help to tenants in any of the neighborhoods he plans to rezone and has dedicated budgetary dollars toward such aid.</p> <p dir="ltr">East New York is one of 15 areas selected by the de Blasio administration for rezoning. The proposals are part of Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning and Zoning for Quality and Affordability, two main pieces of the mayor’s Housing New York plan that are being reviewed by community and borough boards now before some version goes to the Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">Local reception to planned rezonings have been mixed, largely skewing negative. Community boards in Park Slope and Carroll Gardens have voted in favor of rezoning plans; due to possible overcrowding, a Long Island City community board voted against; and the Movement for Justice in El Barrio advocacy group recently<a href="https://indypendent.org/2015/11/18/east-harlem-residents-flood-community-board-meeting-protest-rezoning-plan"> interrupted</a> a Community Board 11 meeting to protest against East Harlem’s proposed<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5972-east-harlem-tenants-group-rejects-de-blasio-housing-plan-offer-its-own"> rezoning changes</a>. The Bronx and Queens Borough Boards voted against the plans and other boroughs are set to vote soon. Again, these are all advisory opinions.</p> <p dir="ltr">Brooklyn Borough President Adams did not give a verdict on the city’s proposal at Monday’s hearing. “I did not come into this room with my mind made up,” the borough president said. He encouraged community input, letting participants do the talking as he listened and eyes his Borough Board meeting on Tuesday, December 1, which will include a vote on the mayor's two larger rezoning plans.</p> <p dir="ltr">As part of the city’s<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#bpr"> Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP)</a>, the borough president reviews the proposal and has the power to recommend it to the City Planning Commission, the final body that reviews it before the City Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">Asked about neighborhood and board resistance to his plans on Monday, de Blasio said that it did not surprise him that there would be objections. “Those objections should be heard and we should, you know, think about them, and where we see the need to make certain modifications we will,” de Blasio said. “But in the end, the community boards aren’t the final decision makers. The mayor and the City Council make the decisions, in some cases, obviously, with the City Planning Commission.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Ryan Brady, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p dir="ltr">This article has been updated to more carefully reflect Borough President Adams' comments at the town hall.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img alt="eric adams via twitter bpericadams" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/eric_adams_via_twitter_bpericadams.jpg" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p dir="ltr">BK BP Adams at an event (photo via @bpericadams)</p> <hr /> <p>At Brooklyn Borough Hall on Monday, Borough President Eric Adams held a public hearing on the de Blasio administration’s controversial <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/east_new_york/presentation_092015.pdf">East New York Community Plan</a>. After remarks from City Council representatives at the packed-to-capacity hearing, stakeholders from the affected area urged Adams to reject it.</p> <p dir="ltr">“What I’m gonna stand here and talk about is you putting yourself in the position of these community members, young and old, who are coming to you and asking you to just look at the mayor’s plan and just understand that it’s crap,” Jasbir Singh, Brooklyn organizer for the advocacy group Faith In New York, said at the hearing, addressing Adams directly.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though most opinions expressed were less harsh, only two people - officials from the City Planning Department who provided a powerpoint of plan details at the hearing’s start - voiced approval for the proposal, at least in its current form. The plan aims to create affordable housing units, protect existing ones, and strengthen the economy of the area proposed for rezoning, which contains East New York, Cypress Hills, and Ocean Hill.</p> <p dir="ltr">The area has high poverty rates and is largely populated by people of color. There are limited work and transportation options. It is an area that could be upzoned to allow more retail space, as well as new housing development. The administration’s plan seeks to create new housing that will include “affordable” units, while also fostering new business and jobs as buildings are “mixed-use,” meaning retail on the ground floor with housing atop.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday at Borough Hall, participants urged the city officials present to vote against the proposal. Though it has already been rejected by Community Board 5 (East New York, Cypress Hills, Highland Park, New Lots, City Line, Starrett City, and Ridgewood), Community Board 16 (Brownsville and Ocean Hill) could endorse it when it votes at the end of the month. These votes are advisory, though - the City Council is expected to vote on the plan in 2016. The Council typically follows the lead of the local rep(s), which is this case are Council Members Rafael Espinal and Inez Barron.</p> <p dir="ltr">The East New York area is one initial proving ground for the de Blasio administration’s larger rezoning and housing plans - plans that are being met with resistance all over the city and are likely to be tweaked before they are presented to the Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">Most of the concerns expressed Monday were about the proposal’s potential to displace residents of the rezoned area. Around 50 percent of the approximately 6,300 housing units created for the East New York Community Plan are slated to be affordable units. The remainder are market-rate.</p> <p dir="ltr">During her remarks at the start of the hearing, Council Member Barron held up a sheet of paper with two pie graphs. One showed the current East New York community by percentage of income levels and the other showed the same statistics as forecast after the rezoning, she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">If the proposal is implemented, Barron said, the majority of East New York residents will earn salaries of $75,000 and up, a group that currently composes only 18 percent of the neighborhood population. (It was not immediately clear where Barron’s data came from.)</p> <p dir="ltr">“I also want to say that they don't tell you the size of the units. So, we need two and three bedrooms, some of us will obviously need four-bedroom apartments,” Barron said. “But we don't know, of the units that they're going to bring in that they call affordable, how many bedrooms there are going to be.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Barron reaffirmed her stance on the proposal: as it currently exists, she does not support it. Council Member Espinal, who represents most of the area proposed for rezoning, expressed the same stance in his remarks.</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite some concerns mentioned about the proposal’s economic plan, which does not require that businesses interested in East New York pay workers a “living wage,” most concerns voiced were about the plan’s potential to displace residents.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We are deeply concerned about displacement and urge the city to study the impact of rezoning on displacement in other areas such as Park Slope [and] Williamsburg in order to develop an understanding of what rezoning will really mean to low-income East New Yorkers,” Jamal Burgess, Future of Tomorrow youth organizer and Cypress Hills resident, said. “Through the years, we have seen gentrification in Williamsburg, Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, Harlem, covered up by urban renewal projects.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In the plan, one of the strategies listed for the protection of existing affordable housing is providing free legal representation from the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force for people facing harassment by landlords. Several who spoke at Monday’s hearing reported that they had personally experienced this type of harassment, and doubted the capability of the legal representation strategy to fight it.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I cannot accept a legal clinic at face value as being able to solve that problem,” five-year East New York resident Barbara Champion said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio has personally guaranteed such legal help to tenants in any of the neighborhoods he plans to rezone and has dedicated budgetary dollars toward such aid.</p> <p dir="ltr">East New York is one of 15 areas selected by the de Blasio administration for rezoning. The proposals are part of Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning and Zoning for Quality and Affordability, two main pieces of the mayor’s Housing New York plan that are being reviewed by community and borough boards now before some version goes to the Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">Local reception to planned rezonings have been mixed, largely skewing negative. Community boards in Park Slope and Carroll Gardens have voted in favor of rezoning plans; due to possible overcrowding, a Long Island City community board voted against; and the Movement for Justice in El Barrio advocacy group recently<a href="https://indypendent.org/2015/11/18/east-harlem-residents-flood-community-board-meeting-protest-rezoning-plan"> interrupted</a> a Community Board 11 meeting to protest against East Harlem’s proposed<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5972-east-harlem-tenants-group-rejects-de-blasio-housing-plan-offer-its-own"> rezoning changes</a>. The Bronx and Queens Borough Boards voted against the plans and other boroughs are set to vote soon. Again, these are all advisory opinions.</p> <p dir="ltr">Brooklyn Borough President Adams did not give a verdict on the city’s proposal at Monday’s hearing. “I did not come into this room with my mind made up,” the borough president said. He encouraged community input, letting participants do the talking as he listened and eyes his Borough Board meeting on Tuesday, December 1, which will include a vote on the mayor's two larger rezoning plans.</p> <p dir="ltr">As part of the city’s<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#bpr"> Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP)</a>, the borough president reviews the proposal and has the power to recommend it to the City Planning Commission, the final body that reviews it before the City Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">Asked about neighborhood and board resistance to his plans on Monday, de Blasio said that it did not surprise him that there would be objections. “Those objections should be heard and we should, you know, think about them, and where we see the need to make certain modifications we will,” de Blasio said. “But in the end, the community boards aren’t the final decision makers. The mayor and the City Council make the decisions, in some cases, obviously, with the City Planning Commission.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Ryan Brady, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p dir="ltr">This article has been updated to more carefully reflect Borough President Adams' comments at the town hall.</p>