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/mandatory-inclusionary-housing 2017-10-19T07:24:00+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Flushing’s Affordable Housing at Risk 2016-05-01T04:00:00+00:00 2016-05-01T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6311:flushing-s-affordable-housing-at-risk Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/Flushing-Sanford-Ave.jpg" alt="Flushing town hall" height="424" width="600" /></p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Last week, the New York City Council approved the contested <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6287-east-new-york-deal-sets-precedent-for-wave-of-rezonings" target="_blank">East New York rezoning</a> - the first of 15 proposed neighborhood rezonings through which Mayor de Blasio intends to advance his goal of preserving 120,000 units of affordable housing and producing 80,000 new units at below-market rents. Described by some as a rezoning taking place “<a href="http://citylimits.org/2016/02/09/plan-to-rezone-flushing-west-flies-under-the-radar/" target="_blank">under the radar</a>,” the Department of City Planning (DCP) has been conducting a planning study and holding numerous community town halls on a ten-block area of Queens dubbed “Flushing West.”</p> <p dir="ltr">This proposed rezoning would have a transformative impact on Flushing, a densely populated, pan-Asian immigrant neighborhood with a sizable Latino population and a small but historic African-American community. Although DCP recently postponed the April certification of the Flushing West rezoning plan (which would have initiated the uniform land use review procedure (ULURP), the plan continues to move forward and remains a key piece of the mayor’s controversial housing program.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the rezoning of Flushing West moves forward, the existing affordable housing stock there is at risk.</p> <p dir="ltr">After much public debate and protest, Mayor de Blasio’s mandatory inclusionary housing (MIH) plan was approved by the New York City Council <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6222-sides-near-a-deal-on-major-zoning-changes-aimed-at-creating-affordable-housing" target="_blank">in March</a>. MIH is a citywide policy that requires residential developers in newly upzoned areas to provide some below market-rate housing, either inside a new development or somewhere off site. As MIH (and the related Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) plan) moved through ULURP, communities contested the plan on numerous grounds: it would not build enough affordable housing; the affordable housing that would be built would be too expensive for those most in need; increased density would exacerbate transportation, education, and infrastructure problems; large new buildings would alter local streetscapes; and, most importantly, the plan would spur luxury development and hasten gentrification.</p> <p dir="ltr">Relative to the vigorous and sustained public debate on these issues, there has been little public discussion on the ways that the city’s proposed rezonings are already impacting New York City’s largest form of affordable housing: rent regulation through rent control and rent stabilization.</p> <p dir="ltr">Rent regulation accounts for nearly all of Flushing’s affordable housing. The neighborhood’s white-hot real estate market, however, increasingly threatens these rent-stabilized apartments. &nbsp;DCP’s proposed rezoning - which links the production of affordable housing with the construction of thousands of luxury units - has only increased land speculation and, therefore, landlords’ imperative to deregulate their holdings. Though the rezoning has been paired with an increase in funding for anti-eviction legal services, it has already catalyzed a number of <a href="http://therealdeal.com/2015/07/15/developer-plans-new-flushing-mixed-use-residential-complex/" target="_blank">hyper-speculative real estate transactions</a> in downtown Flushing, including within the rezoning area.</p> <p dir="ltr">Based on the 2014 state Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) <a href="http://www.nycrgb.org/downloads/resources/sta_bldngs/2014QueensBldgs.pdf" target="_blank">list of rent-regulated buildings</a>, there are 388 rent-stabilized buildings in Flushing. This list, however, includes buildings that have partially converted to co-ops, meaning some units are owned by residents. Conversion of rental buildings to cooperatives requires a minimum of 15 percent of tenants opting to purchase their apartments. DHCR lists properties as rent stabilized as long as there is at least one rent-stabilized unit in the building.</p> <p dir="ltr">Based on a review of city<a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/site/finance/taxes/property-annualized-sales-update.page" target="_blank"> Department of Finance sales data</a>, 81 buildings, including five that converted to cooperative in the past year or so, recorded 1,198 apartment sales since 2010. In addition to the hundreds of co-op sales in rent-stabilized buildings, 42 buildings (with a combined total of 1,800 rent-stabilized apartments) were also sold during the study period of 2010 to January 2016. The sold buildings represent a sizable 11 percent of all of Flushing’s rent-stabilized buildings.</p> <p dir="ltr">In December 2015, a massive sale of eight rent-stabilized buildings, all but one located a few blocks from Flushing’s waterfront, was covered by <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20151204/REAL_ESTATE/151209927/new-jersey-firm-bets-on-queens-buys-138-8-million-apartment-portfolio-in-flushing-and-elmhurst" target="_blank">Crain’s New York Business</a>. These rent-stabilized buildings, comprising 488 apartments, are clustered on Flushing’s Sanford Avenue and were sold to an investor group represented by New Jersey-based Treetop Development LLC. ACORE, a California-based investment fund established in May 2015 - only a few months before the Sanford Avenue purchases - financed the hefty $138.8 million purchase. ACORE is capitalized by a $1.6 billion commitment from Delphi Financial Group Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Tokio Marine Group, Japan’s largest publicly traded insurer. &nbsp;The purchase of seven Sanford Avenue rent-stabilized buildings, financed by transnational private equity investors, illustrates how multi-family, rental properties in the outer boroughs are treated as global investment vehicles with tremendous potential profits.</p> <p dir="ltr">In order for those profits to be realized, however, rents will have to increase substantially, and in all likelihood, the apartments will be deregulated. Although Treetop Development LLC principal <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20151204/REAL_ESTATE/151209927/new-jersey-firm-bets-on-queens-buys-138-8-million-apartment-portfolio-in-flushing-and-elmhurst" target="_blank">Adam Mermelstein reassured</a>, “We’re not running after tenants like some landlords do, trying to induce turnover on the apartments to get them to market rate,” their $10 million investment in “an intensive capital expenditures program” portends displacement. Treetop Development LLC plans to renovate apartments and landscape gardens in order to “<a href="http://treetopdev.com/projects.php?project='the-summit'" target="_blank">remake the Flushing Portfolio into one of the premier residential addresses in Flushing, Queens</a>.” This rebranding language underscores that so-called “major capital improvements” in rent-stabilized buildings are a primary landlord strategy to permanently raise rents and facilitate tenant turnover.</p> <p dir="ltr">This speculative activity is not confined to privately-owned buildings. Queens College students learned from a local resident that tenants were recently evicted from 132-30 Sanford Avenue. This building is listed on two real estate websites as for sale, with one site noting that the building is <a href="http://www.elliman.com/new-york-city/132-30-sanford-avenue-queens-ytaqkjg" target="_blank">currently under contract</a>. Further research indicated the building is owned by one of Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE)’s tax-exempt organizations - Community Homes Housing Development Fund Company Inc. According to <a href="https://a836-acris.nyc.gov/DS/DocumentSearch/DocumentImageView?doc_id=2008093001230001" target="_blank">the building’s deed</a>, AAFE purchased the building in 2008 for $3.5 million. Online realtor descriptions highlight the gap in current and potential rent revenues as a key selling point: “<a href="http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/14362996/132-30-Sanford-Ave-Flushing-NY/" target="_blank">The average monthly rent is $1,023 month, approx. 76% of the current market value, offering tremendous upside potential</a>.” The building is now selling for $9.8 million - a 180 percent increase in just eight years.</p> <p dir="ltr">In October 2015, DCP completed a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/applicants/env-review/flushing-west/draft_scope.pdf" target="_blank">Draft Scope of Work for an Environmental Impact Statement</a>, which identified 13 projected development sites and included a breakdown of anticipated outcomes based on the proposed upzoning. On these 13 sites, DCP expects the production of 2,062 residential units (excluding 1,254 units of luxury housing currently under construction at Sky View Parc) of which 516 would be affordable to households earning 60 percent of AMI ($54,360 annual income for a family of four) or 619 units affordable to households earning 80 percent AMI ($69,040 annual income for a family of four).</p> <p dir="ltr">DCP’s Draft Scope of Work was completed before the City Council added the option of 20 percent of units affordable at 40 percent AMI, which would mean the Flushing West rezoning may result in 412 units affordable to a family of four with an annual income of $36,240. The <a href="http://qns.com/story/2015/11/09/flushing-community-groups-join-together-to-fight-for-affordable-housing/" target="_blank">Flushing Rezoning Community Alliance</a>, a coalition of nonprofits, unions, and churches, fought hard for this option because the median household income for downtown Flushing residents is just $34,428. The final Flushing plan may also include additional HPD subsidies toward deeper affordability, but the extent, quantity, and longevity of those subsidies is yet to be determined.</p> <p dir="ltr">With Flushing’s remaining rent-regulated apartments at stake, it is important to look at the balance of what is being offered now: the proposed rezoning will produce thousands of market-rate, luxury housing units; a mere 412 apartments will be affordable to average Flushing residents (and then only if the local City Council member and developers choose the newly added option); and nothing at all will be built for families making below-median wages.</p> <p dir="ltr">The neighborhood’s wholesale transformation, which has already begun in expectation of an upzoning, would sweep rent-regulated housing up in its wake and trigger even more harassment, rent hikes, and evictions than the neighborhood has already seen. This scenario demonstrates that Mayor de Blasio’s MIH program is less about preserving neighborhood affordability than turning working-class spaces into luxury enclaves, with small pockets for the middle class.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Flushing’s overheated real estate market, where even nonprofits enrich themselves by selling rent-stabilized buildings for enormous profits, this planned rezoning is already adding fuel to fires of gentrification and displacement. The addition of a few hundred units of affordable housing could not possibly stem the transformative effects of global finance and commercial real estate speculation, and the preservation program the city is currently pursuing will do little to protect rent-regulated apartments.</p> <p dir="ltr">City planners must stop acting as if the negative consequences of upzonings on rent-regulated housing will be mitigated by the paltry provision of new quasi-affordable units, or by increased investments in legal services (though the latter are, of course, important). Instead, we need to prioritize the preservation of rent-stabilized apartments and the production of truly affordable housing, decoupled from market-rate development and its attendant impacts on neighborhood land markets.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Tarry Hum is a Professor at the City University of New York and author of <a href="http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/2299_reg.html" target="_blank">Making a Global Immigrant Neighborhood: Brooklyn's Sunset Park</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Samuel Stein is a PhD student in Geography at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/Flushing-Sanford-Ave.jpg" alt="Flushing town hall" height="424" width="600" /></p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Last week, the New York City Council approved the contested <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6287-east-new-york-deal-sets-precedent-for-wave-of-rezonings" target="_blank">East New York rezoning</a> - the first of 15 proposed neighborhood rezonings through which Mayor de Blasio intends to advance his goal of preserving 120,000 units of affordable housing and producing 80,000 new units at below-market rents. Described by some as a rezoning taking place “<a href="http://citylimits.org/2016/02/09/plan-to-rezone-flushing-west-flies-under-the-radar/" target="_blank">under the radar</a>,” the Department of City Planning (DCP) has been conducting a planning study and holding numerous community town halls on a ten-block area of Queens dubbed “Flushing West.”</p> <p dir="ltr">This proposed rezoning would have a transformative impact on Flushing, a densely populated, pan-Asian immigrant neighborhood with a sizable Latino population and a small but historic African-American community. Although DCP recently postponed the April certification of the Flushing West rezoning plan (which would have initiated the uniform land use review procedure (ULURP), the plan continues to move forward and remains a key piece of the mayor’s controversial housing program.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the rezoning of Flushing West moves forward, the existing affordable housing stock there is at risk.</p> <p dir="ltr">After much public debate and protest, Mayor de Blasio’s mandatory inclusionary housing (MIH) plan was approved by the New York City Council <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6222-sides-near-a-deal-on-major-zoning-changes-aimed-at-creating-affordable-housing" target="_blank">in March</a>. MIH is a citywide policy that requires residential developers in newly upzoned areas to provide some below market-rate housing, either inside a new development or somewhere off site. As MIH (and the related Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) plan) moved through ULURP, communities contested the plan on numerous grounds: it would not build enough affordable housing; the affordable housing that would be built would be too expensive for those most in need; increased density would exacerbate transportation, education, and infrastructure problems; large new buildings would alter local streetscapes; and, most importantly, the plan would spur luxury development and hasten gentrification.</p> <p dir="ltr">Relative to the vigorous and sustained public debate on these issues, there has been little public discussion on the ways that the city’s proposed rezonings are already impacting New York City’s largest form of affordable housing: rent regulation through rent control and rent stabilization.</p> <p dir="ltr">Rent regulation accounts for nearly all of Flushing’s affordable housing. The neighborhood’s white-hot real estate market, however, increasingly threatens these rent-stabilized apartments. &nbsp;DCP’s proposed rezoning - which links the production of affordable housing with the construction of thousands of luxury units - has only increased land speculation and, therefore, landlords’ imperative to deregulate their holdings. Though the rezoning has been paired with an increase in funding for anti-eviction legal services, it has already catalyzed a number of <a href="http://therealdeal.com/2015/07/15/developer-plans-new-flushing-mixed-use-residential-complex/" target="_blank">hyper-speculative real estate transactions</a> in downtown Flushing, including within the rezoning area.</p> <p dir="ltr">Based on the 2014 state Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) <a href="http://www.nycrgb.org/downloads/resources/sta_bldngs/2014QueensBldgs.pdf" target="_blank">list of rent-regulated buildings</a>, there are 388 rent-stabilized buildings in Flushing. This list, however, includes buildings that have partially converted to co-ops, meaning some units are owned by residents. Conversion of rental buildings to cooperatives requires a minimum of 15 percent of tenants opting to purchase their apartments. DHCR lists properties as rent stabilized as long as there is at least one rent-stabilized unit in the building.</p> <p dir="ltr">Based on a review of city<a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/site/finance/taxes/property-annualized-sales-update.page" target="_blank"> Department of Finance sales data</a>, 81 buildings, including five that converted to cooperative in the past year or so, recorded 1,198 apartment sales since 2010. In addition to the hundreds of co-op sales in rent-stabilized buildings, 42 buildings (with a combined total of 1,800 rent-stabilized apartments) were also sold during the study period of 2010 to January 2016. The sold buildings represent a sizable 11 percent of all of Flushing’s rent-stabilized buildings.</p> <p dir="ltr">In December 2015, a massive sale of eight rent-stabilized buildings, all but one located a few blocks from Flushing’s waterfront, was covered by <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20151204/REAL_ESTATE/151209927/new-jersey-firm-bets-on-queens-buys-138-8-million-apartment-portfolio-in-flushing-and-elmhurst" target="_blank">Crain’s New York Business</a>. These rent-stabilized buildings, comprising 488 apartments, are clustered on Flushing’s Sanford Avenue and were sold to an investor group represented by New Jersey-based Treetop Development LLC. ACORE, a California-based investment fund established in May 2015 - only a few months before the Sanford Avenue purchases - financed the hefty $138.8 million purchase. ACORE is capitalized by a $1.6 billion commitment from Delphi Financial Group Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Tokio Marine Group, Japan’s largest publicly traded insurer. &nbsp;The purchase of seven Sanford Avenue rent-stabilized buildings, financed by transnational private equity investors, illustrates how multi-family, rental properties in the outer boroughs are treated as global investment vehicles with tremendous potential profits.</p> <p dir="ltr">In order for those profits to be realized, however, rents will have to increase substantially, and in all likelihood, the apartments will be deregulated. Although Treetop Development LLC principal <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20151204/REAL_ESTATE/151209927/new-jersey-firm-bets-on-queens-buys-138-8-million-apartment-portfolio-in-flushing-and-elmhurst" target="_blank">Adam Mermelstein reassured</a>, “We’re not running after tenants like some landlords do, trying to induce turnover on the apartments to get them to market rate,” their $10 million investment in “an intensive capital expenditures program” portends displacement. Treetop Development LLC plans to renovate apartments and landscape gardens in order to “<a href="http://treetopdev.com/projects.php?project='the-summit'" target="_blank">remake the Flushing Portfolio into one of the premier residential addresses in Flushing, Queens</a>.” This rebranding language underscores that so-called “major capital improvements” in rent-stabilized buildings are a primary landlord strategy to permanently raise rents and facilitate tenant turnover.</p> <p dir="ltr">This speculative activity is not confined to privately-owned buildings. Queens College students learned from a local resident that tenants were recently evicted from 132-30 Sanford Avenue. This building is listed on two real estate websites as for sale, with one site noting that the building is <a href="http://www.elliman.com/new-york-city/132-30-sanford-avenue-queens-ytaqkjg" target="_blank">currently under contract</a>. Further research indicated the building is owned by one of Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE)’s tax-exempt organizations - Community Homes Housing Development Fund Company Inc. According to <a href="https://a836-acris.nyc.gov/DS/DocumentSearch/DocumentImageView?doc_id=2008093001230001" target="_blank">the building’s deed</a>, AAFE purchased the building in 2008 for $3.5 million. Online realtor descriptions highlight the gap in current and potential rent revenues as a key selling point: “<a href="http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/14362996/132-30-Sanford-Ave-Flushing-NY/" target="_blank">The average monthly rent is $1,023 month, approx. 76% of the current market value, offering tremendous upside potential</a>.” The building is now selling for $9.8 million - a 180 percent increase in just eight years.</p> <p dir="ltr">In October 2015, DCP completed a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/applicants/env-review/flushing-west/draft_scope.pdf" target="_blank">Draft Scope of Work for an Environmental Impact Statement</a>, which identified 13 projected development sites and included a breakdown of anticipated outcomes based on the proposed upzoning. On these 13 sites, DCP expects the production of 2,062 residential units (excluding 1,254 units of luxury housing currently under construction at Sky View Parc) of which 516 would be affordable to households earning 60 percent of AMI ($54,360 annual income for a family of four) or 619 units affordable to households earning 80 percent AMI ($69,040 annual income for a family of four).</p> <p dir="ltr">DCP’s Draft Scope of Work was completed before the City Council added the option of 20 percent of units affordable at 40 percent AMI, which would mean the Flushing West rezoning may result in 412 units affordable to a family of four with an annual income of $36,240. The <a href="http://qns.com/story/2015/11/09/flushing-community-groups-join-together-to-fight-for-affordable-housing/" target="_blank">Flushing Rezoning Community Alliance</a>, a coalition of nonprofits, unions, and churches, fought hard for this option because the median household income for downtown Flushing residents is just $34,428. The final Flushing plan may also include additional HPD subsidies toward deeper affordability, but the extent, quantity, and longevity of those subsidies is yet to be determined.</p> <p dir="ltr">With Flushing’s remaining rent-regulated apartments at stake, it is important to look at the balance of what is being offered now: the proposed rezoning will produce thousands of market-rate, luxury housing units; a mere 412 apartments will be affordable to average Flushing residents (and then only if the local City Council member and developers choose the newly added option); and nothing at all will be built for families making below-median wages.</p> <p dir="ltr">The neighborhood’s wholesale transformation, which has already begun in expectation of an upzoning, would sweep rent-regulated housing up in its wake and trigger even more harassment, rent hikes, and evictions than the neighborhood has already seen. This scenario demonstrates that Mayor de Blasio’s MIH program is less about preserving neighborhood affordability than turning working-class spaces into luxury enclaves, with small pockets for the middle class.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Flushing’s overheated real estate market, where even nonprofits enrich themselves by selling rent-stabilized buildings for enormous profits, this planned rezoning is already adding fuel to fires of gentrification and displacement. The addition of a few hundred units of affordable housing could not possibly stem the transformative effects of global finance and commercial real estate speculation, and the preservation program the city is currently pursuing will do little to protect rent-regulated apartments.</p> <p dir="ltr">City planners must stop acting as if the negative consequences of upzonings on rent-regulated housing will be mitigated by the paltry provision of new quasi-affordable units, or by increased investments in legal services (though the latter are, of course, important). Instead, we need to prioritize the preservation of rent-stabilized apartments and the production of truly affordable housing, decoupled from market-rate development and its attendant impacts on neighborhood land markets.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Tarry Hum is a Professor at the City University of New York and author of <a href="http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/2299_reg.html" target="_blank">Making a Global Immigrant Neighborhood: Brooklyn's Sunset Park</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Samuel Stein is a PhD student in Geography at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.</p> <p>

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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>

***
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>
Wary of Gentrification, East Harlem Braces for Rapid Change 2016-03-31T05:00:00+00:00 2016-03-31T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6253:wary-of-gentrification-east-harlem-braces-for-rapid-change Super User <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/east_harlem_mural.jpg" alt="east harlem mural" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Hank Prussing's mural, The Spirit of East Harlem (via @ManhattanCB11)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Pearl Barkley moved to East Harlem in the 1950s, when she was six years old. Her family lived in the Jefferson Houses on 115th Street, where she lives today and works as an organizer with Community Voices Heard, an economic justice advocacy non-profit.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Many people remember the fires, the abandoned boarded up buildings, and the people who left,” Barkley said in an interview. Essential services began disappearing from the neighborhood in the 1970s, she said, due in large part to city and federal policies that encouraged <a href="https://www.nixonlibrary.gov/virtuallibrary/releases/jul10/53.pdf">“benign neglect”</a> of poor neighborhoods of color.</p> <p dir="ltr">“They left the neighborhood to fend for itself,” Barkley said. “And the community was strong, but it suffered.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Now, East Harlem is a hot property,” Barkley said. “We have to bring the focus back to the people who were originally here and went through all of this. We have to make sure that the people who were here can stay here.” While she doesn’t necessarily take issue with newcomers to the neighborhood, Barkley emphasizes that preserving homes for long-term residents of the neighborhood should take precedent over new developments.</p> <p dir="ltr">Newcomers have been moving into East Harlem for some time, drawn by its upper-Manhattan perch, lower rents, and access to public transit. But now, El Barrio - like a variety of other low-income areas populated predominantly by people of color - is becoming increasingly desirable to developers hoping to accommodate waves of middle-class renters.</p> <p dir="ltr">In February, The New York Times named East Harlem one of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/realestate/new-yorks-next-hot-neighborhoods.html">New York’s Next Hot Neighborhoods</a>, noting that 21 development sites had recently “traded hands,” and pointing to its lower-than-average real estate prices, good transit options, and historic architecture.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If you want to stay in Manhattan,” the author wrote, “East Harlem may be your best bet.”</p> <p dir="ltr">To long-term residents who want to stay in their neighborhoods, this kind of attention from the real estate market is synonymous with anxieties about inequity, marginalization, and displacement. And rightly so, as rents have skyrocketed across the city, incomes have stagnated, and the affordable housing crisis tops the list of policy issues facing New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">Now, as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration prepares to rezone <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6191-a-closer-look-at-de-blasios-neighborhood-rezoning-plans">15 neighborhoods</a>, including East Harlem, as part of a plan to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing in New York City, residents are bracing for further shifts that some believe will drastically change the landscape of their neighborhood, push long-term residents out of their homes as new residents move in, and threaten local businesses. In a word, gentrification: the force that has been sweeping through New York City neighborhoods and striking fear in places set for new investment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Even as policies like Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, which requires set percentages of rent-controlled units in new developments, move toward enactment in an administration-run rezoning process, some East Harlem stakeholders are making proactive attempts at steering their community’s future. Led by the Speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose home district includes East Harlem, a broad coalition of residents and groups created a comprehensive plan to shape the rezoning of the neighborhood.</p> <p dir="ltr">Members of that coalition and other groups have organized to protect against displacement while also championing changes that will improve their community.</p> <p dir="ltr">It remains to be seen how successful residents will be in achieving control over the way their neighborhood changes -- and who will be left to enjoy the fruits of that labor. But one thing is certain: East Harlem - a low-income community populated primarily by people of color, imbued with deep-rooted history and culture, situated in an area ripe for speculation by developers, struggling amid an affordable housing crisis -- is at a tipping point.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Community character</strong><br />The neighborhood of just over 123,000 residents hugs the northeast corner of Central Park along Fifth Avenue, runs South until 96th Street, and spreads east toward the Harlem and East Rivers, where large portions of the East Harlem Esplanade are crumbling into the water.</p> <p dir="ltr">East Harlem is one of the largest predominantly Latino neighborhoods in New York City, the result of waves of Puerto Rican and Latin American immigration to the area after World War I, followed by more South and Central American arrivals throughout the 20th century. In spite of demographic changes over the last decade, East Harlem is still mostly populated by people of color and an immigrant neighborhood, with Hispanic and black residents comprising 81 percent of the population, and about a quarter of residents foreign-born, according to <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/data/2015chp-mn11.pdf">U.S. Census Bureau estimates for 2013</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">The dominant culture is reflected everywhere: Spanish is spoken on every corner, storefronts advertise Latin American food, music, and good, and large-scale, colorful murals pervade the neighborhood with images of Latin American activists and artists.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is no coincidence that this is where Mark-Viverito, born and raised in Puerto Rico, settled after coming to the United States in 1987 to attend Columbia University. After college, Mark-Viverito participated in a mentorship program for young Latinos, coordinated New York-based efforts to drive the U.S. Navy from the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, co-founded women’s economic justice group Mujeres del Barrio, and served on Community Board 11. Mark-Viverito was elected to the City Council in 2005, and re-elected twice before becoming the first Puerto Rican and Latina to win the Speaker’s office when her colleagues selected her in 2014.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Speaker is now at the helm of a City Council reckoning with an affordable housing crisis and scars and fears of gentrification across several neighborhoods; charged with the task of building and preserving affordable housing and improving neighborhoods while protecting communities’ cultures and livelihoods at a pivotal time. It is a struggle filled with economic and social tensions exemplified in East Harlem.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14337705347_c9f9ac4afe_z.jpg" alt="MMV shaking hands distrit" style="margin: 8px; float: left;" height="250" width="375" />“It’s an ongoing battle,” the speaker (pictured, left) told <a href="http://larespuestamedia.com/melissa-mark-viverito-interview/">La Respuesta</a> in a 2014 interview. “Longtime residents in our communities that are finding themselves with limited options to stay, and feel they have no other place to go and are being displaced, is obviously alarming. We have a responsibility to do as much as we can to try to figure out how to stem that tide, but we’re also faced with limitations.”</p> <p dir="ltr">East Harlem’s history as a stronghold of people of color and immigrants follows the arc of many other urban communities throughout the U.S. The neighborhood first felt the impact of urban renewal initiatives in 1938, when NYCHA began razing low-rise tenements and relocating residents to make way for <a href="http://www.6sqft.com/towers-in-the-park-le-corbusiers-influence-in-nyc/">“towers-in-the-park”</a> housing developments also seen in larger examples at Stuyvesant Town and Co-op City. The city cleared more land containing factories, stores, and community centers in the 1960s, but failed to attract investors to the area. The result was an abundance of overgrown lots and a fragmented urban landscape that set the scene for the increase in poverty, violence, and arson that plagued the neighborhood during the ‘60s and ‘70s.</p> <p dir="ltr">These policies, Pearl Barkley said, along with growing wealth disparity and disenfranchisement of low-income people of color, pushed East Harlem - its residents, infrastructure, and local economy - into the political periphery, and dramatically exacerbated socioeconomic problems that plagued the neighborhood throughout the second half of the 20th century.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Housing East Harlemites</strong><br />Today, a lack of affordable market-rate housing all but defines the residential landscape of East Harlem, where the majority of residents rely on public housing, rental assistance, or rent stabilization to afford their homes. A <a href="http://www.arch.columbia.edu/files/gsapp/imceshared/East_Harlem_Studio_2011.pdf">2011 report</a> from Columbia University calls East Harlem one of the “last holdouts of undeveloped Manhattan,” citing its waterfront and public transit options as contributors to the neighborhood’s growing vulnerability to displacement. These factors, combined with the voracity of the real estate market and a concentration of low-income residents, have cranked up pressure on the housing stock in El Barrio, driving rents - and fears of displacement - ever higher.</p> <p dir="ltr">Enter <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/housing/assets/downloads/pdf/housing_plan.pdf">Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan</a> to encourage more residential development all over the city, with affordable housing mandates, and to rezone East Harlem to add density and neighborhood improvements. De Blasio and supporters of his approach, including Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, believe that without this type of government intervention, the forces of the market will run wild over East Harlem as they have in Central Harlem, several Brooklyn neighborhoods, and elsewhere over the past two decades. With any increase in development, though, comes heightened fear as well as very real change.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Not enough housing, not enough income</strong><br />With <a href="http://www.census.gov/housing/nychvs/">only 8 percent</a> of privately-owned units owner-occupied, East Harlem is a community of renters. And, over half of rental households are considered <a href="http://furmancenter.org/NYCRentalLandscape">rent-burdened</a>, paying more than 30 percent of total household income on gross rent, or severely rent-burdened, paying more than 50 percent of income on rent, and are particularly susceptible to the throes of the real estate market.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the Census Bureau <a href="http://www.census.gov/housing/nychvs/">reported in 2014</a> that 55 percent of rental units in East Harlem were either rent-stabilized or government-assisted, and another 28 percent are NYCHA units, leaving less than a quarter of the renter-occupied housing stock unregulated.</p> <p dir="ltr">While there is still a considerable concentration of regulated and subsidized units in East Harlem, this cache is shrinking as units age out of rent regulation and landlords evict or coerce tenants into vacating stabilized apartments in order to raise rents.</p> <p dir="ltr">The loss is considerable, with 2,500 rent-stabilized or subsidized units disappearing from East Harlem between 2007 and 2014, and a projected 4,200 more gone by 2030, according to <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/neigh_info/statement_needs/mn11_statement.pdf">Community Board 11’s 2016 Statement of Needs</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor hopes to curb the loss of such regulated rental units through his <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/housing/index.page">Housing New York Plan</a>, which seeks to preserve 120,000 existing affordable units throughout the five boroughs. To this end, the administration has doubled HPD’s funding and begun initiatives around landlord harassment, deregulation, and targeted investment in vulnerable communities, among others. The administration is more aggressively targeting opportunities to work with landlords to offer benefits in exchange for extending rent regulations.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio said at a press conference in January that the administration is ahead of schedule, having preserved nearly 14,000 units in projects like Stuyvesant Town, Riverton Houses, and smaller buildings, and that the overall program was on track to build or preserve 200,000 units by 2024.</p> <p dir="ltr">While <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160112/bed-stuy/de-blasio-says-his-200k-units-of-affordable-housing-are-ahead-of-schedule">critics of the plan assert</a> that not enough affordable units are targeted at very low-income New Yorkers, de Blasio said that 75 percent of the 40,000-plus units built or preserved over the first two years of the timeline have been for extremely low income, very low income, and low income residents.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Concentrated public housing</strong><br />The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) plays a vital role in maintaining a large portion of East Harlem’s affordable housing stock, with 30% of residents living in NYCHA-owned properties. This is the second-highest concentration of public housing in the city - a result of urban renewal initiatives begun in 1941, when one of NYCHA’s earliest housing developments, the East River Houses, went up on 102nd Street. Another wave of renewal, led by Robert Moses and funded by the 1949 Federal Housing Act, razed existing structures and constructed the Thomas Jefferson Houses in 1959. Today, there are 24 public housing developments in the neighborhood. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Over the last two decades, federal and state budget cuts have weakened NYCHA, leaving the agency with a $74 million deficit in 2015, and facing capital needs of about $17 billion over the next five years, according to the city. This shortfall has resulted in crumbling buildings, breakdowns in communication between tenants and the agency, increased violence in housing developments, and myriad other problems.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5838-another-way-of-looking-at-infill-housing-development">launched last summer</a> the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/nycha/about/nextgen-nycha.page">NextGeneration NYCHA</a> initiative as part of a “ten-year plan aimed at preserving public housing for the future generations,” according to the city’s website. The administration describes NextGen as a long-term strategy to change the way NYCHA properties are funded, operated, and designed, and to revamp the way the agency engages with residents - all in an attempt to prevent the housing authority from being turned over to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development - an acquisition that could result in the sale of housing sites.</p> <p dir="ltr">The most controversial aspect of NextGen NYCHA is a plan in which underutilized land within NYCHA developments will either be leased for housing development, with buildings half market-rate and half affordable. Opponents say that the plan <a href="http://citylimits.org/2015/11/18/does-nychas-development-plan-vindicate-john-rhea/">too-closely resembles</a> former Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt at infill on NYCHA land, which de Blasio vehemently opposed, and a step on the path to privatizing what is now public housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">NYCHA CEO and Chair Shola Olatoye <a href="http://citylimits.org/2015/05/20/de-blasio-administration-seeks-to-develop-nycha-land/">told City Limits in May 2015</a> that building affordable housing on NYCHA land is a way to reconnect public developments to surrounding neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Residents want improved playgrounds, basketball courts, things we do not receive funding for. One way I can deliver on that is to maximize revenue from development,” she said. "If people want their development to improve, they have to be flexible about what kinds of changes they're willing to accept."</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio said at the program’s launch that it would result in the construction of 10,000 new affordable units on NYCHA land. If the plan succeeds, it will eliminate NYCHA’s crippling operating deficit. The city’s argument is that this strategy will add affordable housing, new revenue, and community improvements.</p> <p dir="ltr">The first NextGen project in East Harlem led to the opening last fall of the East Harlem Center for Living and Learning, which occupies a parking lot once owned by NYCHA. The project includes an eleven-story residential building containing 100% subsidized units. The <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/26/arts/design/how-to-build-affordable-housing-in-new-york-city.html">New York Times reported</a> in January that the development serves a “mix of working and disabled tenants, many from the neighborhood.” The building connects to the new Dream Charter School, which serves almost 500 students.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the Times reported “overwhelmingly positive reactions” to the Center, it remains to be seen whether similar “infill” initiatives will be welcomed by other NYCHA residents wary of privatization and gentrification - or if the program will even produce enough revenue to bolster the floundering agency. Olatoye <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2016/03/8595005/nycha-chair-says-agency-budget-millions-red?top-featured-image">told the City Council on Monday</a> that while its financial situation is improving, NYCHA is still tens of millions of dollars in the red, but is hoping that programs like NextGen will ease the burden.</p> <p dir="ltr">“With NextGen, we can reduce NYCHA’s deficit by a total of more than $1 billion over the next five years,” Olatoye told the Council.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Space to use</strong><br />The East Harlem housing shortage is exacerbated by vacancy of both city- and privately-owned properties, according to Comptroller Scott Stringer and area organizations.</p> <p dir="ltr">Stringer and HPD Commissioner Vicki Been <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/18/nyregion/audit-proposes-using-vacant-lots-owned-by-new-york-city-for-affordable-housing.html">traded barbs in February</a> over a comptroller <a href="http://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/FM14_112A.pdf">report </a>indicating that, as of September of 2015, HPD owned 1,131 uninhabited lots throughout Manhattan, and chiding the city agency for what Stringer called a lax pace of transference for properties that should be developed into affordable housing. Stringer held a press conference for the report’s release outside of an HPD-owned vacant property on East 123 Street, one of over 50 vacant properties the comptroller’s office found in East Harlem.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This vacant lot has been owned by the city since the seventies, collecting garbage, attracting rats, and hurting the proud community of El Barrio,” Stringer said at the press conference. “We’re in an affordability crisis the likes of which we’ve never seen – yet our most valuable resource, vacant space, is readily available all across this city.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Stringer was joined at the conference by members of Picture the Homeless, an advocacy organization based on East 126 Street that has long campaigned for turning vacant lots into affordable housing sites.</p> <p dir="ltr">The organization <a href="http://picturethehomeless.org/project/banking-on-vacancy-homelessness-real-estate-speculation/">released its own report in 2012</a>, for which teams of homeless and formerly homeless PTH members and other volunteers scoured Manhattan neighborhoods in search of vacant buildings and lots. They identified 143 empty lots and buildings in East Harlem, and highlighted a block of East 116th Street between Lexington and Park as an example of the problem: nearly half the buildings were empty or boarded up. About 95 percent of all vacant properties surveyed were privately owned.</p> <p dir="ltr">Commissioner Been’s rebuttal, which was included in Stringer’s report, emphatically denied the comptroller’s findings.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Your assertion that HPD allows vacant City-owned properties to languish in the face of the affordable housing crisis is simply wrong,” Been wrote.</p> <p dir="ltr">Been went on to clarify that residential development is only feasible on about 670 of the 1,100 properties; the rest are unsuitable due to location in dangerous areas like flood zones, or lack adequate access to public transportation or sewage infrastructure. Of those 670 viable sites, Been wrote, “roughly 400 have been earmarked for developer designation within the next two years.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The remaining sites will either be developed for residential uses within the duration of de Blasio’s 10-year housing plan or turned over to the Department of Parks and Recreation for use as community gardens.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>An acute homelessness problem</strong><br />For those who have managed to hold on to housing, the rent - as in the rest of New York City - is going up. East Harlem’s median gross rent increased by 53 percent between 2000 and 2013, according to the American Community Survey (ACS) 5-Year Estimates for 2013.</p> <p dir="ltr">The data combine to paint a bleak picture for low-income residents of El Barrio. As of 2013, over a quarter of East Harlem households <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/hpd/about/nyc-housing-vacancy-report.page">were considered in “severe need”</a> by HPD, based on the number of people who are rent burdened, entering homeless shelters, or living in overcrowded apartments.</p> <p dir="ltr">This grim combination appears to hit East Harlem residents particularly hard, resulting in the worst case scenario for a number of households. According to <a href="http://www.anhd.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/2015-ANHD-Affordable-Housing-at-risk-for-mkt-rate.pdf">data</a> from the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), 306 families entering shelters in 2014 listed East Harlem as their last address - the highest rate of entry to family shelters from any neighborhood in Manhattan.</p> <p dir="ltr">Jazmin Berges, 32, has been living in Marcus Garvey Park for the past three years. Berges was born and raised in the Bronx, but moved to East Harlem with a partner. When that relationship ended, she was unable to find housing that she could afford.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Rent is going sky-high in the neighborhood,” Berges told Gotham Gazette. “The community is being restructured, small businesses are closing, and people who lose their jobs can’t afford their rents.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Berges, who works with Picture the Homeless, believes that rent regulation doesn’t go far enough, and emphasized that a <a href="http://citylimits.org/2016/02/05/advocacy-group-pitches-plan-for-nyc-homeless-housing/">community land trust</a> - a not-for-profit entity that acquires and holds property to preserve accessible housing - is the only way to keep permanent affordable housing in East Harlem. “Even low-income housing isn’t low-income housing,” Berges said.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>New land use rules come to East Harlem</strong><br />It is unsurprising that East Harlem was included on the list of 15 neighborhoods to be rezoned under Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan. The plan targets lower-density and low-income areas where demand is or is soon expected to be strong enough to support new development. Over several years, beginning this year with East New York, in Brooklyn, the administration plans to rezone the 15 neighborhoods to allow for more density and neighborhood improvement through more green space, school seats, and transportation infrastructure. The big centerpiece, of course, is housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">Essentially, the city’s plans mandate that any area rezoned to allow greater housing density - neighborhood or individual plot of land - will require significant numbers of affordable units as part of market-rate development.</p> <p dir="ltr">The New York City Council overwhelmingly voted in favor of the two major components of the plan that the neighborhood rezonings rely on - Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) - on March 22. The passage was a considerable victory for the administration after months of pushback and protest from community boards and advocacy groups, and negotiations with the City Council to modify the plan to include more affordability and a few other tweaks.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the plan, which was changed to include more units affordable to lower-income households, MIH requires that developers who build residential units in rezoned areas set aside 20-30% of new units as permanently affordable for households making 40-80% of the Area Median Income, or AMI. Under MIH, there are a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/housing/downloads/pdf/mih-fact-sheet.pdf">variety of options</a> that will be chosen by City Council members, developers, and the mayoral administration. ZQA, which stirred less broad controversy than MIH, focused on changing parking requirements and height limits to encourage more senior affordable housing, improve retail space design, and streetscape planning.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio said in a statement after the vote, “New York City is now one step closer to being a city where everyone can work and live,” and thanked Speaker Mark-Viverito for her efforts in passing the “landmark legislation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod said at a hearing on MIH in February that the program “will bring new affordable housing to neighborhoods where it otherwise wouldn’t be built, and act as a cushion against potential gentrification of communities caused by broad demographic trends we are seeing in so many neighborhoods, simultaneously freeing up city funds to provide even more deeply affordable housing at lower rents where economic need is great.” &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Some opponents of MIH see a flaw in that what the plan defines as “affordable” does not include the lowest-income residents in what are now largely low-income neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">Affordability levels are <a href="http://citylimits.org/2016/02/17/the-secret-history-of-ami/">determined by the area median income</a> of the five boroughs, plus Putnam, Westchester, and Rockland Counties, which comes out to about $77,700 for a three-person household. The AMI for East Harlem is $33,595, or less than half (43%) of the figure that serves as a baseline for affordability calculations.</p> <p dir="ltr">MIH mandates that a percentage of affordable units built in rezoned neighborhoods must be affordable to households of certain earnings - for example, one option sets aside 20% of units for those earning an average of 40% of AMI, or about $31,00 for a family of three. This is the lowest income band option in MIH, and one that the Council insisted on adding to the de Blasio administration’s initial proposal. Households in East Harlem’s poorest zip code, 10035, earn an AMI of just $24,000, which critics say puts new affordable units out of reach.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor, the speaker, and HPD Commissioner Vicki Been have stated often that a combination of HPD subsidies and other housing programs will address the gap of affordability for the lowest-income New Yorkers. This is where the neighborhood rezonings also factor in. Mark-Viverito has said repeatedly that she plans to get to 50-50 market rate-affordable for new development in her district.</p> <p dir="ltr">Community Board 11, which represents East Harlem <a href="http://www.citylandnyc.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2015/12/MIH-ZQA-CB-Tracker-Final-ALL-VOTES-IN.pdf">joined</a> 43 other community boards across the city in voting against de Blasio’s proposal on November 23 of last year.</p> <p dir="ltr">"But in the end," the mayor said at a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6007-mayor-and-speaker-rezoning-plans-will-change-before-council-vote">press conference in November,</a> "the community boards aren't the final decision makers.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><b>READ ON - <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6258-wary-of-gentrification-east-harlem-braces-for-change-page-two" target="_blank">PAGE 2 of 2</a> - <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6258-wary-of-gentrification-east-harlem-braces-for-change-page-two" target="_blank">How East Harlemites are attempting to shape the future of their neighborhood and more</a></b></p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/east_harlem_mural.jpg" alt="east harlem mural" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Hank Prussing's mural, The Spirit of East Harlem (via @ManhattanCB11)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Pearl Barkley moved to East Harlem in the 1950s, when she was six years old. Her family lived in the Jefferson Houses on 115th Street, where she lives today and works as an organizer with Community Voices Heard, an economic justice advocacy non-profit.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Many people remember the fires, the abandoned boarded up buildings, and the people who left,” Barkley said in an interview. Essential services began disappearing from the neighborhood in the 1970s, she said, due in large part to city and federal policies that encouraged <a href="https://www.nixonlibrary.gov/virtuallibrary/releases/jul10/53.pdf">“benign neglect”</a> of poor neighborhoods of color.</p> <p dir="ltr">“They left the neighborhood to fend for itself,” Barkley said. “And the community was strong, but it suffered.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Now, East Harlem is a hot property,” Barkley said. “We have to bring the focus back to the people who were originally here and went through all of this. We have to make sure that the people who were here can stay here.” While she doesn’t necessarily take issue with newcomers to the neighborhood, Barkley emphasizes that preserving homes for long-term residents of the neighborhood should take precedent over new developments.</p> <p dir="ltr">Newcomers have been moving into East Harlem for some time, drawn by its upper-Manhattan perch, lower rents, and access to public transit. But now, El Barrio - like a variety of other low-income areas populated predominantly by people of color - is becoming increasingly desirable to developers hoping to accommodate waves of middle-class renters.</p> <p dir="ltr">In February, The New York Times named East Harlem one of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/realestate/new-yorks-next-hot-neighborhoods.html">New York’s Next Hot Neighborhoods</a>, noting that 21 development sites had recently “traded hands,” and pointing to its lower-than-average real estate prices, good transit options, and historic architecture.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If you want to stay in Manhattan,” the author wrote, “East Harlem may be your best bet.”</p> <p dir="ltr">To long-term residents who want to stay in their neighborhoods, this kind of attention from the real estate market is synonymous with anxieties about inequity, marginalization, and displacement. And rightly so, as rents have skyrocketed across the city, incomes have stagnated, and the affordable housing crisis tops the list of policy issues facing New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">Now, as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration prepares to rezone <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6191-a-closer-look-at-de-blasios-neighborhood-rezoning-plans">15 neighborhoods</a>, including East Harlem, as part of a plan to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing in New York City, residents are bracing for further shifts that some believe will drastically change the landscape of their neighborhood, push long-term residents out of their homes as new residents move in, and threaten local businesses. In a word, gentrification: the force that has been sweeping through New York City neighborhoods and striking fear in places set for new investment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Even as policies like Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, which requires set percentages of rent-controlled units in new developments, move toward enactment in an administration-run rezoning process, some East Harlem stakeholders are making proactive attempts at steering their community’s future. Led by the Speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose home district includes East Harlem, a broad coalition of residents and groups created a comprehensive plan to shape the rezoning of the neighborhood.</p> <p dir="ltr">Members of that coalition and other groups have organized to protect against displacement while also championing changes that will improve their community.</p> <p dir="ltr">It remains to be seen how successful residents will be in achieving control over the way their neighborhood changes -- and who will be left to enjoy the fruits of that labor. But one thing is certain: East Harlem - a low-income community populated primarily by people of color, imbued with deep-rooted history and culture, situated in an area ripe for speculation by developers, struggling amid an affordable housing crisis -- is at a tipping point.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Community character</strong><br />The neighborhood of just over 123,000 residents hugs the northeast corner of Central Park along Fifth Avenue, runs South until 96th Street, and spreads east toward the Harlem and East Rivers, where large portions of the East Harlem Esplanade are crumbling into the water.</p> <p dir="ltr">East Harlem is one of the largest predominantly Latino neighborhoods in New York City, the result of waves of Puerto Rican and Latin American immigration to the area after World War I, followed by more South and Central American arrivals throughout the 20th century. In spite of demographic changes over the last decade, East Harlem is still mostly populated by people of color and an immigrant neighborhood, with Hispanic and black residents comprising 81 percent of the population, and about a quarter of residents foreign-born, according to <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/data/2015chp-mn11.pdf">U.S. Census Bureau estimates for 2013</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">The dominant culture is reflected everywhere: Spanish is spoken on every corner, storefronts advertise Latin American food, music, and good, and large-scale, colorful murals pervade the neighborhood with images of Latin American activists and artists.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is no coincidence that this is where Mark-Viverito, born and raised in Puerto Rico, settled after coming to the United States in 1987 to attend Columbia University. After college, Mark-Viverito participated in a mentorship program for young Latinos, coordinated New York-based efforts to drive the U.S. Navy from the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, co-founded women’s economic justice group Mujeres del Barrio, and served on Community Board 11. Mark-Viverito was elected to the City Council in 2005, and re-elected twice before becoming the first Puerto Rican and Latina to win the Speaker’s office when her colleagues selected her in 2014.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Speaker is now at the helm of a City Council reckoning with an affordable housing crisis and scars and fears of gentrification across several neighborhoods; charged with the task of building and preserving affordable housing and improving neighborhoods while protecting communities’ cultures and livelihoods at a pivotal time. It is a struggle filled with economic and social tensions exemplified in East Harlem.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14337705347_c9f9ac4afe_z.jpg" alt="MMV shaking hands distrit" style="margin: 8px; float: left;" height="250" width="375" />“It’s an ongoing battle,” the speaker (pictured, left) told <a href="http://larespuestamedia.com/melissa-mark-viverito-interview/">La Respuesta</a> in a 2014 interview. “Longtime residents in our communities that are finding themselves with limited options to stay, and feel they have no other place to go and are being displaced, is obviously alarming. We have a responsibility to do as much as we can to try to figure out how to stem that tide, but we’re also faced with limitations.”</p> <p dir="ltr">East Harlem’s history as a stronghold of people of color and immigrants follows the arc of many other urban communities throughout the U.S. The neighborhood first felt the impact of urban renewal initiatives in 1938, when NYCHA began razing low-rise tenements and relocating residents to make way for <a href="http://www.6sqft.com/towers-in-the-park-le-corbusiers-influence-in-nyc/">“towers-in-the-park”</a> housing developments also seen in larger examples at Stuyvesant Town and Co-op City. The city cleared more land containing factories, stores, and community centers in the 1960s, but failed to attract investors to the area. The result was an abundance of overgrown lots and a fragmented urban landscape that set the scene for the increase in poverty, violence, and arson that plagued the neighborhood during the ‘60s and ‘70s.</p> <p dir="ltr">These policies, Pearl Barkley said, along with growing wealth disparity and disenfranchisement of low-income people of color, pushed East Harlem - its residents, infrastructure, and local economy - into the political periphery, and dramatically exacerbated socioeconomic problems that plagued the neighborhood throughout the second half of the 20th century.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Housing East Harlemites</strong><br />Today, a lack of affordable market-rate housing all but defines the residential landscape of East Harlem, where the majority of residents rely on public housing, rental assistance, or rent stabilization to afford their homes. A <a href="http://www.arch.columbia.edu/files/gsapp/imceshared/East_Harlem_Studio_2011.pdf">2011 report</a> from Columbia University calls East Harlem one of the “last holdouts of undeveloped Manhattan,” citing its waterfront and public transit options as contributors to the neighborhood’s growing vulnerability to displacement. These factors, combined with the voracity of the real estate market and a concentration of low-income residents, have cranked up pressure on the housing stock in El Barrio, driving rents - and fears of displacement - ever higher.</p> <p dir="ltr">Enter <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/housing/assets/downloads/pdf/housing_plan.pdf">Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan</a> to encourage more residential development all over the city, with affordable housing mandates, and to rezone East Harlem to add density and neighborhood improvements. De Blasio and supporters of his approach, including Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, believe that without this type of government intervention, the forces of the market will run wild over East Harlem as they have in Central Harlem, several Brooklyn neighborhoods, and elsewhere over the past two decades. With any increase in development, though, comes heightened fear as well as very real change.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Not enough housing, not enough income</strong><br />With <a href="http://www.census.gov/housing/nychvs/">only 8 percent</a> of privately-owned units owner-occupied, East Harlem is a community of renters. And, over half of rental households are considered <a href="http://furmancenter.org/NYCRentalLandscape">rent-burdened</a>, paying more than 30 percent of total household income on gross rent, or severely rent-burdened, paying more than 50 percent of income on rent, and are particularly susceptible to the throes of the real estate market.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the Census Bureau <a href="http://www.census.gov/housing/nychvs/">reported in 2014</a> that 55 percent of rental units in East Harlem were either rent-stabilized or government-assisted, and another 28 percent are NYCHA units, leaving less than a quarter of the renter-occupied housing stock unregulated.</p> <p dir="ltr">While there is still a considerable concentration of regulated and subsidized units in East Harlem, this cache is shrinking as units age out of rent regulation and landlords evict or coerce tenants into vacating stabilized apartments in order to raise rents.</p> <p dir="ltr">The loss is considerable, with 2,500 rent-stabilized or subsidized units disappearing from East Harlem between 2007 and 2014, and a projected 4,200 more gone by 2030, according to <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/neigh_info/statement_needs/mn11_statement.pdf">Community Board 11’s 2016 Statement of Needs</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor hopes to curb the loss of such regulated rental units through his <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/housing/index.page">Housing New York Plan</a>, which seeks to preserve 120,000 existing affordable units throughout the five boroughs. To this end, the administration has doubled HPD’s funding and begun initiatives around landlord harassment, deregulation, and targeted investment in vulnerable communities, among others. The administration is more aggressively targeting opportunities to work with landlords to offer benefits in exchange for extending rent regulations.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio said at a press conference in January that the administration is ahead of schedule, having preserved nearly 14,000 units in projects like Stuyvesant Town, Riverton Houses, and smaller buildings, and that the overall program was on track to build or preserve 200,000 units by 2024.</p> <p dir="ltr">While <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160112/bed-stuy/de-blasio-says-his-200k-units-of-affordable-housing-are-ahead-of-schedule">critics of the plan assert</a> that not enough affordable units are targeted at very low-income New Yorkers, de Blasio said that 75 percent of the 40,000-plus units built or preserved over the first two years of the timeline have been for extremely low income, very low income, and low income residents.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Concentrated public housing</strong><br />The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) plays a vital role in maintaining a large portion of East Harlem’s affordable housing stock, with 30% of residents living in NYCHA-owned properties. This is the second-highest concentration of public housing in the city - a result of urban renewal initiatives begun in 1941, when one of NYCHA’s earliest housing developments, the East River Houses, went up on 102nd Street. Another wave of renewal, led by Robert Moses and funded by the 1949 Federal Housing Act, razed existing structures and constructed the Thomas Jefferson Houses in 1959. Today, there are 24 public housing developments in the neighborhood. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Over the last two decades, federal and state budget cuts have weakened NYCHA, leaving the agency with a $74 million deficit in 2015, and facing capital needs of about $17 billion over the next five years, according to the city. This shortfall has resulted in crumbling buildings, breakdowns in communication between tenants and the agency, increased violence in housing developments, and myriad other problems.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5838-another-way-of-looking-at-infill-housing-development">launched last summer</a> the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/nycha/about/nextgen-nycha.page">NextGeneration NYCHA</a> initiative as part of a “ten-year plan aimed at preserving public housing for the future generations,” according to the city’s website. The administration describes NextGen as a long-term strategy to change the way NYCHA properties are funded, operated, and designed, and to revamp the way the agency engages with residents - all in an attempt to prevent the housing authority from being turned over to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development - an acquisition that could result in the sale of housing sites.</p> <p dir="ltr">The most controversial aspect of NextGen NYCHA is a plan in which underutilized land within NYCHA developments will either be leased for housing development, with buildings half market-rate and half affordable. Opponents say that the plan <a href="http://citylimits.org/2015/11/18/does-nychas-development-plan-vindicate-john-rhea/">too-closely resembles</a> former Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt at infill on NYCHA land, which de Blasio vehemently opposed, and a step on the path to privatizing what is now public housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">NYCHA CEO and Chair Shola Olatoye <a href="http://citylimits.org/2015/05/20/de-blasio-administration-seeks-to-develop-nycha-land/">told City Limits in May 2015</a> that building affordable housing on NYCHA land is a way to reconnect public developments to surrounding neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Residents want improved playgrounds, basketball courts, things we do not receive funding for. One way I can deliver on that is to maximize revenue from development,” she said. "If people want their development to improve, they have to be flexible about what kinds of changes they're willing to accept."</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio said at the program’s launch that it would result in the construction of 10,000 new affordable units on NYCHA land. If the plan succeeds, it will eliminate NYCHA’s crippling operating deficit. The city’s argument is that this strategy will add affordable housing, new revenue, and community improvements.</p> <p dir="ltr">The first NextGen project in East Harlem led to the opening last fall of the East Harlem Center for Living and Learning, which occupies a parking lot once owned by NYCHA. The project includes an eleven-story residential building containing 100% subsidized units. The <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/26/arts/design/how-to-build-affordable-housing-in-new-york-city.html">New York Times reported</a> in January that the development serves a “mix of working and disabled tenants, many from the neighborhood.” The building connects to the new Dream Charter School, which serves almost 500 students.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the Times reported “overwhelmingly positive reactions” to the Center, it remains to be seen whether similar “infill” initiatives will be welcomed by other NYCHA residents wary of privatization and gentrification - or if the program will even produce enough revenue to bolster the floundering agency. Olatoye <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2016/03/8595005/nycha-chair-says-agency-budget-millions-red?top-featured-image">told the City Council on Monday</a> that while its financial situation is improving, NYCHA is still tens of millions of dollars in the red, but is hoping that programs like NextGen will ease the burden.</p> <p dir="ltr">“With NextGen, we can reduce NYCHA’s deficit by a total of more than $1 billion over the next five years,” Olatoye told the Council.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Space to use</strong><br />The East Harlem housing shortage is exacerbated by vacancy of both city- and privately-owned properties, according to Comptroller Scott Stringer and area organizations.</p> <p dir="ltr">Stringer and HPD Commissioner Vicki Been <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/18/nyregion/audit-proposes-using-vacant-lots-owned-by-new-york-city-for-affordable-housing.html">traded barbs in February</a> over a comptroller <a href="http://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/FM14_112A.pdf">report </a>indicating that, as of September of 2015, HPD owned 1,131 uninhabited lots throughout Manhattan, and chiding the city agency for what Stringer called a lax pace of transference for properties that should be developed into affordable housing. Stringer held a press conference for the report’s release outside of an HPD-owned vacant property on East 123 Street, one of over 50 vacant properties the comptroller’s office found in East Harlem.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This vacant lot has been owned by the city since the seventies, collecting garbage, attracting rats, and hurting the proud community of El Barrio,” Stringer said at the press conference. “We’re in an affordability crisis the likes of which we’ve never seen – yet our most valuable resource, vacant space, is readily available all across this city.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Stringer was joined at the conference by members of Picture the Homeless, an advocacy organization based on East 126 Street that has long campaigned for turning vacant lots into affordable housing sites.</p> <p dir="ltr">The organization <a href="http://picturethehomeless.org/project/banking-on-vacancy-homelessness-real-estate-speculation/">released its own report in 2012</a>, for which teams of homeless and formerly homeless PTH members and other volunteers scoured Manhattan neighborhoods in search of vacant buildings and lots. They identified 143 empty lots and buildings in East Harlem, and highlighted a block of East 116th Street between Lexington and Park as an example of the problem: nearly half the buildings were empty or boarded up. About 95 percent of all vacant properties surveyed were privately owned.</p> <p dir="ltr">Commissioner Been’s rebuttal, which was included in Stringer’s report, emphatically denied the comptroller’s findings.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Your assertion that HPD allows vacant City-owned properties to languish in the face of the affordable housing crisis is simply wrong,” Been wrote.</p> <p dir="ltr">Been went on to clarify that residential development is only feasible on about 670 of the 1,100 properties; the rest are unsuitable due to location in dangerous areas like flood zones, or lack adequate access to public transportation or sewage infrastructure. Of those 670 viable sites, Been wrote, “roughly 400 have been earmarked for developer designation within the next two years.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The remaining sites will either be developed for residential uses within the duration of de Blasio’s 10-year housing plan or turned over to the Department of Parks and Recreation for use as community gardens.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>An acute homelessness problem</strong><br />For those who have managed to hold on to housing, the rent - as in the rest of New York City - is going up. East Harlem’s median gross rent increased by 53 percent between 2000 and 2013, according to the American Community Survey (ACS) 5-Year Estimates for 2013.</p> <p dir="ltr">The data combine to paint a bleak picture for low-income residents of El Barrio. As of 2013, over a quarter of East Harlem households <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/hpd/about/nyc-housing-vacancy-report.page">were considered in “severe need”</a> by HPD, based on the number of people who are rent burdened, entering homeless shelters, or living in overcrowded apartments.</p> <p dir="ltr">This grim combination appears to hit East Harlem residents particularly hard, resulting in the worst case scenario for a number of households. According to <a href="http://www.anhd.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/2015-ANHD-Affordable-Housing-at-risk-for-mkt-rate.pdf">data</a> from the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), 306 families entering shelters in 2014 listed East Harlem as their last address - the highest rate of entry to family shelters from any neighborhood in Manhattan.</p> <p dir="ltr">Jazmin Berges, 32, has been living in Marcus Garvey Park for the past three years. Berges was born and raised in the Bronx, but moved to East Harlem with a partner. When that relationship ended, she was unable to find housing that she could afford.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Rent is going sky-high in the neighborhood,” Berges told Gotham Gazette. “The community is being restructured, small businesses are closing, and people who lose their jobs can’t afford their rents.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Berges, who works with Picture the Homeless, believes that rent regulation doesn’t go far enough, and emphasized that a <a href="http://citylimits.org/2016/02/05/advocacy-group-pitches-plan-for-nyc-homeless-housing/">community land trust</a> - a not-for-profit entity that acquires and holds property to preserve accessible housing - is the only way to keep permanent affordable housing in East Harlem. “Even low-income housing isn’t low-income housing,” Berges said.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>New land use rules come to East Harlem</strong><br />It is unsurprising that East Harlem was included on the list of 15 neighborhoods to be rezoned under Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan. The plan targets lower-density and low-income areas where demand is or is soon expected to be strong enough to support new development. Over several years, beginning this year with East New York, in Brooklyn, the administration plans to rezone the 15 neighborhoods to allow for more density and neighborhood improvement through more green space, school seats, and transportation infrastructure. The big centerpiece, of course, is housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">Essentially, the city’s plans mandate that any area rezoned to allow greater housing density - neighborhood or individual plot of land - will require significant numbers of affordable units as part of market-rate development.</p> <p dir="ltr">The New York City Council overwhelmingly voted in favor of the two major components of the plan that the neighborhood rezonings rely on - Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) - on March 22. The passage was a considerable victory for the administration after months of pushback and protest from community boards and advocacy groups, and negotiations with the City Council to modify the plan to include more affordability and a few other tweaks.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the plan, which was changed to include more units affordable to lower-income households, MIH requires that developers who build residential units in rezoned areas set aside 20-30% of new units as permanently affordable for households making 40-80% of the Area Median Income, or AMI. Under MIH, there are a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/housing/downloads/pdf/mih-fact-sheet.pdf">variety of options</a> that will be chosen by City Council members, developers, and the mayoral administration. ZQA, which stirred less broad controversy than MIH, focused on changing parking requirements and height limits to encourage more senior affordable housing, improve retail space design, and streetscape planning.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio said in a statement after the vote, “New York City is now one step closer to being a city where everyone can work and live,” and thanked Speaker Mark-Viverito for her efforts in passing the “landmark legislation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod said at a hearing on MIH in February that the program “will bring new affordable housing to neighborhoods where it otherwise wouldn’t be built, and act as a cushion against potential gentrification of communities caused by broad demographic trends we are seeing in so many neighborhoods, simultaneously freeing up city funds to provide even more deeply affordable housing at lower rents where economic need is great.” &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Some opponents of MIH see a flaw in that what the plan defines as “affordable” does not include the lowest-income residents in what are now largely low-income neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">Affordability levels are <a href="http://citylimits.org/2016/02/17/the-secret-history-of-ami/">determined by the area median income</a> of the five boroughs, plus Putnam, Westchester, and Rockland Counties, which comes out to about $77,700 for a three-person household. The AMI for East Harlem is $33,595, or less than half (43%) of the figure that serves as a baseline for affordability calculations.</p> <p dir="ltr">MIH mandates that a percentage of affordable units built in rezoned neighborhoods must be affordable to households of certain earnings - for example, one option sets aside 20% of units for those earning an average of 40% of AMI, or about $31,00 for a family of three. This is the lowest income band option in MIH, and one that the Council insisted on adding to the de Blasio administration’s initial proposal. Households in East Harlem’s poorest zip code, 10035, earn an AMI of just $24,000, which critics say puts new affordable units out of reach.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor, the speaker, and HPD Commissioner Vicki Been have stated often that a combination of HPD subsidies and other housing programs will address the gap of affordability for the lowest-income New Yorkers. This is where the neighborhood rezonings also factor in. Mark-Viverito has said repeatedly that she plans to get to 50-50 market rate-affordable for new development in her district.</p> <p dir="ltr">Community Board 11, which represents East Harlem <a href="http://www.citylandnyc.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2015/12/MIH-ZQA-CB-Tracker-Final-ALL-VOTES-IN.pdf">joined</a> 43 other community boards across the city in voting against de Blasio’s proposal on November 23 of last year.</p> <p dir="ltr">"But in the end," the mayor said at a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6007-mayor-and-speaker-rezoning-plans-will-change-before-council-vote">press conference in November,</a> "the community boards aren't the final decision makers.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><b>READ ON - <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6258-wary-of-gentrification-east-harlem-braces-for-change-page-two" target="_blank">PAGE 2 of 2</a> - <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6258-wary-of-gentrification-east-harlem-braces-for-change-page-two" target="_blank">How East Harlemites are attempting to shape the future of their neighborhood and more</a></b></p> Wary of Gentrification, East Harlem Braces for Change 2016-04-01T02:22:42+00:00 2016-04-01T02:22:42+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6258:wary-of-gentrification-east-harlem-braces-for-change-page-two Super User <p dir="ltr"><strong><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/mmv_ehnp.jpg" alt="mmv ehnp" height="400" width="600" /></strong></p> <p dir="ltr">&nbsp;Mark-Viverito at an East Harlem planning session (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p><em>CONTINUED from <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6253-wary-of-gentrification-east-harlem-braces-for-rapid-change" target="_blank">page 1</a> - this is page 2 of 2</em></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Community calls for community planning</strong><br />City officials have not yet presented a timeline, much less a plan, for rezoning East Harlem, but that hasn’t stopped residents from preemptively organizing against “upzoning” that they believe will accelerate displacement of low-income people in their neighborhood. Two community-driven plans have emerged from El Barrio since November: one, an attempt at leveraging rezoning for a higher percentage of more deeply affordable housing and community benefits through collaboration with city officials; the other, an outright rejection of the mayor’s plan and a demand for better protections for immigrants and very low-income people living in regulated rental units.</p> <p dir="ltr">Speaker Mark-Viverito, who represents East Harlem and parts of the South Bronx, told NY1 in January, "The question is, do we want to let things stand and get nothing out of it, or do we try to get something, allow the density to happen, with a benefit to the community? To me, the answer is very clear. We have to get something for the community.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Getting something for the community” seems to be the theme of the<a href="http://www.eastharlemplan.nyc" target="_blank">&nbsp;East Harlem Neighborhood Plan</a>, which was completed in February by a broad coalition led Mark-Viverito, Manhattan President Gale Brewer, and advocacy group Community Voices Heard.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/22984956200_9ef6976220_z.jpg" alt="east harlem planning table" style="margin: 8px; float: left;" height="249" width="375" />The EHNP is the product of a 10-month process in which over 1,300 East Harlem residents filled out hundreds of community surveys, gathered for seven community vision workshops on 12 topic areas, and produced an exhaustive list of recommendations for neighborhood preservation and improvement. While it certainly won’t halt fear of gentrification and displacement, it may go a long way in influencing the rezoning plan put forth by City Hall, and, many believe, stemming the tide of displacement while improving the community in a variety of ways.</p> <p dir="ltr">The plan’s recommendations span 12 themes, ranging from improvements to NYCHA developments to arts and culture preservation to senior needs, but two issues took precedence over the rest: the preservation of affordable housing and job creation.</p> <p dir="ltr">The plan specifically calls for better enforcement of anti-tenant harassment laws, additional legal and educational support for tenants, and policy changes and increased funding aimed at preserving existing regulated units and bringing more units under regulation. The plan also recommends that the city build off of the affordability that will be required on private rezoned sites under the new Mandatory Inclusionary Housing rules. The plan recommends 100% affordable units on public sites, and asks that all tools, such as HPD subsidies and programs, be utilized to achieve deeper affordability for the lowest-income residents.</p> <p dir="ltr">Participants also heavily emphasize job creation, job training, and living wages as changes they want to see accompany increased density in their neighborhood.</p> <p dir="ltr">East Harlem’s distinction as the home district of the powerful City Council Speaker sets the area apart from other neighborhoods on deck to be rezoned. Still, other Council members took notice of the EHNP effort, even attending the final planning event, eyeing ways in which they can lead a local process to get ahead of a more centralized, mayoral administration-run plan for rezoning.</p> <p dir="ltr">The EHNP coalition sent the 134-page plan to the City Planning Commission and other city agencies after its release on February 25.</p> <p dir="ltr">Community planning in New York neighborhoods is not a new concept; the Department of City Planning has been organizing “place-based planning studies” in other to-be-rezoned neighborhoods to help develop recommendations for affordable housing, economic development and infrastructure investments, and assisting community and borough boards in the creation of&nbsp;<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/community/community-based-planning.page?tab=2" target="_blank">197-a community plans</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city created the rezoning plan that is now being negotiated for East New York after a number of community meetings, and the process is playing out in Flushing and other areas slated for rezonings.</p> <p dir="ltr">But the Speaker calls the EHNP the first of its kind in the city, emphasizing a proactive, bottom-up approach.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We’re kind of doing it upside-down. Usually an application is presented and we respond to it, right?” Mark-Viverito said to the audience at an EHNP community forum on January 27, referring to the typical land use review process (ULURP), which is taking place in East New York. “The [East Harlem] application hasn’t even been submitted. We have a plan, we’re giving it to the city, and we’re forcing the city to consider and take into account those needs in the application process.”</p> <p dir="ltr">It remains to be seen whether the Speaker’s influence will fortify the plan once the rezoning process begins in East Harlem, but many people involved believe that the strength of the plan’s process and government-community partnerships have given the neighborhood the best chance of success as they both brace for and embrace the rezoning.</p> <p dir="ltr">"This is a document that we actually want to govern how East Harlem is developed and evolves over time,” said Sondra Youdelman, director Community Voices Heard, in a February interview with Gotham Gazette. “Now it's up to the city to figure out which policies and tools need to be coupled together to make this happen.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>'Consulta del Barrio'</strong><br />Movement for Justice in El Barrio, founded in 2004, is an organization predominantly comprised of and led by immigrants - mostly women - who have lived in rent-regulated apartment units in East Harlem for decades. The organization claims over 1,000 members and organizing within 95 privately-owned buildings in El Barrio.</p> <p dir="ltr">MJB&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5972-east-harlem-tenants-group-rejects-de-blasio-housing-plan-offer-its-own">released in November 2015 a 10-point plan</a>&nbsp;that roundly rejected the mayor’s zoning plans as they stood then and focuses almost exclusively on housing preservation for low-income residents in rent-regulated apartments, people of color, and immigrant communities, which the group says are disproportionately displaced by landlord harassment and gentrification.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Our members didn’t want to just reject the plan,” said Juan Haro, an organizer at Movement for Justice in El Barrio. “They wanted to put forward a concrete proposal to improve the housing situation in our neighborhood.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The document is also an indictment of what Movement for Justice calls a failure by HPD to enforce housing codes and protect tenants’ rights.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We believe that when HPD is not responsive to landlords breaking the local housing code, and their unresponsiveness allows landlords to get away with driving out tenants, which contributes to displacement and gentrification,” Haro said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Movement for Justice in El Barrio’s plan calls for increased and independent oversight of HPD; a public education campaign to inform tenants about HPD's role; a new body to collect fines levied against negligent landlords; publication of inspection documents in multiple languages, penalties for landlords who fail to make repairs within 24 hours of emergency violations; the establishment of an East Harlem HPD oversight team; and improvements to HPD’s inspection and follow-up speeds.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to Haro, over 8,500 East Harlem residents participated in 12 public meetings throughout the year-long “Consulta del Barrio,” or neighborhood consultation. Haro highlights the group’s bottom-up organizing strategy and pragmatic outreach effort, which targets very low-income residents and immigrants, and favors flyering over social media.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We know that there is a digital divide,” he said. “Many folks in the neighborhood don’t have access to Facebook or Twitter, so we focused on on-the-street outreach, and worked in the evenings and on weekends when more people weren’t at work.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Public meetings were “fluid and organic,” Haro added, and residents attended to learn more about the intricacies of the rezoning proposal and land use in general. Participants voted to reject the mayor’s proposals, and formulated the demands that would become the pith of the 10-point plan.</p> <p dir="ltr">The plan concentrates on protecting tenants of regulated, private apartment buildings, because those tenants have the most at stake as the neighborhood gentrifies, Haro said. “Landlords cut off basic services and violate local housing codes,” he said. “They offer buyouts to tenants to surrender their units. They threaten to bring in immigration authorities or ask for proof as citizens and threaten based on citizenship."</p> <p dir="ltr">The de Blasio administration has mounted an initiative to deter evictions and landlord harassment in rapidly changing neighborhoods with the creation of the Tenant Support Unit in August of 2015. The mayor announced in February that the unit had resolved its thousandth case since it began offering assistance to tenants.</p> <p dir="ltr">While&nbsp;<a href="http://citylimits.org/2015/07/21/citys-tenant-protection-effort-breaks-ground-and-ruffles-feathers/">reviews of the unit’s methodology have been mixed</a>, the administration touted a ten-fold increase in free legal services for tenants, for a total of $62 million in funding that will be fully implemented for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins July 1 of this year. &nbsp;As a result, de Blasio said, evictions by city marshals have decreased 24 percent since he took office, down from 28,849 in 2013 to 21,988 in 2015.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the new support measures and protections introduced by the mayor seem to be having a positive effect, members at MJB believe that they will still be forced out once rezoning takes hold.</p> <p dir="ltr">Movement for Justice in El Barrio members organized a series of protests against the mayor’s plan leading up to a Community Board 11 vote on MIH and ZQA in November.</p> <p dir="ltr">Sandra Cruz, a member, said at a rally before the meeting, “We are against the mayor’s ‘luxury housing plan’ because we know that 25-30% of the apartments that the mayor says will supposedly be constructed for low-income people will not be accessible to the poor people of East Harlem, because we don’t make enough money to pay those high rents.”</p> <p dir="ltr">CB 11 voted “no with conditions” on the mayor’s citywide zoning plans. This feedback, similar to that of community boards across the city, helped inform the City Council’s negotiations with the de Blasio administration over the final versions of MIH and ZQA.</p> <p dir="ltr">Movement for Justice sent its 10-point community plan to Speaker Mark-Viverito and Borough President Gale Brewer in November, but have not received a response, they said. Meanwhile, Mark-Viverito, Brewer, and a variety of other stakeholders, were in the process of creating the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Next for East Harlem</strong><br />With MIH and ZQA in place, East Harlem stakeholders are watching the neighborhood rezoning process as it unfolds in East New York, the first neighborhood rezoning being moved by the de Blasio administration, in consultation with the City Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">Like East Harlem, East New York’s population is predominantly Latino and African-American, and the neighborhood AMI is around $34,000. City Council Member Rafael Espinal represents much of East New York and remains adamant that the plan for the area not help in pricing out long-term residents.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Neighbors on my street are already jacking up the rents to $1,800 [per month]," Espinal said at a March 8 City Council hearing on the East New York rezoning.</p> <p dir="ltr">Parallels between East New York and East Harlem are undeniable, and many are watching the process for clues as to how the future may unfold in El Barrio. East Harlem may be slightly further along in a gentrification process as of now, but both neighborhoods are changing.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though some involved in the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan are skeptical as to how much of the document will be seriously considered by the city, the speaker hopes that the document will serve as a model for other communities down the road.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It would be great,” she said at the January 27 community forum, “if the administration established some sort of process to create neighborhood plans in every area that would be rezoned.” She followed this up by devoting a portion of her February State of the City address to the Council’s proposal that the city develop a Neighborhood Commitment Plan that would accompany all rezoning proposals, “describing and tracking commitments for housing, schools, infrastructure and other city services.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Planning for the future of our neighborhoods should start from the ground up and infuse the voices of everyday New Yorkers into policy decisions,” Mark-Viverito said in her address. She remarked that the community planning process is an opportunity to discuss neighborhood concerns “from school overcrowding and pedestrian safety to sewers and public transit.”</p> <p dir="ltr">For community organizations in El Barrio, the work has only just begun. Leaders across groups and initiatives say they’ll continue to apply pressure to the city to respond to demands for deeper affordability, better protection of tenants’ rights, neighborhood improvements, and capital investments. Essential, they say, is community power in all processes.</p> <p dir="ltr">Even as the future of East Harlem seems unsure, long-time resident Pearl Barkley notes the surge of neighborhood civic engagement around rezoning as a silver lining.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I grew up in a time of social movements, with activism throughout the neighborhood,” Barkley said. “Right now, when I attend meetings, I see young people standing up, excited to talk about what they want for their city. That gives me hope. It makes me happy.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>This is page 2 of 2 - <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6253-wary-of-gentrification-east-harlem-braces-for-rapid-change" target="_blank">return to page 1</a></em></p> <p dir="ltr">

***
by Maggie Calmes, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p dir="ltr"><strong><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/mmv_ehnp.jpg" alt="mmv ehnp" height="400" width="600" /></strong></p> <p dir="ltr">&nbsp;Mark-Viverito at an East Harlem planning session (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p><em>CONTINUED from <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6253-wary-of-gentrification-east-harlem-braces-for-rapid-change" target="_blank">page 1</a> - this is page 2 of 2</em></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Community calls for community planning</strong><br />City officials have not yet presented a timeline, much less a plan, for rezoning East Harlem, but that hasn’t stopped residents from preemptively organizing against “upzoning” that they believe will accelerate displacement of low-income people in their neighborhood. Two community-driven plans have emerged from El Barrio since November: one, an attempt at leveraging rezoning for a higher percentage of more deeply affordable housing and community benefits through collaboration with city officials; the other, an outright rejection of the mayor’s plan and a demand for better protections for immigrants and very low-income people living in regulated rental units.</p> <p dir="ltr">Speaker Mark-Viverito, who represents East Harlem and parts of the South Bronx, told NY1 in January, "The question is, do we want to let things stand and get nothing out of it, or do we try to get something, allow the density to happen, with a benefit to the community? To me, the answer is very clear. We have to get something for the community.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Getting something for the community” seems to be the theme of the<a href="http://www.eastharlemplan.nyc" target="_blank">&nbsp;East Harlem Neighborhood Plan</a>, which was completed in February by a broad coalition led Mark-Viverito, Manhattan President Gale Brewer, and advocacy group Community Voices Heard.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/22984956200_9ef6976220_z.jpg" alt="east harlem planning table" style="margin: 8px; float: left;" height="249" width="375" />The EHNP is the product of a 10-month process in which over 1,300 East Harlem residents filled out hundreds of community surveys, gathered for seven community vision workshops on 12 topic areas, and produced an exhaustive list of recommendations for neighborhood preservation and improvement. While it certainly won’t halt fear of gentrification and displacement, it may go a long way in influencing the rezoning plan put forth by City Hall, and, many believe, stemming the tide of displacement while improving the community in a variety of ways.</p> <p dir="ltr">The plan’s recommendations span 12 themes, ranging from improvements to NYCHA developments to arts and culture preservation to senior needs, but two issues took precedence over the rest: the preservation of affordable housing and job creation.</p> <p dir="ltr">The plan specifically calls for better enforcement of anti-tenant harassment laws, additional legal and educational support for tenants, and policy changes and increased funding aimed at preserving existing regulated units and bringing more units under regulation. The plan also recommends that the city build off of the affordability that will be required on private rezoned sites under the new Mandatory Inclusionary Housing rules. The plan recommends 100% affordable units on public sites, and asks that all tools, such as HPD subsidies and programs, be utilized to achieve deeper affordability for the lowest-income residents.</p> <p dir="ltr">Participants also heavily emphasize job creation, job training, and living wages as changes they want to see accompany increased density in their neighborhood.</p> <p dir="ltr">East Harlem’s distinction as the home district of the powerful City Council Speaker sets the area apart from other neighborhoods on deck to be rezoned. Still, other Council members took notice of the EHNP effort, even attending the final planning event, eyeing ways in which they can lead a local process to get ahead of a more centralized, mayoral administration-run plan for rezoning.</p> <p dir="ltr">The EHNP coalition sent the 134-page plan to the City Planning Commission and other city agencies after its release on February 25.</p> <p dir="ltr">Community planning in New York neighborhoods is not a new concept; the Department of City Planning has been organizing “place-based planning studies” in other to-be-rezoned neighborhoods to help develop recommendations for affordable housing, economic development and infrastructure investments, and assisting community and borough boards in the creation of&nbsp;<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/community/community-based-planning.page?tab=2" target="_blank">197-a community plans</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city created the rezoning plan that is now being negotiated for East New York after a number of community meetings, and the process is playing out in Flushing and other areas slated for rezonings.</p> <p dir="ltr">But the Speaker calls the EHNP the first of its kind in the city, emphasizing a proactive, bottom-up approach.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We’re kind of doing it upside-down. Usually an application is presented and we respond to it, right?” Mark-Viverito said to the audience at an EHNP community forum on January 27, referring to the typical land use review process (ULURP), which is taking place in East New York. “The [East Harlem] application hasn’t even been submitted. We have a plan, we’re giving it to the city, and we’re forcing the city to consider and take into account those needs in the application process.”</p> <p dir="ltr">It remains to be seen whether the Speaker’s influence will fortify the plan once the rezoning process begins in East Harlem, but many people involved believe that the strength of the plan’s process and government-community partnerships have given the neighborhood the best chance of success as they both brace for and embrace the rezoning.</p> <p dir="ltr">"This is a document that we actually want to govern how East Harlem is developed and evolves over time,” said Sondra Youdelman, director Community Voices Heard, in a February interview with Gotham Gazette. “Now it's up to the city to figure out which policies and tools need to be coupled together to make this happen.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>'Consulta del Barrio'</strong><br />Movement for Justice in El Barrio, founded in 2004, is an organization predominantly comprised of and led by immigrants - mostly women - who have lived in rent-regulated apartment units in East Harlem for decades. The organization claims over 1,000 members and organizing within 95 privately-owned buildings in El Barrio.</p> <p dir="ltr">MJB&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5972-east-harlem-tenants-group-rejects-de-blasio-housing-plan-offer-its-own">released in November 2015 a 10-point plan</a>&nbsp;that roundly rejected the mayor’s zoning plans as they stood then and focuses almost exclusively on housing preservation for low-income residents in rent-regulated apartments, people of color, and immigrant communities, which the group says are disproportionately displaced by landlord harassment and gentrification.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Our members didn’t want to just reject the plan,” said Juan Haro, an organizer at Movement for Justice in El Barrio. “They wanted to put forward a concrete proposal to improve the housing situation in our neighborhood.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The document is also an indictment of what Movement for Justice calls a failure by HPD to enforce housing codes and protect tenants’ rights.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We believe that when HPD is not responsive to landlords breaking the local housing code, and their unresponsiveness allows landlords to get away with driving out tenants, which contributes to displacement and gentrification,” Haro said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Movement for Justice in El Barrio’s plan calls for increased and independent oversight of HPD; a public education campaign to inform tenants about HPD's role; a new body to collect fines levied against negligent landlords; publication of inspection documents in multiple languages, penalties for landlords who fail to make repairs within 24 hours of emergency violations; the establishment of an East Harlem HPD oversight team; and improvements to HPD’s inspection and follow-up speeds.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to Haro, over 8,500 East Harlem residents participated in 12 public meetings throughout the year-long “Consulta del Barrio,” or neighborhood consultation. Haro highlights the group’s bottom-up organizing strategy and pragmatic outreach effort, which targets very low-income residents and immigrants, and favors flyering over social media.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We know that there is a digital divide,” he said. “Many folks in the neighborhood don’t have access to Facebook or Twitter, so we focused on on-the-street outreach, and worked in the evenings and on weekends when more people weren’t at work.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Public meetings were “fluid and organic,” Haro added, and residents attended to learn more about the intricacies of the rezoning proposal and land use in general. Participants voted to reject the mayor’s proposals, and formulated the demands that would become the pith of the 10-point plan.</p> <p dir="ltr">The plan concentrates on protecting tenants of regulated, private apartment buildings, because those tenants have the most at stake as the neighborhood gentrifies, Haro said. “Landlords cut off basic services and violate local housing codes,” he said. “They offer buyouts to tenants to surrender their units. They threaten to bring in immigration authorities or ask for proof as citizens and threaten based on citizenship."</p> <p dir="ltr">The de Blasio administration has mounted an initiative to deter evictions and landlord harassment in rapidly changing neighborhoods with the creation of the Tenant Support Unit in August of 2015. The mayor announced in February that the unit had resolved its thousandth case since it began offering assistance to tenants.</p> <p dir="ltr">While&nbsp;<a href="http://citylimits.org/2015/07/21/citys-tenant-protection-effort-breaks-ground-and-ruffles-feathers/">reviews of the unit’s methodology have been mixed</a>, the administration touted a ten-fold increase in free legal services for tenants, for a total of $62 million in funding that will be fully implemented for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins July 1 of this year. &nbsp;As a result, de Blasio said, evictions by city marshals have decreased 24 percent since he took office, down from 28,849 in 2013 to 21,988 in 2015.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the new support measures and protections introduced by the mayor seem to be having a positive effect, members at MJB believe that they will still be forced out once rezoning takes hold.</p> <p dir="ltr">Movement for Justice in El Barrio members organized a series of protests against the mayor’s plan leading up to a Community Board 11 vote on MIH and ZQA in November.</p> <p dir="ltr">Sandra Cruz, a member, said at a rally before the meeting, “We are against the mayor’s ‘luxury housing plan’ because we know that 25-30% of the apartments that the mayor says will supposedly be constructed for low-income people will not be accessible to the poor people of East Harlem, because we don’t make enough money to pay those high rents.”</p> <p dir="ltr">CB 11 voted “no with conditions” on the mayor’s citywide zoning plans. This feedback, similar to that of community boards across the city, helped inform the City Council’s negotiations with the de Blasio administration over the final versions of MIH and ZQA.</p> <p dir="ltr">Movement for Justice sent its 10-point community plan to Speaker Mark-Viverito and Borough President Gale Brewer in November, but have not received a response, they said. Meanwhile, Mark-Viverito, Brewer, and a variety of other stakeholders, were in the process of creating the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Next for East Harlem</strong><br />With MIH and ZQA in place, East Harlem stakeholders are watching the neighborhood rezoning process as it unfolds in East New York, the first neighborhood rezoning being moved by the de Blasio administration, in consultation with the City Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">Like East Harlem, East New York’s population is predominantly Latino and African-American, and the neighborhood AMI is around $34,000. City Council Member Rafael Espinal represents much of East New York and remains adamant that the plan for the area not help in pricing out long-term residents.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Neighbors on my street are already jacking up the rents to $1,800 [per month]," Espinal said at a March 8 City Council hearing on the East New York rezoning.</p> <p dir="ltr">Parallels between East New York and East Harlem are undeniable, and many are watching the process for clues as to how the future may unfold in El Barrio. East Harlem may be slightly further along in a gentrification process as of now, but both neighborhoods are changing.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though some involved in the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan are skeptical as to how much of the document will be seriously considered by the city, the speaker hopes that the document will serve as a model for other communities down the road.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It would be great,” she said at the January 27 community forum, “if the administration established some sort of process to create neighborhood plans in every area that would be rezoned.” She followed this up by devoting a portion of her February State of the City address to the Council’s proposal that the city develop a Neighborhood Commitment Plan that would accompany all rezoning proposals, “describing and tracking commitments for housing, schools, infrastructure and other city services.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Planning for the future of our neighborhoods should start from the ground up and infuse the voices of everyday New Yorkers into policy decisions,” Mark-Viverito said in her address. She remarked that the community planning process is an opportunity to discuss neighborhood concerns “from school overcrowding and pedestrian safety to sewers and public transit.”</p> <p dir="ltr">For community organizations in El Barrio, the work has only just begun. Leaders across groups and initiatives say they’ll continue to apply pressure to the city to respond to demands for deeper affordability, better protection of tenants’ rights, neighborhood improvements, and capital investments. Essential, they say, is community power in all processes.</p> <p dir="ltr">Even as the future of East Harlem seems unsure, long-time resident Pearl Barkley notes the surge of neighborhood civic engagement around rezoning as a silver lining.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I grew up in a time of social movements, with activism throughout the neighborhood,” Barkley said. “Right now, when I attend meetings, I see young people standing up, excited to talk about what they want for their city. That gives me hope. It makes me happy.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>This is page 2 of 2 - <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6253-wary-of-gentrification-east-harlem-braces-for-rapid-change" target="_blank">return to page 1</a></em></p> <p dir="ltr">

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by Maggie Calmes, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, March 21 2016-03-19T14:22:16+00:00 2016-03-19T14:22:16+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6231:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-march-21 Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/640px-New_York_City_Hall.jpg" alt="New York City Hall" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">New York City Hall</span></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What to watch for this week in New York politics:</strong></p> <p>This week will be another busy one when it comes to budgets: the City Council continues its preliminary budget hearings and state budget negotiations enter their final ten days - a state budget is due by April 1 and some say a deal could be announced before the end of this week. Don't count on it, though, state budgets usually come in just before (or, as was the case last year, just after) the March 31 midnight deadline. This practice under Governor Andrew Cuomo is actually a serious improvement given that the state used to regularly wind up with late budgets extending weeks past the start of the new fiscal year, which begins April 1.</p> <p>There are a variety of issues to be worked out, with <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6226-new-york-city-interests-given-varied-priority-in-three-albany-budget-plans" target="_blank">several of importance to New York City.</a> As always, there are a number of high-profile items, like an increase of the minimum wage or government ethics reform, that could be pushed beyond the budget and into the legislative session to follow. That session runs until mid-June. The budget, after all, only must include necessary state expenses. Expect at least a couple of closed-door meetings among Cuomo and the two legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican. On Monday,&nbsp;City Council "Speaker Mark-Viverito and Council Members will travel to Albany to advocate for the City Council's 2016 State Budget and Legislative Agenda," according to Mark-Viverito's public schedule.</p> <p>Also worth watching in Albany this week, the Assembly will consider internal reforms <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6229-assembly-announces-internal-reform-plan-to-mixed-reviews" target="_blank">announced by Heastie and his conference at the end of this past week</a>. The 40-plus reform proposals received <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6229-assembly-announces-internal-reform-plan-to-mixed-reviews" target="_blank">a mixed reaction</a> from elected officials and good government advocates, but still indicate a number of changes that many have been advocating for years. And, keep an eye out for a related conference in Albany on Friday, which will look at ethics reform through the lens of a state constitutional convention - details below.</p> <p>While it is another busy week of budget hearings at the City Council, the Council will also hold a full-body Stated Meeting on Tuesday, at which new bills will be introduced and the Council will vote on the two high-profile zoning changes - Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) - that have been the source of months of discussion, negotiation, and controversy, and that are key to Mayor de Blasio's affordable housing plans.</p> <p>As always, there's a great deal happening&nbsp;all over the city, with many events to be aware of - read our day-by-day rundown below.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?</em><br /><em>E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>***</em></p> <p><strong>The run of the week in detail:</strong></p> <p><strong>Monday<br /></strong>Mayor de Blasio is doing a series of six media appearances to discuss his affordable housing agenda on Monday. He'll be on NPR, 880AM and 710AM radio, and on NY1, NY1 Noticias, and Univision TV.</p> <p>Both houses of the New York State Legislature are in session on Monday in Albany.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. in Albany, following the full <a href="https://www.regents.nysed.gov/meetings/2016/2016-03/meeting-board-regents" target="_blank">meeting</a> of the NYS Board of Regents, the board’s newly-elected Chancellor and Vice Chancellor will hold a press conference with the State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.</p> <p dir="ltr">At noon Monday, a coalition of over 90 HIV/AIDS advocates will launch a statewide Week of Action on the steps of City Hall, calling upon Governor Cuomo to invest $70 million in a plan to end AIDS in the 2016 New York State budget.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">At the City Council</a> on Monday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 9:30 a.m., the Committee on Health will hold a hearing on a bill to prohibit the use of smokeless tobacco products at sports arenas and recreational areas that require tickets.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m., the Committee on Health will meet for a preliminary budget hearing.</li> <li dir="ltr">At noon, the Committee on Consumer Affairs will meet for a preliminary budget hearing.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m., the Committee on Youth Services will discuss a bill requiring the establishment of a training coordinator to teach certain agency staff throughout departments such as Parks and Recreation, Homeless Services, and Human Resources Administration/Social Services how to identify runaway, homeless or sexually exploited youth and how to connect them with appropriate services. The committee will also discuss several technical changes relating to an annual report produced by the Administration for Children’s Services and the Department of Youth and Community Development on the number of sexually exploited youth each agency has come into contact with over the course of the calendar year.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m., the Committee on Public Safety will meet for a preliminary budget hearing.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1:30 p.m., the Committee on Higher Education will meet to discuss a resolution to increase State funding to CUNY, and to reach a fair labor agreement with the University’s faculty and staff in the 2016-17 NYS Executive Budget.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 3 p.m., the Committee on Civil Rights will examine a bill to broaden or incorporate a right to truthful information for a variety of activities covered by the New York City Human Rights Law, including lending, employment, and access to public accommodations and others.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">At 2 p.m. Monday,&nbsp;"First Lady McCray will deliver opening remarks at a panel at Fountain House, an organization dedicated to supporting those living with serious mental illness."</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6 p.m. Monday, the LGBT Task Force of Manhattan Community Boards 9, 10, 11, and 12 will host an <a href="https://twitter.com/galeabrewer/status/709089409115631617" target="_blank">LGBT Resource Fair</a> featuring New York City Agencies. The event is sponsored by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6:10 p.m. Monday evening,&nbsp;"Mayor Bill de Blasio will discuss affordable housing with an anticipated 10,000+ AARP members from New York City on an interactive call that allows participants to ask questions," according to AARP-NY.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday at 6:30 p.m., schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will&nbsp;attend a town hall meeting of District 16's Community Education Council at MS 267 in Brooklyn.</p> <p><strong>Tuesday<br /></strong>Both houses of the New York State Legislature are in session on Tuesday in Albany.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Crain’s New York Business will host an <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#utm_medium=email&amp;utm_source=cnyb-events&amp;utm_campaign=cnyb-events-20160218" target="_blank">event</a> on how startup businesses take off in New York City, featuring: Gregg Bishop, Commissioner, NYC Department of Small Business Services; Howard Lerman, Co-Founder &amp; CEO, Yext; Rachel Shechtman,, Founder and CEO, STORY; Adam Shwartz, Director, Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech; and moderated by Matthew Flamm, Senior Reporter, Crain's New York Business.<br /><br />At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, the YWCA of New York City will host “its third breakfast <a href="https://www.ywcanyc.org/events/new-york-city-women-leaders-the-power-of-influence-and-purpose/" target="_blank">panel</a> for Women’s History Month “New York City Women Leaders: The Power of Influence and Purpose.” The panel will include Maya Wiley, counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio; City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley; and Carmelyn Malalis, commissioner of the city’s Human Rights Commission; among others.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the Commission on Public Information and Communication will meet to <a href="http://pubadvocate.nyc.gov/news/events/copic-meeting-1" target="_blank">discuss</a> the implementation of the webcasting law and the establishment of a central portal for webcasts.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the City Council on Tuesday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 9 a.m., the Committee on State and Federal Legislation will meet to press for authorization that Christopher Park in Manhattan is discontinued as city parkland.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m., the Committee on Finance will meet to approve new designations for certain organizations to receive funding in the expense budget; to communicate the transfer of City funds between various agencies in FY ‘16 in the expense budget; and to communicate the appropriation of new revenues of $982 million in FY ‘16.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1:30 p.m., the City Council will hold a full-body Stated Meeting. The highlight of the hearing will be the Council’s votes on the MIH and ZQA zoning text amendments.</li> <li dir="ltr">Before the Stated, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will host a pre-Stated press conference at 12:30.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">Also prior to the Stated Meeting, at noon, City Council Members Costa Constantinides and Ydanis Rodriguez will host a press conference on the steps of City Hall to rally before introducing a bill to create a pilot program for electric vehicle charging stations on street parking. The program hopes to encourage the use of electric cars and reduce carbon emissions citywide.</p> <p><strong>Wednesday<br /></strong>Both houses of the New York State Legislature are in session on Wednesday in Albany.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the City Council on Wednesday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m., the Subcommittee on Libraries will meet jointly with the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations for a preliminary budget hearing on libraries.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 11 a.m., the Committee on Contracts will meet for a preliminary budget hearing.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m., the Committee on Courts and Legal Services will meet for a preliminary budget hearing.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">At 5 p.m. Wednesday, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCCD8/status/709758093421387777" target="_blank">will host</a> a Women’s History Month celebration at Mott Haven Library.</p> <p><strong>Thursday<br /></strong>At 8 a.m. Thursday, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce will <a href="http://www.manhattancc.org/MCC_Events/MCC_Chairmans_Breakfast_Series.aspx" target="_blank">host</a> a breakfast event focused on combating the rising tide of cybercrime and featuring Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.</p> <p><strong>Friday and the weekend<br /></strong>At 1:30 p.m. Friday in Albany, a <a href="http://www.rockinst.org/forumsandevents/upcoming/default.aspx#Constitutional_Convention_Strengthen_Ethics" target="_blank">forum</a>, “Can a NYS Constitutional Convention Strengthen Government Ethics?” The event, hosted by The Rockefeller Institute, will feature discussion about whether issues of integrity in government can be fixed statutorily, or if would be better resolved through constitutional change. Speaking will be former NYS Comptroller H. Carl McCall; and Columbia Law School Professor Richard Briffault, who is also a former assistant counsel to Governor Hugh Carey; as well as a panel of experts.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Saturday, March 26, Participatory Budget voting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/home.shtml" target="_blank">begins</a> in New York City Council districts running the program. In Participatory Budgeting, Council Members ask New York City residents “to decide how to invest public funds in their neighborhoods.” Voting will take place throughout the nearly 30 participating districts through April 3.</p> <p>***<br />Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>&nbsp;(please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).</p> <p>***<br />by Kelly Fan and Ben Max<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/640px-New_York_City_Hall.jpg" alt="New York City Hall" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">New York City Hall</span></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What to watch for this week in New York politics:</strong></p> <p>This week will be another busy one when it comes to budgets: the City Council continues its preliminary budget hearings and state budget negotiations enter their final ten days - a state budget is due by April 1 and some say a deal could be announced before the end of this week. Don't count on it, though, state budgets usually come in just before (or, as was the case last year, just after) the March 31 midnight deadline. This practice under Governor Andrew Cuomo is actually a serious improvement given that the state used to regularly wind up with late budgets extending weeks past the start of the new fiscal year, which begins April 1.</p> <p>There are a variety of issues to be worked out, with <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6226-new-york-city-interests-given-varied-priority-in-three-albany-budget-plans" target="_blank">several of importance to New York City.</a> As always, there are a number of high-profile items, like an increase of the minimum wage or government ethics reform, that could be pushed beyond the budget and into the legislative session to follow. That session runs until mid-June. The budget, after all, only must include necessary state expenses. Expect at least a couple of closed-door meetings among Cuomo and the two legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican. On Monday,&nbsp;City Council "Speaker Mark-Viverito and Council Members will travel to Albany to advocate for the City Council's 2016 State Budget and Legislative Agenda," according to Mark-Viverito's public schedule.</p> <p>Also worth watching in Albany this week, the Assembly will consider internal reforms <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6229-assembly-announces-internal-reform-plan-to-mixed-reviews" target="_blank">announced by Heastie and his conference at the end of this past week</a>. The 40-plus reform proposals received <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6229-assembly-announces-internal-reform-plan-to-mixed-reviews" target="_blank">a mixed reaction</a> from elected officials and good government advocates, but still indicate a number of changes that many have been advocating for years. And, keep an eye out for a related conference in Albany on Friday, which will look at ethics reform through the lens of a state constitutional convention - details below.</p> <p>While it is another busy week of budget hearings at the City Council, the Council will also hold a full-body Stated Meeting on Tuesday, at which new bills will be introduced and the Council will vote on the two high-profile zoning changes - Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) - that have been the source of months of discussion, negotiation, and controversy, and that are key to Mayor de Blasio's affordable housing plans.</p> <p>As always, there's a great deal happening&nbsp;all over the city, with many events to be aware of - read our day-by-day rundown below.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?</em><br /><em>E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>***</em></p> <p><strong>The run of the week in detail:</strong></p> <p><strong>Monday<br /></strong>Mayor de Blasio is doing a series of six media appearances to discuss his affordable housing agenda on Monday. He'll be on NPR, 880AM and 710AM radio, and on NY1, NY1 Noticias, and Univision TV.</p> <p>Both houses of the New York State Legislature are in session on Monday in Albany.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. in Albany, following the full <a href="https://www.regents.nysed.gov/meetings/2016/2016-03/meeting-board-regents" target="_blank">meeting</a> of the NYS Board of Regents, the board’s newly-elected Chancellor and Vice Chancellor will hold a press conference with the State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.</p> <p dir="ltr">At noon Monday, a coalition of over 90 HIV/AIDS advocates will launch a statewide Week of Action on the steps of City Hall, calling upon Governor Cuomo to invest $70 million in a plan to end AIDS in the 2016 New York State budget.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">At the City Council</a> on Monday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 9:30 a.m., the Committee on Health will hold a hearing on a bill to prohibit the use of smokeless tobacco products at sports arenas and recreational areas that require tickets.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m., the Committee on Health will meet for a preliminary budget hearing.</li> <li dir="ltr">At noon, the Committee on Consumer Affairs will meet for a preliminary budget hearing.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m., the Committee on Youth Services will discuss a bill requiring the establishment of a training coordinator to teach certain agency staff throughout departments such as Parks and Recreation, Homeless Services, and Human Resources Administration/Social Services how to identify runaway, homeless or sexually exploited youth and how to connect them with appropriate services. The committee will also discuss several technical changes relating to an annual report produced by the Administration for Children’s Services and the Department of Youth and Community Development on the number of sexually exploited youth each agency has come into contact with over the course of the calendar year.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m., the Committee on Public Safety will meet for a preliminary budget hearing.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1:30 p.m., the Committee on Higher Education will meet to discuss a resolution to increase State funding to CUNY, and to reach a fair labor agreement with the University’s faculty and staff in the 2016-17 NYS Executive Budget.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 3 p.m., the Committee on Civil Rights will examine a bill to broaden or incorporate a right to truthful information for a variety of activities covered by the New York City Human Rights Law, including lending, employment, and access to public accommodations and others.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">At 2 p.m. Monday,&nbsp;"First Lady McCray will deliver opening remarks at a panel at Fountain House, an organization dedicated to supporting those living with serious mental illness."</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6 p.m. Monday, the LGBT Task Force of Manhattan Community Boards 9, 10, 11, and 12 will host an <a href="https://twitter.com/galeabrewer/status/709089409115631617" target="_blank">LGBT Resource Fair</a> featuring New York City Agencies. The event is sponsored by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6:10 p.m. Monday evening,&nbsp;"Mayor Bill de Blasio will discuss affordable housing with an anticipated 10,000+ AARP members from New York City on an interactive call that allows participants to ask questions," according to AARP-NY.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday at 6:30 p.m., schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will&nbsp;attend a town hall meeting of District 16's Community Education Council at MS 267 in Brooklyn.</p> <p><strong>Tuesday<br /></strong>Both houses of the New York State Legislature are in session on Tuesday in Albany.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Crain’s New York Business will host an <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#utm_medium=email&amp;utm_source=cnyb-events&amp;utm_campaign=cnyb-events-20160218" target="_blank">event</a> on how startup businesses take off in New York City, featuring: Gregg Bishop, Commissioner, NYC Department of Small Business Services; Howard Lerman, Co-Founder &amp; CEO, Yext; Rachel Shechtman,, Founder and CEO, STORY; Adam Shwartz, Director, Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech; and moderated by Matthew Flamm, Senior Reporter, Crain's New York Business.<br /><br />At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, the YWCA of New York City will host “its third breakfast <a href="https://www.ywcanyc.org/events/new-york-city-women-leaders-the-power-of-influence-and-purpose/" target="_blank">panel</a> for Women’s History Month “New York City Women Leaders: The Power of Influence and Purpose.” The panel will include Maya Wiley, counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio; City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley; and Carmelyn Malalis, commissioner of the city’s Human Rights Commission; among others.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the Commission on Public Information and Communication will meet to <a href="http://pubadvocate.nyc.gov/news/events/copic-meeting-1" target="_blank">discuss</a> the implementation of the webcasting law and the establishment of a central portal for webcasts.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the City Council on Tuesday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 9 a.m., the Committee on State and Federal Legislation will meet to press for authorization that Christopher Park in Manhattan is discontinued as city parkland.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m., the Committee on Finance will meet to approve new designations for certain organizations to receive funding in the expense budget; to communicate the transfer of City funds between various agencies in FY ‘16 in the expense budget; and to communicate the appropriation of new revenues of $982 million in FY ‘16.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1:30 p.m., the City Council will hold a full-body Stated Meeting. The highlight of the hearing will be the Council’s votes on the MIH and ZQA zoning text amendments.</li> <li dir="ltr">Before the Stated, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will host a pre-Stated press conference at 12:30.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">Also prior to the Stated Meeting, at noon, City Council Members Costa Constantinides and Ydanis Rodriguez will host a press conference on the steps of City Hall to rally before introducing a bill to create a pilot program for electric vehicle charging stations on street parking. The program hopes to encourage the use of electric cars and reduce carbon emissions citywide.</p> <p><strong>Wednesday<br /></strong>Both houses of the New York State Legislature are in session on Wednesday in Albany.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the City Council on Wednesday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m., the Subcommittee on Libraries will meet jointly with the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations for a preliminary budget hearing on libraries.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 11 a.m., the Committee on Contracts will meet for a preliminary budget hearing.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m., the Committee on Courts and Legal Services will meet for a preliminary budget hearing.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">At 5 p.m. Wednesday, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCCD8/status/709758093421387777" target="_blank">will host</a> a Women’s History Month celebration at Mott Haven Library.</p> <p><strong>Thursday<br /></strong>At 8 a.m. Thursday, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce will <a href="http://www.manhattancc.org/MCC_Events/MCC_Chairmans_Breakfast_Series.aspx" target="_blank">host</a> a breakfast event focused on combating the rising tide of cybercrime and featuring Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.</p> <p><strong>Friday and the weekend<br /></strong>At 1:30 p.m. Friday in Albany, a <a href="http://www.rockinst.org/forumsandevents/upcoming/default.aspx#Constitutional_Convention_Strengthen_Ethics" target="_blank">forum</a>, “Can a NYS Constitutional Convention Strengthen Government Ethics?” The event, hosted by The Rockefeller Institute, will feature discussion about whether issues of integrity in government can be fixed statutorily, or if would be better resolved through constitutional change. Speaking will be former NYS Comptroller H. Carl McCall; and Columbia Law School Professor Richard Briffault, who is also a former assistant counsel to Governor Hugh Carey; as well as a panel of experts.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Saturday, March 26, Participatory Budget voting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/home.shtml" target="_blank">begins</a> in New York City Council districts running the program. In Participatory Budgeting, Council Members ask New York City residents “to decide how to invest public funds in their neighborhoods.” Voting will take place throughout the nearly 30 participating districts through April 3.</p> <p>***<br />Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>&nbsp;(please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).</p> <p>***<br />by Kelly Fan and Ben Max<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> Sides Near Deal on Major Zoning Changes Aimed at Creating Affordable Housing 2016-03-14T14:41:40+00:00 2016-03-14T14:41:40+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6222:sides-near-a-deal-on-major-zoning-changes-aimed-at-creating-affordable-housing Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/de_blasio_rally.jpg" alt="de blasio rally" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">De Blasio rallies for his housing plans (photo: Demetrius Freeman, Mayor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>After months of public discussion and weeks of private negotiation, the City Council is on the verge of passing, with tweaks, two sweeping changes to the city's land use rules that are key to Mayor Bill de Blasio's housing plan.</p> <p>Sources familiar with negotiations say that some details are still being worked through, but that the major tenets of the controversial changes to city zoning text are all but set. A deal may be announced as early as Monday afternoon.</p> <p>With several alterations to the original proposals by the de Blasio administration, the Council is likely to vote Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) through committee this week. Then, the City Planning Commission will be asked to sign off on the changes to the plans that it passed earlier this year, stamping them as "within scope" and sending them back to the Council for a full vote on March 22.</p> <p>Council votes in the zoning subcommittee and land use committee are likely to take place on Wednesday, though they could be moved if deemed necessary. But, indications are that discussions between de Blasio administration and City Council representatives are close to finalized. In news that signaled the end of what has at times been a contentious process, the de Blasio administration announced on Sunday that the coalition making the most noise in opposition to the structure of the plans had come around in support given new developments.</p> <p>Most importantly, de Blasio will see his Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program enacted; the plan requires that real estate developers who receive an upzoning on a plot of land in order to build more housing than otherwise allowed will have to include a set percentage of units under specific rent thresholds. Negotiating parties are making slight but important changes to the structure of affordability levels within MIH, including set-asides for lower income earners than the plan had previously included.</p> <p>With a series of recent endorsements and now the backing of Real Affordability for All (RAFA), a collection of community groups and construction unions, along with prior support from a variety of advocacy groups and other unions, de Blasio is set for a big-tent win. The City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Council members will also tout the new land use policies as major progress for the city, especially those in danger of being priced out of an increasingly expensive New York. Council negotiations with the de Blasio administration have <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6178-richards-puts-communities-of-color-at-forefront-of-housing-debate" target="_blank">centered on affordability levels</a>, with the Council apparently able to move the needle in slight, but significant ways.</p> <p>The two zoning changes are part of the administration's larger housing plan, which aims to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over ten years. Forty-thousand were secured during de Blasio's first two years in office.</p> <p>"We're on the verge of implementing the strongest, most progressive requirement for affordable housing of any city in the country," said de Blasio spokesperson Wiley Norvell in a Sunday statement announcing the backing of RAFA. "We welcome this support, and look forward to working with communities across the city to identify even more tools to reach New Yorkers with quality jobs and affordable housing."</p> <p>The backing from RAFA, which is spearheaded by New York Communities for Change, an organization at one point led by a longtime friend of de Blasio, Jon Kest, who passed away in 2012, comes after concessions by the administration. Not only has RAFA seen encouraging movement on affordability levels within MIH, but the administration also promised to conduct a study of tools it can use to deepen affordability and ensure "job standards in new housing." The coalition, especially its labor component, has been calling for both local hiring and construction safety precautions to be included in the plans.</p> <p>The affordability levels within MIH have been the source of perhaps the most debate as the zoning amendments have gone through the public review process. Along with Mark-Viverito and Council staff, Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the Council's zoning subcommittee, has been key in the negotiations. Council Member Jumaane Williams, chair of the housing committee, has been said to be the loudest voice pushing for deeper levels of affordability. It appears that in the final MIH structure, shifts will have been made to ensure some apartments for lower income earners and broader economic diversity within new developments.</p> <p>Income levels are based on Area Median Income, currently $77,688 for a family of three. AMI is a federal measure that for New York City also includes data from surrounding suburban counties. Average incomes in the city are significantly lower, especially in neighborhoods the de Blasio administration is targeting for added housing density and community improvements. "Affordable" means that a family would not be spending more than 30 percent of its income on rent.</p> <p>Throughout the public review process, fears of gentrification have been at the forefront. De Blasio, his representatives, and his allies argue that without a new program from the city, gentrification will continue largely unabated as it has in many communities over the past two decades. Some advocates and politicians have been calling for a mandatory inclusionary housing program for many years. As de Blasio moved forward with his plan, the big question became the exact numbers.</p> <p>As proposed, the administration included three options for builders creating new housing on land rezoned under MIH:<br />&gt; 25 percent of new units affordable to tenants making an average of 60 percent AMI<br />&gt; 30 percent of units affordable to tenants making an average of 80 percent AMI<br />&gt; 30 percent of units affordable to tenants making an average of 120 percent AMI - this third option would not come with added city subsidies; would not be available in most of Manhattan in an effort to create more economic diversity; and is often known as "the workforce" option, meaning that it is targeted more at middle-class households.</p> <p>Negotiations appear to be yielding a couple of changes to that structure. One change is that instead of simply requiring rents for the affordable units to average 60 or 80 or 120 percent of AMI, there would be clear set-asides for some percentage of units to be affordable for those earning down to 30 percent of AMI. Another change would add a fourth option that gets at deeper affordability, possibly accompanied by a smaller percentage of affordable units, again in an effort to make some new apartments available to tenants with lower incomes. Two sources close to negotiations confirmed the outline of these changes to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>City Council members indicated they were looking for these types of tweaks during a February hearing on MIH, as did Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the zoning subcommittee and one of the Council's lead negotiators on the subject, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6178-richards-puts-communities-of-color-at-forefront-of-housing-debate" target="_blank">in an interview with Gotham Gazette</a>. Details of the changes as part of negotiations were <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2016/03/8592488/city-hall-steps-efforts-win-council-support-housing-plan" target="_blank">first reported by Politico New York</a> earlier this month.</p> <p>Mark-Viverito, the Council speaker, has, like many of her members, been a supporter of the plans from the start, but also interested in making changes, especially to affordability thresholds. Council Member Williams said he knows Mark-Viverito and Council Member Richards have been negotiating those numbers.</p> <p>"The speaker and Donovan Richards are in there trying to push what many of us are asking for," Williams said in an interview on Friday. "All of New York has to see itself in this plan. If it doesn't, we haven't achieved what we need to achieve."</p> <p>Williams referenced the push for a fourth option under MIH and the carving out of a certain percentage of units for those making the most modest incomes. "We want to make sure that there aren't parts of this city that are built with no deeply affordable units," he said. "There shouldn't be a project where some of the units aren't of the deepest affordability - 30 percent or below of AMI must be considered."</p> <p>Meanwhile, it is still unclear if there will be modifications around other key points of contention, such as the building of affordable units "off site," as in at a different location than new market-rate units. Council members have expressed interest in disincentivizing the practice within the MIH language, perhaps by including language requiring more affordable units if they are built away from the market-rate units.</p> <p>As for ZQA, which deals with a wide variety of more specific zoning rules, the parties appear to be coming to compromises around modifications to parking requirements that come with senior affordable housing and the distances in so-called transit zones. Details of the ZQA deal are said to be among those still being discussed as City Council members often have neighborhood-level concerns, especially around building heights, parking, senior housing, and retail space.</p> <p>Much of the discussion around ZQA has related to the ways in which it will help create more affordable housing for seniors. AARP and other advocacy groups have backed the plan, with AARP-NY dedicating significant resources in support, rallying with the mayor, and lobbying Council members.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Council Member Richards told Gotham Gazette that negotiations have yielded a deal on the minimum size of new affordable housing units for seniors, one point of contention in early negotiations. The de Blasio plan had put the minimum at 275 square feet, which Richards and others called too small, pushing for 400. The sides have agreed on 325 square feet.</p> <p>The sides are said to be negotiating specific numbers around the number of parking spots that must accompany new senior housing and which areas of the city would still require special permits to build nursing homes, among other finer points. Politico New York <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2016/03/8593193/changes-sliver-law-nixed-zoning-negotiations-sources-say" target="_blank">has reported</a> on already-decided changes to ZQA.</p> <p>When a deal on MIH and ZQA is finalized, de Blasio and City Council members are likely to celebrate, these types of changes to city zoning rules do not happen often, and the mandate for affordable housing in any upzoned development is indeed a major win.</p> <p>How prior critics of the plans, including many local community boards who voted against their initial construction, will react is unclear. While some have seen and will continue to see merit in the plans, fears of new real estate development, added density, and rising rents are very real and unlikely to abate. The de Blasio administration is also moving forward with a series of neighborhood rezonings, starting with East New York, Brooklyn, but soon moving to communities in each borough.</p> <p>De Blasio is staking his legacy largely on his attempts to make the city more affordable and his housing policies will be a key piece of his 2017 reelection bid.</p> <p>In endorsing the mayor's plans, the New York Times editorial board recently captured the moment, <a href="http://nyti.ms/1UmIPFp" target="_blank">writing</a>, "This grand plan is a hugely important gamble that the city can build its way to greater housing equality, that it can ignite growth, improve neighborhoods, tame gentrification and protect tenants, all at once. That New York can still be a mixed-income city."<br /><br />Passing MIH and ZQA doesn't provide the result to that gamble, it pushes more chips on the table.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/de_blasio_rally.jpg" alt="de blasio rally" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">De Blasio rallies for his housing plans (photo: Demetrius Freeman, Mayor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>After months of public discussion and weeks of private negotiation, the City Council is on the verge of passing, with tweaks, two sweeping changes to the city's land use rules that are key to Mayor Bill de Blasio's housing plan.</p> <p>Sources familiar with negotiations say that some details are still being worked through, but that the major tenets of the controversial changes to city zoning text are all but set. A deal may be announced as early as Monday afternoon.</p> <p>With several alterations to the original proposals by the de Blasio administration, the Council is likely to vote Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) through committee this week. Then, the City Planning Commission will be asked to sign off on the changes to the plans that it passed earlier this year, stamping them as "within scope" and sending them back to the Council for a full vote on March 22.</p> <p>Council votes in the zoning subcommittee and land use committee are likely to take place on Wednesday, though they could be moved if deemed necessary. But, indications are that discussions between de Blasio administration and City Council representatives are close to finalized. In news that signaled the end of what has at times been a contentious process, the de Blasio administration announced on Sunday that the coalition making the most noise in opposition to the structure of the plans had come around in support given new developments.</p> <p>Most importantly, de Blasio will see his Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program enacted; the plan requires that real estate developers who receive an upzoning on a plot of land in order to build more housing than otherwise allowed will have to include a set percentage of units under specific rent thresholds. Negotiating parties are making slight but important changes to the structure of affordability levels within MIH, including set-asides for lower income earners than the plan had previously included.</p> <p>With a series of recent endorsements and now the backing of Real Affordability for All (RAFA), a collection of community groups and construction unions, along with prior support from a variety of advocacy groups and other unions, de Blasio is set for a big-tent win. The City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Council members will also tout the new land use policies as major progress for the city, especially those in danger of being priced out of an increasingly expensive New York. Council negotiations with the de Blasio administration have <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6178-richards-puts-communities-of-color-at-forefront-of-housing-debate" target="_blank">centered on affordability levels</a>, with the Council apparently able to move the needle in slight, but significant ways.</p> <p>The two zoning changes are part of the administration's larger housing plan, which aims to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over ten years. Forty-thousand were secured during de Blasio's first two years in office.</p> <p>"We're on the verge of implementing the strongest, most progressive requirement for affordable housing of any city in the country," said de Blasio spokesperson Wiley Norvell in a Sunday statement announcing the backing of RAFA. "We welcome this support, and look forward to working with communities across the city to identify even more tools to reach New Yorkers with quality jobs and affordable housing."</p> <p>The backing from RAFA, which is spearheaded by New York Communities for Change, an organization at one point led by a longtime friend of de Blasio, Jon Kest, who passed away in 2012, comes after concessions by the administration. Not only has RAFA seen encouraging movement on affordability levels within MIH, but the administration also promised to conduct a study of tools it can use to deepen affordability and ensure "job standards in new housing." The coalition, especially its labor component, has been calling for both local hiring and construction safety precautions to be included in the plans.</p> <p>The affordability levels within MIH have been the source of perhaps the most debate as the zoning amendments have gone through the public review process. Along with Mark-Viverito and Council staff, Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the Council's zoning subcommittee, has been key in the negotiations. Council Member Jumaane Williams, chair of the housing committee, has been said to be the loudest voice pushing for deeper levels of affordability. It appears that in the final MIH structure, shifts will have been made to ensure some apartments for lower income earners and broader economic diversity within new developments.</p> <p>Income levels are based on Area Median Income, currently $77,688 for a family of three. AMI is a federal measure that for New York City also includes data from surrounding suburban counties. Average incomes in the city are significantly lower, especially in neighborhoods the de Blasio administration is targeting for added housing density and community improvements. "Affordable" means that a family would not be spending more than 30 percent of its income on rent.</p> <p>Throughout the public review process, fears of gentrification have been at the forefront. De Blasio, his representatives, and his allies argue that without a new program from the city, gentrification will continue largely unabated as it has in many communities over the past two decades. Some advocates and politicians have been calling for a mandatory inclusionary housing program for many years. As de Blasio moved forward with his plan, the big question became the exact numbers.</p> <p>As proposed, the administration included three options for builders creating new housing on land rezoned under MIH:<br />&gt; 25 percent of new units affordable to tenants making an average of 60 percent AMI<br />&gt; 30 percent of units affordable to tenants making an average of 80 percent AMI<br />&gt; 30 percent of units affordable to tenants making an average of 120 percent AMI - this third option would not come with added city subsidies; would not be available in most of Manhattan in an effort to create more economic diversity; and is often known as "the workforce" option, meaning that it is targeted more at middle-class households.</p> <p>Negotiations appear to be yielding a couple of changes to that structure. One change is that instead of simply requiring rents for the affordable units to average 60 or 80 or 120 percent of AMI, there would be clear set-asides for some percentage of units to be affordable for those earning down to 30 percent of AMI. Another change would add a fourth option that gets at deeper affordability, possibly accompanied by a smaller percentage of affordable units, again in an effort to make some new apartments available to tenants with lower incomes. Two sources close to negotiations confirmed the outline of these changes to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>City Council members indicated they were looking for these types of tweaks during a February hearing on MIH, as did Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the zoning subcommittee and one of the Council's lead negotiators on the subject, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6178-richards-puts-communities-of-color-at-forefront-of-housing-debate" target="_blank">in an interview with Gotham Gazette</a>. Details of the changes as part of negotiations were <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2016/03/8592488/city-hall-steps-efforts-win-council-support-housing-plan" target="_blank">first reported by Politico New York</a> earlier this month.</p> <p>Mark-Viverito, the Council speaker, has, like many of her members, been a supporter of the plans from the start, but also interested in making changes, especially to affordability thresholds. Council Member Williams said he knows Mark-Viverito and Council Member Richards have been negotiating those numbers.</p> <p>"The speaker and Donovan Richards are in there trying to push what many of us are asking for," Williams said in an interview on Friday. "All of New York has to see itself in this plan. If it doesn't, we haven't achieved what we need to achieve."</p> <p>Williams referenced the push for a fourth option under MIH and the carving out of a certain percentage of units for those making the most modest incomes. "We want to make sure that there aren't parts of this city that are built with no deeply affordable units," he said. "There shouldn't be a project where some of the units aren't of the deepest affordability - 30 percent or below of AMI must be considered."</p> <p>Meanwhile, it is still unclear if there will be modifications around other key points of contention, such as the building of affordable units "off site," as in at a different location than new market-rate units. Council members have expressed interest in disincentivizing the practice within the MIH language, perhaps by including language requiring more affordable units if they are built away from the market-rate units.</p> <p>As for ZQA, which deals with a wide variety of more specific zoning rules, the parties appear to be coming to compromises around modifications to parking requirements that come with senior affordable housing and the distances in so-called transit zones. Details of the ZQA deal are said to be among those still being discussed as City Council members often have neighborhood-level concerns, especially around building heights, parking, senior housing, and retail space.</p> <p>Much of the discussion around ZQA has related to the ways in which it will help create more affordable housing for seniors. AARP and other advocacy groups have backed the plan, with AARP-NY dedicating significant resources in support, rallying with the mayor, and lobbying Council members.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Council Member Richards told Gotham Gazette that negotiations have yielded a deal on the minimum size of new affordable housing units for seniors, one point of contention in early negotiations. The de Blasio plan had put the minimum at 275 square feet, which Richards and others called too small, pushing for 400. The sides have agreed on 325 square feet.</p> <p>The sides are said to be negotiating specific numbers around the number of parking spots that must accompany new senior housing and which areas of the city would still require special permits to build nursing homes, among other finer points. Politico New York <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2016/03/8593193/changes-sliver-law-nixed-zoning-negotiations-sources-say" target="_blank">has reported</a> on already-decided changes to ZQA.</p> <p>When a deal on MIH and ZQA is finalized, de Blasio and City Council members are likely to celebrate, these types of changes to city zoning rules do not happen often, and the mandate for affordable housing in any upzoned development is indeed a major win.</p> <p>How prior critics of the plans, including many local community boards who voted against their initial construction, will react is unclear. While some have seen and will continue to see merit in the plans, fears of new real estate development, added density, and rising rents are very real and unlikely to abate. The de Blasio administration is also moving forward with a series of neighborhood rezonings, starting with East New York, Brooklyn, but soon moving to communities in each borough.</p> <p>De Blasio is staking his legacy largely on his attempts to make the city more affordable and his housing policies will be a key piece of his 2017 reelection bid.</p> <p>In endorsing the mayor's plans, the New York Times editorial board recently captured the moment, <a href="http://nyti.ms/1UmIPFp" target="_blank">writing</a>, "This grand plan is a hugely important gamble that the city can build its way to greater housing equality, that it can ignite growth, improve neighborhoods, tame gentrification and protect tenants, all at once. That New York can still be a mixed-income city."<br /><br />Passing MIH and ZQA doesn't provide the result to that gamble, it pushes more chips on the table.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
A Closer Look at De Blasio's Neighborhood Rezoning Plans 2016-02-26T05:00:00+00:00 2016-02-26T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6191:a-closer-look-at-de-blasios-neighborhood-rezoning-plans Carmen Russo <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/19697792695_7130d2aa2d_z.jpg" alt="worker background de blasio" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><em>See interactive map below</em></strong></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio's housing plan is moving forward on a few levels. There are the citywide zoning proposals&nbsp;(Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability) being considered by the City Council in February and March. If passed, these will change the zoning rules for the entire city, including a first-time requirement that whenever a developer receives an upzoning for a plot of land to build housing, a set percentage of affordable units will be required as part of the project. The Council is considering its tweaks to the plan before its late-March vote.</p> <p>Then, there are the individual site projects that the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) always has underway. These projects are the often-overlooked smaller efforts to build and preserve afforable housing, often through significant subsidies to landlords and nonprofit builders.</p> <p>In between are the neighborhood level plans, which the mayor has pitched as a way to comprehensively improve 15 areas of the city through rezoning for more density and new infrastructure and amenities. These neighborhood rezoning plans are detailed, often block-by-block programs to create housing and improve communities. They include plans for new housing development, but also schools, parks, and other community features. With these and the citywide changes, some fear gentrification and a lack of affordability, though the administration says that is not what will occur.</p> <p>Only eight of the 15 neighborhood areas are currently known, and in only one of those eight (East New York) has the city actually put forward a formal rezoning plan. But interesting ideas and conflicting proposals are emerging every week from the administration, community boards, local organizations, borough presidents and others. The City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, helped spearhead a planning process in East Harlem where an extensive community prorgram yielded a detailed plan that is the blueprint community stakeholders want the city to follow when it develops the East Harlem rezoning plan.</p> <p>Other communities to be rezoned include part of Flushing, Queens, the Bay Street Corridor on Staten Island, part of Jerome Ave. in the Bronx, and others.</p> <p>Below, we show the neighborhoods targeted for rezoning, with links to information from the city and any relevant coverage from Gotham Gazette and City Limits.</p> <p>Click on the purple pins to learn more about each plan. If you feel we're missing anything, please let us know: info@gothamgazette.com</p> <p><iframe width="600" height="700" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?q=select+col0+from+1nVqV-VWkMF3sQfs3XUCsYfqcB6bAUJz2bXQl_-GV&amp;viz=MAP&amp;h=false&amp;lat=40.66165203843602&amp;lng=-73.8455445810547&amp;t=1&amp;z=11&amp;l=col0&amp;y=2&amp;tmplt=2&amp;hml=ONE_COL_LAT_LNG"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/19697792695_7130d2aa2d_z.jpg" alt="worker background de blasio" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><em>See interactive map below</em></strong></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio's housing plan is moving forward on a few levels. There are the citywide zoning proposals&nbsp;(Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability) being considered by the City Council in February and March. If passed, these will change the zoning rules for the entire city, including a first-time requirement that whenever a developer receives an upzoning for a plot of land to build housing, a set percentage of affordable units will be required as part of the project. The Council is considering its tweaks to the plan before its late-March vote.</p> <p>Then, there are the individual site projects that the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) always has underway. These projects are the often-overlooked smaller efforts to build and preserve afforable housing, often through significant subsidies to landlords and nonprofit builders.</p> <p>In between are the neighborhood level plans, which the mayor has pitched as a way to comprehensively improve 15 areas of the city through rezoning for more density and new infrastructure and amenities. These neighborhood rezoning plans are detailed, often block-by-block programs to create housing and improve communities. They include plans for new housing development, but also schools, parks, and other community features. With these and the citywide changes, some fear gentrification and a lack of affordability, though the administration says that is not what will occur.</p> <p>Only eight of the 15 neighborhood areas are currently known, and in only one of those eight (East New York) has the city actually put forward a formal rezoning plan. But interesting ideas and conflicting proposals are emerging every week from the administration, community boards, local organizations, borough presidents and others. The City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, helped spearhead a planning process in East Harlem where an extensive community prorgram yielded a detailed plan that is the blueprint community stakeholders want the city to follow when it develops the East Harlem rezoning plan.</p> <p>Other communities to be rezoned include part of Flushing, Queens, the Bay Street Corridor on Staten Island, part of Jerome Ave. in the Bronx, and others.</p> <p>Below, we show the neighborhoods targeted for rezoning, with links to information from the city and any relevant coverage from Gotham Gazette and City Limits.</p> <p>Click on the purple pins to learn more about each plan. If you feel we're missing anything, please let us know: info@gothamgazette.com</p> <p><iframe width="600" height="700" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?q=select+col0+from+1nVqV-VWkMF3sQfs3XUCsYfqcB6bAUJz2bXQl_-GV&amp;viz=MAP&amp;h=false&amp;lat=40.66165203843602&amp;lng=-73.8455445810547&amp;t=1&amp;z=11&amp;l=col0&amp;y=2&amp;tmplt=2&amp;hml=ONE_COL_LAT_LNG"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Planning Commission Sends Mayor's Zoning Proposals to City Council 2016-02-03T23:14:46+00:00 2016-02-03T23:14:46+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6143:planning-commission-sends-mayors-zoning-proposals-to-city-council Carmen Russo <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/BdB_Weisbrod.jpg" alt="BdB Weisbrod" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Mayor de Blasio &amp; Planning Chair Carl Weisbrod (photo: The Mayor's Office)</span>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6137-city-planning-vote-will-send-zoning-proposals-to-city-council" target="_blank">As expected</a>, the City Planning Commission passed two major components of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/plans/city-wide.page" target="_blank">housing plan</a> on Wednesday morning, sending the amendments on to City Council for public hearings on Feb. 9 and 10.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) each passed with nine commissioners in favor, three opposed, and one abstaining. The plans, which need City Council approval, aim to change the city’s land use rules in order to spur more real estate development, but in a way that encourages new affordable housing units and improved neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Commission addressed a standing room-only meeting hall and overflow annex packed with a large turnout of members from both the Hotel Trades Council and New York chapter of the AARP. Each group publicly endorsed Mayor de Blasio’s housing plan in December, citing positive implications for hotel workers and seniors, respectively.</p> <p dir="ltr">Planning Commission Chair Carl Weisbrod, who is appointed by the Mayor, roundly praised the amendments before the MIH vote, saying that the changes would “bring affordable housing to neighborhoods where it otherwise wouldn’t be built.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Responding to oft-repeated criticism that the plans are too broad-strokes for community improvement, Weisbrod emphasized that the plan was not intended as a “one-size-fits-all” approach. He reminded attendees that the two amendments were meant to create a “floor, not a ceiling” for housing affordability in New York, pointing to subsidies from Housing Preservation and Development and other funding programs that would round out the mayor’s 10-year plan to create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">Other Commission members weren’t as optimistic. Commissioner Rayann Besser, appointed by Staten Island Borough President, and Commissioner Orlando Marin from the Bronx both voted against the MIH amendment with no comment, while Queens-based Commissioner Irwin Cantor voted against after asking that changes be made during City Council review.</p> <p dir="ltr">Commissioner Michelle de la Uz, appointed to the Planning Commission by then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and reappointed by now-Public Advocate Letitia James, insisted that MIH “doesn’t do enough to guarantee that the lowest-income families can obtain housing.” De la Uz abstained.</p> <p dir="ltr">De la Uz’s critique of MIH, which requires affordable housing as part of new developments obtaining a rezoning, is a frequent one cited by critics of the plan. As Weisbrod did, supporters of MIH say that the city has other tools to create affordable housing for those at the lowest ends of the income spectrum.</p> <p dir="ltr">The MIH amendment passed City Planning with a few changes, including improvements to the Board of Standards and Appeals special permits provisions of the program meant to enhance the city’s Housing and Preservation Department’s role in reviewing hardship applications from developers, and some textual clarifications.</p> <p dir="ltr">The ZQA vote proceeded in much the same fashion, preceded by Commissioner Weisbrod’s statement that the ZQA amendment is a “modest but essential update” to current regulations that will allow for easier construction of more affordable and transit-accessible housing for low-income residents and seniors, as well as encourage more progressive urban design and ground-floor use of residential buildings.</p> <p dir="ltr">Commissioner Besser again voted no, citing Staten Island Borough President James Oddo’s concern about “too many unanswered questions” regarding the effects ZQA would have on neighborhood character. Commissioner Marin also voted no, without comment. Commissioner Cantor praised the “tireless” efforts of City Planning before voting against. Commissioner de la Uz again abstained from the vote.</p> <p dir="ltr">ZQA passed with changes requiring a CPC special permit for long-term care facilities in low-density residential districts, and specification around ground-floor usage for those facilities.</p> <p dir="ltr">City Planning moved the two zoning text amendments through to the City Council despite the fact that they had received near-universal disapproval from local community boards, which had reviewed the proposals previously.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Council will hold public hearings scheduled for Feb. 9 (MIH) and 10 (ZQA), at which the Council’s zoning subcommittee, chaired by Council Member Donovan Richards, will hear testimony from city government representatives, housing organizations, residents, and others. After that, the City Council will deliberate and may approve, modify, or disapprove the amendments. It is all but certain that the Council will seek modifications to the plans, especially ZQA.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to city land use modification rules, any changes to MIH and ZQA must be “within scope” of what is passed by the CPC and approved as such by the CPC. The City Council’s website <a href="http://labs.council.nyc/land-use/mih-zqa/" target="_blank">defines changes “within scope”</a> as alterations that “must be on the same topic and within the boundaries of what has been studied in the <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/env_review/zoning-quality.shtml" target="_blank">Environmental Impact Statement</a>.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Responding to discussion on Twitter of the City Council’s power to modify the amendments, Council Member David Greenfield, who chairs the land use committee <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCGreenfield/status/694934256108331008" target="_blank">wrote</a>, “Suffice to say we can make significant changes on our own.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Whatever versions of MIH and ZQA are produced by the Council will be voted on by the subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, followed by the Committee on Land Use, and finally by the entire City Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">While Wednesday’s Planning Commission majority vote lends a certain momentum to the changes being sought by Mayor de Blasio, advocacy groups continue to push back against both MIH and ZQA.</p> <p dir="ltr">Community groups say that MIH does not address deeper affordability for New York’s lowest-income residents. New York Communities for Change issued a statement after the Planning Commission meeting, criticizing the commission’s decision. “Today the City Planning Commission sided with some of New York’s wealthiest developers to sell out our neighborhoods for a meager percentage of ‘affordable' units,” it reads. The statement specifically mentioned fast-food and homecare workers as being “left out of the city’s housing plans for decades.”</p> <p dir="ltr">A cadre of preservation groups also spoke out vehemently against the CPC decision. Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said in a statement, “By far the majority of our city’s communities and residents have spoken out against this plan. We call on the City Council to listen to the people and communities that elected them and to ensure this wrongheaded plan is stopped. Berman’s criticism was echoed in a press release by representatives from the Historic Districts Council, New York Landmarks Conservancy, Landmark West, and Friends of the Upper East Side Historic District.</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite the pushback, Mayor de Blasio has expressed confidence that MIH and ZQA will be looked upon favorably by City Council members. The City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, has indicated her support for the proposals, though she has said she expects changes to be made before the Council votes them through - something repeated by several members, including Greenfield and Richards.</p> <p dir="ltr">Discussing his plans recently in Albany, de Blasio said, “[W]hat we found in the previous approach was that there were not particularly stringent demands put on developers in terms of affordable housing and some of the plans that were agreed to with communities were not honored, so that has bred a lot of cynicism.” But, de Blasio added, “I have a very different approach."</p> <p dir="ltr">

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by Maggie Calmes, Gotham Gazette
     

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<a dir="ltr" href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank"></a></p>
<p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/BdB_Weisbrod.jpg" alt="BdB Weisbrod" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Mayor de Blasio &amp; Planning Chair Carl Weisbrod (photo: The Mayor's Office)</span>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6137-city-planning-vote-will-send-zoning-proposals-to-city-council" target="_blank">As expected</a>, the City Planning Commission passed two major components of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/plans/city-wide.page" target="_blank">housing plan</a> on Wednesday morning, sending the amendments on to City Council for public hearings on Feb. 9 and 10.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) each passed with nine commissioners in favor, three opposed, and one abstaining. The plans, which need City Council approval, aim to change the city’s land use rules in order to spur more real estate development, but in a way that encourages new affordable housing units and improved neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Commission addressed a standing room-only meeting hall and overflow annex packed with a large turnout of members from both the Hotel Trades Council and New York chapter of the AARP. Each group publicly endorsed Mayor de Blasio’s housing plan in December, citing positive implications for hotel workers and seniors, respectively.</p> <p dir="ltr">Planning Commission Chair Carl Weisbrod, who is appointed by the Mayor, roundly praised the amendments before the MIH vote, saying that the changes would “bring affordable housing to neighborhoods where it otherwise wouldn’t be built.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Responding to oft-repeated criticism that the plans are too broad-strokes for community improvement, Weisbrod emphasized that the plan was not intended as a “one-size-fits-all” approach. He reminded attendees that the two amendments were meant to create a “floor, not a ceiling” for housing affordability in New York, pointing to subsidies from Housing Preservation and Development and other funding programs that would round out the mayor’s 10-year plan to create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">Other Commission members weren’t as optimistic. Commissioner Rayann Besser, appointed by Staten Island Borough President, and Commissioner Orlando Marin from the Bronx both voted against the MIH amendment with no comment, while Queens-based Commissioner Irwin Cantor voted against after asking that changes be made during City Council review.</p> <p dir="ltr">Commissioner Michelle de la Uz, appointed to the Planning Commission by then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and reappointed by now-Public Advocate Letitia James, insisted that MIH “doesn’t do enough to guarantee that the lowest-income families can obtain housing.” De la Uz abstained.</p> <p dir="ltr">De la Uz’s critique of MIH, which requires affordable housing as part of new developments obtaining a rezoning, is a frequent one cited by critics of the plan. As Weisbrod did, supporters of MIH say that the city has other tools to create affordable housing for those at the lowest ends of the income spectrum.</p> <p dir="ltr">The MIH amendment passed City Planning with a few changes, including improvements to the Board of Standards and Appeals special permits provisions of the program meant to enhance the city’s Housing and Preservation Department’s role in reviewing hardship applications from developers, and some textual clarifications.</p> <p dir="ltr">The ZQA vote proceeded in much the same fashion, preceded by Commissioner Weisbrod’s statement that the ZQA amendment is a “modest but essential update” to current regulations that will allow for easier construction of more affordable and transit-accessible housing for low-income residents and seniors, as well as encourage more progressive urban design and ground-floor use of residential buildings.</p> <p dir="ltr">Commissioner Besser again voted no, citing Staten Island Borough President James Oddo’s concern about “too many unanswered questions” regarding the effects ZQA would have on neighborhood character. Commissioner Marin also voted no, without comment. Commissioner Cantor praised the “tireless” efforts of City Planning before voting against. Commissioner de la Uz again abstained from the vote.</p> <p dir="ltr">ZQA passed with changes requiring a CPC special permit for long-term care facilities in low-density residential districts, and specification around ground-floor usage for those facilities.</p> <p dir="ltr">City Planning moved the two zoning text amendments through to the City Council despite the fact that they had received near-universal disapproval from local community boards, which had reviewed the proposals previously.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Council will hold public hearings scheduled for Feb. 9 (MIH) and 10 (ZQA), at which the Council’s zoning subcommittee, chaired by Council Member Donovan Richards, will hear testimony from city government representatives, housing organizations, residents, and others. After that, the City Council will deliberate and may approve, modify, or disapprove the amendments. It is all but certain that the Council will seek modifications to the plans, especially ZQA.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to city land use modification rules, any changes to MIH and ZQA must be “within scope” of what is passed by the CPC and approved as such by the CPC. The City Council’s website <a href="http://labs.council.nyc/land-use/mih-zqa/" target="_blank">defines changes “within scope”</a> as alterations that “must be on the same topic and within the boundaries of what has been studied in the <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/env_review/zoning-quality.shtml" target="_blank">Environmental Impact Statement</a>.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Responding to discussion on Twitter of the City Council’s power to modify the amendments, Council Member David Greenfield, who chairs the land use committee <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCGreenfield/status/694934256108331008" target="_blank">wrote</a>, “Suffice to say we can make significant changes on our own.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Whatever versions of MIH and ZQA are produced by the Council will be voted on by the subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, followed by the Committee on Land Use, and finally by the entire City Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">While Wednesday’s Planning Commission majority vote lends a certain momentum to the changes being sought by Mayor de Blasio, advocacy groups continue to push back against both MIH and ZQA.</p> <p dir="ltr">Community groups say that MIH does not address deeper affordability for New York’s lowest-income residents. New York Communities for Change issued a statement after the Planning Commission meeting, criticizing the commission’s decision. “Today the City Planning Commission sided with some of New York’s wealthiest developers to sell out our neighborhoods for a meager percentage of ‘affordable' units,” it reads. The statement specifically mentioned fast-food and homecare workers as being “left out of the city’s housing plans for decades.”</p> <p dir="ltr">A cadre of preservation groups also spoke out vehemently against the CPC decision. Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said in a statement, “By far the majority of our city’s communities and residents have spoken out against this plan. We call on the City Council to listen to the people and communities that elected them and to ensure this wrongheaded plan is stopped. Berman’s criticism was echoed in a press release by representatives from the Historic Districts Council, New York Landmarks Conservancy, Landmark West, and Friends of the Upper East Side Historic District.</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite the pushback, Mayor de Blasio has expressed confidence that MIH and ZQA will be looked upon favorably by City Council members. The City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, has indicated her support for the proposals, though she has said she expects changes to be made before the Council votes them through - something repeated by several members, including Greenfield and Richards.</p> <p dir="ltr">Discussing his plans recently in Albany, de Blasio said, “[W]hat we found in the previous approach was that there were not particularly stringent demands put on developers in terms of affordable housing and some of the plans that were agreed to with communities were not honored, so that has bred a lot of cynicism.” But, de Blasio added, “I have a very different approach."</p> <p dir="ltr">

***
by Maggie Calmes, Gotham Gazette
     

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<a dir="ltr" href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank"></a></p>
Planning Commission Vote Will Send Zoning Proposals to City Council 2016-02-02T22:53:35+00:00 2016-02-02T22:53:35+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6137:city-planning-vote-will-send-zoning-proposals-to-city-council Carmen Russo <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/greenfield_city_hall.jpg" width="600" height="400" alt="greenfield city hall" /></p> <p>Council Member Greenfield leads a press conference (photo: William Alatriste)&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>The next ten days are an especially critical period for Mayor Bill de Blasio's housing plan. While negotiations around a new state-level program to incentivize affordable housing production continue and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised to soon flesh out general affordable housing plans he announced during his recent State of the State speech, city-level changes being sought by de Blasio are on the move.</p> <p><a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/about/commission-meetings.page" target="_blank">On Wednesday morning</a>, the City Planning Commission is expected to vote through two major changes to the city's zoning codes being proposed by de Blasio. These adjustments to city rules for how land can be used are meant to set the stage for what the administration says will be more responsible development than the city has seen in the past, increasing density in neighborhoods across the city through the creation of tens of thousands of units of housing - including market-rate and "affordable" units - and adding community benefits.</p> <p>Once passed by the Planning Commission, the proposals go to the City Council, which will hold two hearings on them next week.</p> <p>Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA), as <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/plans/city-wide.page" target="_blank">the two proposals</a> are known, have been highly scrutinized and received a mixed reaction, including a large dose of negative feedback from many local community boards and praise from some city planners and advocacy groups.</p> <p>Critics worry about gentrification, landmark preservation, over-development, loss of parking, and whether "affordable" units will be truly so for current residents of neighborhoods that will see major change. Supporters say the administration is taking a measured approach to development, insisting on affordable apartments from developers who benefit from rezonings, protecting tenants from predatory eviction, creating more affordable housing for seniors, and being mindful of community improvement as more housing is created.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration is quick to stress that the two zoning changes set a new baseline for development in the city, but that city government has several other tools that it will use to create affordable housing and improve communities through neighborhood-specific rezoning plans.</p> <p>While the City Planning Commission, which is chaired by de Blasio appointee Carl Weisbrod, is set to make some adjustments to the original proposals, they will move to the City Council largely as the de Blasio administration designed them. The Commission is looking at fairly minor changes such as lowering some of the new allowable building heights and the process by which a developer may become exempt from certain requirements.</p> <p>On Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, the Council is set to hold <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">its hearings</a> on MIH and ZQA. Council members have expressed concerns about the two plans, as have the Comptroller, Scott Stringer, and the Public Advocate, Letitia James. MIH appears to have significantly more overall support than ZQA - MIH is simpler, as it basically requires set amounts of affordable housing along with any development allowed through a rezoning. ZQA, on the other hand, is a complicated hodgepodge of changes to land use rules.</p> <p>The Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and other Council members are generally supportive of the proposals, especially MIH. The extent to which the Council seeks changes to MIH or ZQA is yet to be seen, but by the city's process for zoning amendments, the City Council cannot make major adjustments to the proposals sent through by City Planning, only more minor ones that fit "within scope," as judged by the Planning Commission.</p> <p>City Council Member David Greenfield is chair of the Council land use committee, a subcommittee of which will hold the hearings next week. "I think the hearings are going be very rigorous," Greenfield told Gotham Gazette during an interview last week after he had appeared on a panel discussion hosted by <a href="http://cityandstateny.com/" target="_blank">City &amp; State NY</a>.</p> <p>During the panel, Greenfield explained some of the issues with the administration's proposals: "[T]he city has rolled them both out at the same time and so things got a little bit confusing," he said. "They're really two independent plans. The Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program is very much focused on creating and actually mandating affordable housing in new development. And the Zoning for Quality and Affordability runs several hundred pages long and really varies on anything from building heights to reductions in parking to issues such as waivers for the development of senior centers. That's where it gets a little bit more controversial."</p> <p>"[W]e've heard the overwhelming number of community boards and borough boards and borough presidents who have concerns," Greenfield said. "Although, when you separate those concerns, you realize that much of those concerns were really about Zoning for Quality and Affordability."</p> <p>Echoing what Speaker Mark-Viverito, Council Member Donovan Richards, who chairs the zoning subcommittee, and other Council members have said, Greenfield said he doesn't expect to pass the zoning amendments "as is."</p> <p>"We expect that there will be significant changes at the very least and hopefully we come to a place where the Council can be supportive," Greenfield said. Richards recently <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6028-in-zoning-amendment-one-size-does-not-fit-all" target="_blank">wrote an op-ed column</a> explaining problems he sees with ZQA.</p> <p>Asked by Gotham Gazette whether the Council could move ahead on MIH and not ZQA, Greenfield said, "We have taken the feedback very seriously and our goal is to try to come to a place where folks are happy. If that's not possible, then we're going to look at plan B." He did not elaborate on what that could look like.</p> <p>One of the major questions around MIH is the levels of affordability it calls for - in essence, how many affordable units will be set aside at what rents. De Blasio's plan would set a precedent, infusing the "mandatory" aspect of affordable units into developments given rezonings and insisting on 25-30 percent of units at certain rent thresholds. But, some say that the plan does not include enough units at low enough rents. "In terms of housing, the big question is 'affordable to whom?,' City Council Member Jumaane Williams said at the City &amp; State panel. Williams said the plan is "not reaching the lowest of the income spectrum."</p> <p>The de Blasio administration doesn't disagree - representatives note that while MIH may not create units for those living in deep poverty, the city has other housing plans to create affordable housing for those New Yorkers. This is where proponents remind people that MIH and ZQA are not the totality of the administration's "Housing New York" plan, which includes a variety of programs and a ten-year goal of 200,000 units of affordable housing at a combination of affordability levels. Officials are quick to point to major affordable housing subsidies from the city's Housing and Preservation Department (HPD).</p> <p>As the zoning amendment conversation does indeed occur in a larger housing policy context, the movement on de Blasio's proposals comes with the backdrop of uncertainty in terms of a state-level program to incentivize affordable housing development in New York City.</p> <p>A long-standing program, called 421-a, recently expired. It offered major property tax breaks to real estate developers in exchange for the creation of affordable housing units. The program was riddled with flaws, though, and in negotiations to finalize a new version, an impasse was reached, leading to its expiration.</p> <p>The prolonged absence of 421-a, or something like it, could be <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">a big blow to de Blasio's affordable housing plans</a>. There are also some who say that Mandatory Inclusionary Housing should not move forward without a 421-a-like program. Including the New York City Bar Association, these analysts say that the tax abatement program is essential to the kind of rental housing development the city is counting on to leverage MIH into more units. De Blasio has <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">called on Albany lawmakers</a> to get back to work on a new 421-a program.</p> <p>Council Member Greenfield brought up the issue of 421-a in yet another way when discussing MIH moving forward. "[O]ne of the concerns that we have, especially now with the collapse of 421-a, is the off-site housing, which is that essentially MIH allows you to build affordable housing off-site," he said, referring to developers having flexibility to create market-rate units and affordable units at different locations.</p> <p>"So, as long as you had 421-a, those people who were utilizing 421-a, which we expected to be the majority of the folks, would be required under 421-a to do it on-site and now it's actually going to be a possibility where they can build affordable housing off-site," Greenfield said. "We don't want to create pockets of poverty."</p> <p>As have many of his colleagues, Greenfield also pointed to the income levels that affordable units will be reserved at. While there are some who say the affordability doesn't go deep enough, others say that there are not enough units dedicated to middle-income New Yorkers. "There's folks who want more flexibility on the bottom end," Greenfield said, "and there's folks who want more flexibility on the higher end."</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/greenfield_city_hall.jpg" width="600" height="400" alt="greenfield city hall" /></p> <p>Council Member Greenfield leads a press conference (photo: William Alatriste)&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>The next ten days are an especially critical period for Mayor Bill de Blasio's housing plan. While negotiations around a new state-level program to incentivize affordable housing production continue and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised to soon flesh out general affordable housing plans he announced during his recent State of the State speech, city-level changes being sought by de Blasio are on the move.</p> <p><a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/about/commission-meetings.page" target="_blank">On Wednesday morning</a>, the City Planning Commission is expected to vote through two major changes to the city's zoning codes being proposed by de Blasio. These adjustments to city rules for how land can be used are meant to set the stage for what the administration says will be more responsible development than the city has seen in the past, increasing density in neighborhoods across the city through the creation of tens of thousands of units of housing - including market-rate and "affordable" units - and adding community benefits.</p> <p>Once passed by the Planning Commission, the proposals go to the City Council, which will hold two hearings on them next week.</p> <p>Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA), as <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/plans/city-wide.page" target="_blank">the two proposals</a> are known, have been highly scrutinized and received a mixed reaction, including a large dose of negative feedback from many local community boards and praise from some city planners and advocacy groups.</p> <p>Critics worry about gentrification, landmark preservation, over-development, loss of parking, and whether "affordable" units will be truly so for current residents of neighborhoods that will see major change. Supporters say the administration is taking a measured approach to development, insisting on affordable apartments from developers who benefit from rezonings, protecting tenants from predatory eviction, creating more affordable housing for seniors, and being mindful of community improvement as more housing is created.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration is quick to stress that the two zoning changes set a new baseline for development in the city, but that city government has several other tools that it will use to create affordable housing and improve communities through neighborhood-specific rezoning plans.</p> <p>While the City Planning Commission, which is chaired by de Blasio appointee Carl Weisbrod, is set to make some adjustments to the original proposals, they will move to the City Council largely as the de Blasio administration designed them. The Commission is looking at fairly minor changes such as lowering some of the new allowable building heights and the process by which a developer may become exempt from certain requirements.</p> <p>On Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, the Council is set to hold <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">its hearings</a> on MIH and ZQA. Council members have expressed concerns about the two plans, as have the Comptroller, Scott Stringer, and the Public Advocate, Letitia James. MIH appears to have significantly more overall support than ZQA - MIH is simpler, as it basically requires set amounts of affordable housing along with any development allowed through a rezoning. ZQA, on the other hand, is a complicated hodgepodge of changes to land use rules.</p> <p>The Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and other Council members are generally supportive of the proposals, especially MIH. The extent to which the Council seeks changes to MIH or ZQA is yet to be seen, but by the city's process for zoning amendments, the City Council cannot make major adjustments to the proposals sent through by City Planning, only more minor ones that fit "within scope," as judged by the Planning Commission.</p> <p>City Council Member David Greenfield is chair of the Council land use committee, a subcommittee of which will hold the hearings next week. "I think the hearings are going be very rigorous," Greenfield told Gotham Gazette during an interview last week after he had appeared on a panel discussion hosted by <a href="http://cityandstateny.com/" target="_blank">City &amp; State NY</a>.</p> <p>During the panel, Greenfield explained some of the issues with the administration's proposals: "[T]he city has rolled them both out at the same time and so things got a little bit confusing," he said. "They're really two independent plans. The Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program is very much focused on creating and actually mandating affordable housing in new development. And the Zoning for Quality and Affordability runs several hundred pages long and really varies on anything from building heights to reductions in parking to issues such as waivers for the development of senior centers. That's where it gets a little bit more controversial."</p> <p>"[W]e've heard the overwhelming number of community boards and borough boards and borough presidents who have concerns," Greenfield said. "Although, when you separate those concerns, you realize that much of those concerns were really about Zoning for Quality and Affordability."</p> <p>Echoing what Speaker Mark-Viverito, Council Member Donovan Richards, who chairs the zoning subcommittee, and other Council members have said, Greenfield said he doesn't expect to pass the zoning amendments "as is."</p> <p>"We expect that there will be significant changes at the very least and hopefully we come to a place where the Council can be supportive," Greenfield said. Richards recently <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6028-in-zoning-amendment-one-size-does-not-fit-all" target="_blank">wrote an op-ed column</a> explaining problems he sees with ZQA.</p> <p>Asked by Gotham Gazette whether the Council could move ahead on MIH and not ZQA, Greenfield said, "We have taken the feedback very seriously and our goal is to try to come to a place where folks are happy. If that's not possible, then we're going to look at plan B." He did not elaborate on what that could look like.</p> <p>One of the major questions around MIH is the levels of affordability it calls for - in essence, how many affordable units will be set aside at what rents. De Blasio's plan would set a precedent, infusing the "mandatory" aspect of affordable units into developments given rezonings and insisting on 25-30 percent of units at certain rent thresholds. But, some say that the plan does not include enough units at low enough rents. "In terms of housing, the big question is 'affordable to whom?,' City Council Member Jumaane Williams said at the City &amp; State panel. Williams said the plan is "not reaching the lowest of the income spectrum."</p> <p>The de Blasio administration doesn't disagree - representatives note that while MIH may not create units for those living in deep poverty, the city has other housing plans to create affordable housing for those New Yorkers. This is where proponents remind people that MIH and ZQA are not the totality of the administration's "Housing New York" plan, which includes a variety of programs and a ten-year goal of 200,000 units of affordable housing at a combination of affordability levels. Officials are quick to point to major affordable housing subsidies from the city's Housing and Preservation Department (HPD).</p> <p>As the zoning amendment conversation does indeed occur in a larger housing policy context, the movement on de Blasio's proposals comes with the backdrop of uncertainty in terms of a state-level program to incentivize affordable housing development in New York City.</p> <p>A long-standing program, called 421-a, recently expired. It offered major property tax breaks to real estate developers in exchange for the creation of affordable housing units. The program was riddled with flaws, though, and in negotiations to finalize a new version, an impasse was reached, leading to its expiration.</p> <p>The prolonged absence of 421-a, or something like it, could be <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">a big blow to de Blasio's affordable housing plans</a>. There are also some who say that Mandatory Inclusionary Housing should not move forward without a 421-a-like program. Including the New York City Bar Association, these analysts say that the tax abatement program is essential to the kind of rental housing development the city is counting on to leverage MIH into more units. De Blasio has <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">called on Albany lawmakers</a> to get back to work on a new 421-a program.</p> <p>Council Member Greenfield brought up the issue of 421-a in yet another way when discussing MIH moving forward. "[O]ne of the concerns that we have, especially now with the collapse of 421-a, is the off-site housing, which is that essentially MIH allows you to build affordable housing off-site," he said, referring to developers having flexibility to create market-rate units and affordable units at different locations.</p> <p>"So, as long as you had 421-a, those people who were utilizing 421-a, which we expected to be the majority of the folks, would be required under 421-a to do it on-site and now it's actually going to be a possibility where they can build affordable housing off-site," Greenfield said. "We don't want to create pockets of poverty."</p> <p>As have many of his colleagues, Greenfield also pointed to the income levels that affordable units will be reserved at. While there are some who say the affordability doesn't go deep enough, others say that there are not enough units dedicated to middle-income New Yorkers. "There's folks who want more flexibility on the bottom end," Greenfield said, "and there's folks who want more flexibility on the higher end."</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Hope Knight to Join City Planning Commission at 'Exciting Time' 2015-12-15T23:40:35+00:00 2015-12-15T23:40:35+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6040:hope-knight-to-join-city-planning-commission-at-exciting-time Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/Hope-Knight-via-Rory-Lancman-on-Twitter1.jpg" alt="hope knight city planning" height="527" width="600" /></p> <p>Hope Knight (photo via @rorylancman)</p> <hr /> <p>"It's an exciting time to be joining the City Planning Commission," City Council Member Brad Lander said Tuesday to Hope Knight, a mayoral nominee to the commission at the nexus of controversial housing-related policy being pursued by the de Blasio administration.</p> <p>"It's a tough time to be joining," Knight said during her appearance in front of Lander's committee, which is tasked with vetting potential appointees to several commissions. Knight, who is all but sure to be approved Wednesday by the Rules, Elections, and Privileges Committee, then the full City Council, will fill a vacant seat on the 13-member City Planning Commission, which plays a key role in city land use decisions.</p> <p>The commission is about to hold a major public hearing on de Blasio's zoning plans, then make recommendations for changes before the plans go to the City Council for hearings and, likely, further tweaks before a vote. The plans, which are aimed at spurring more affordable housing development and improving neighborhoods, have received major pushback from local community boards, advocacy groups, and borough presidents. They have also received some support from labor unions, advocacy groups, and others.</p> <p>Acknowledging the intense circumstances, Knight said of land use planning, "the issue is so important to this city, it's critical to the future. There is this affordability crisis that we've got here. Our local land-use tools are available to us to help address this. And so, I hope that I am able to bring [my] community planning and economic development background and perspective to this position and this process, and be able to consider these issues in a very thoughtful way."</p> <p>Knight is currently the CEO and President of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, a position she will retain while creating the necessary "firewall" so that she does not deal with issues before the city, she said Tuesday. Knight explained that she has received guidance from the city Conflicts of Interest Board and will follow it. Previously, Knight was Chief Operating Officer of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone for about 12 years after several positions in finance.</p> <p>In her pre-hearing questionnaire, Knight wrote to the City Council that the City Planning Commission "must be sensitive to the needs of communities and establish many channels of communication."</p> <p>Knight also wrote that "The strategy of zoning changes to allow residential buildings with additional density, provided that affordable housing is included, is one of the few land use tools that the City has access to in order to greater leverage the development of more affordable housing units."</p> <p>While <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/about/plancom.shtml" target="_blank">the City Planning Commission</a> does much more than zoning amendments, that is the focus of the work right now.</p> <p>With Knight there to observe, the City Planning Commission will hold a much-anticipated <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/luproc/calbeg.shtml" target="_blank">public hearing Wednesday</a> on two proposals by Mayor Bill de Blasio that are essential pieces of his affordable housing plan. Both proposals are changes to the city's land use rules by way of zoning language and have been the source of a great deal of recent debate.</p> <p>Many community boards and all five borough boards have voted against de Blasio's Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning and Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposals. These votes are only advisory, though, and the future of the plans, known as MIH and ZQA, will come down to a City Council vote in early-to-mid 2016. Reasons for opposition and desired tweaks to the plans vary by borough and neighborhood, but some include thresholds for affordability, changes in parking requirements, and increased density or allowable building heights.</p> <p>Between the advice of the community and borough boards and the City Council getting its shot at tweaking the plans, the City Planning Commission will issue its recommended changes. These recommendations will be based, in part, on Wednesday's hearing, which is expected to be long and contentious.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Knight appeared to grasp what she is signing up for, discussing her long career in community planning and advocacy, as well as her outlook on land use decision-making. Lander and his fellow committee members were impressed by Knight's candidacy and appear ready to vote her through to the full Council for approval.</p> <p>Knight will join six other mayoral appointees on the City Planning Commission, as well as one appointee from each borough president, and one appointee by the public advocate. The commission is under the leadership of Chair Carl Weisbrod, who is also the commissioner of the city's Department of City Planning and serves at the discretion of the mayor. Other commission members serve alternating five-year terms. Knight will fill the seat vacated by Bomee Jung, who took a position within the de Blasio administration earlier this year, and will serve the rest of Jung's term, until June 30, 2018. She can be reappointed after that.</p> <p>According to the City Council, the City Charter says that members of the City Planning Commission "are to be chosen for their independence, integrity, and civic commitment."</p> <p>On Tuesday, Council members including Lander, Dan Garodnick, and Margaret Chin, praised Knight for her dedication to community planning and neighborhood advocacy. Council members also wanted to make sure that Knight would hear community feedback around land use policy. Council Member Steven Matteo asked Knight how much weight she puts on community concerns. "I would put tremendous weight on what the community has to say," Knight responded of her approach if she is indeed approved, adding that she has been "at the table" representing communities in land use negotiatons in the past.</p> <p>Repeatedly citing the city's "affordability crisis," Knight also explained that she understands fear of gentrification and that the city must be cognizant of an "aging population."</p> <p>Knight was not questioned about her independence from de Blasio, who nominated her to the commission after his appointments office identified her as a strong candidate.</p> <p>"[I]n order to create more affordable units," Knight said, "we have to look at various land-use tools to implement the possibility of creating units. So, I think that MIH, ZQA, they're all components of the mayor's...housing plan and will have to be more greatly considered to support the growth of new housing."</p> <p>During a Tuesday <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/housing-and-city-planning-officials-talk-mayors-rezoning-plan/" target="_blank">appearance</a> on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, de Blasio's planning chief, Weisbrod, said of Wednesday's City Planning Commission hearing and the zoning plans, "We expect to hear a lot of comments on all sides of this issue." The controversy around MIH and ZQA, he said, "Won't get fully resolved until the City Council decides this early next year."</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank">@tweetBenMax</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/Hope-Knight-via-Rory-Lancman-on-Twitter1.jpg" alt="hope knight city planning" height="527" width="600" /></p> <p>Hope Knight (photo via @rorylancman)</p> <hr /> <p>"It's an exciting time to be joining the City Planning Commission," City Council Member Brad Lander said Tuesday to Hope Knight, a mayoral nominee to the commission at the nexus of controversial housing-related policy being pursued by the de Blasio administration.</p> <p>"It's a tough time to be joining," Knight said during her appearance in front of Lander's committee, which is tasked with vetting potential appointees to several commissions. Knight, who is all but sure to be approved Wednesday by the Rules, Elections, and Privileges Committee, then the full City Council, will fill a vacant seat on the 13-member City Planning Commission, which plays a key role in city land use decisions.</p> <p>The commission is about to hold a major public hearing on de Blasio's zoning plans, then make recommendations for changes before the plans go to the City Council for hearings and, likely, further tweaks before a vote. The plans, which are aimed at spurring more affordable housing development and improving neighborhoods, have received major pushback from local community boards, advocacy groups, and borough presidents. They have also received some support from labor unions, advocacy groups, and others.</p> <p>Acknowledging the intense circumstances, Knight said of land use planning, "the issue is so important to this city, it's critical to the future. There is this affordability crisis that we've got here. Our local land-use tools are available to us to help address this. And so, I hope that I am able to bring [my] community planning and economic development background and perspective to this position and this process, and be able to consider these issues in a very thoughtful way."</p> <p>Knight is currently the CEO and President of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, a position she will retain while creating the necessary "firewall" so that she does not deal with issues before the city, she said Tuesday. Knight explained that she has received guidance from the city Conflicts of Interest Board and will follow it. Previously, Knight was Chief Operating Officer of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone for about 12 years after several positions in finance.</p> <p>In her pre-hearing questionnaire, Knight wrote to the City Council that the City Planning Commission "must be sensitive to the needs of communities and establish many channels of communication."</p> <p>Knight also wrote that "The strategy of zoning changes to allow residential buildings with additional density, provided that affordable housing is included, is one of the few land use tools that the City has access to in order to greater leverage the development of more affordable housing units."</p> <p>While <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/about/plancom.shtml" target="_blank">the City Planning Commission</a> does much more than zoning amendments, that is the focus of the work right now.</p> <p>With Knight there to observe, the City Planning Commission will hold a much-anticipated <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/luproc/calbeg.shtml" target="_blank">public hearing Wednesday</a> on two proposals by Mayor Bill de Blasio that are essential pieces of his affordable housing plan. Both proposals are changes to the city's land use rules by way of zoning language and have been the source of a great deal of recent debate.</p> <p>Many community boards and all five borough boards have voted against de Blasio's Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning and Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposals. These votes are only advisory, though, and the future of the plans, known as MIH and ZQA, will come down to a City Council vote in early-to-mid 2016. Reasons for opposition and desired tweaks to the plans vary by borough and neighborhood, but some include thresholds for affordability, changes in parking requirements, and increased density or allowable building heights.</p> <p>Between the advice of the community and borough boards and the City Council getting its shot at tweaking the plans, the City Planning Commission will issue its recommended changes. These recommendations will be based, in part, on Wednesday's hearing, which is expected to be long and contentious.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Knight appeared to grasp what she is signing up for, discussing her long career in community planning and advocacy, as well as her outlook on land use decision-making. Lander and his fellow committee members were impressed by Knight's candidacy and appear ready to vote her through to the full Council for approval.</p> <p>Knight will join six other mayoral appointees on the City Planning Commission, as well as one appointee from each borough president, and one appointee by the public advocate. The commission is under the leadership of Chair Carl Weisbrod, who is also the commissioner of the city's Department of City Planning and serves at the discretion of the mayor. Other commission members serve alternating five-year terms. Knight will fill the seat vacated by Bomee Jung, who took a position within the de Blasio administration earlier this year, and will serve the rest of Jung's term, until June 30, 2018. She can be reappointed after that.</p> <p>According to the City Council, the City Charter says that members of the City Planning Commission "are to be chosen for their independence, integrity, and civic commitment."</p> <p>On Tuesday, Council members including Lander, Dan Garodnick, and Margaret Chin, praised Knight for her dedication to community planning and neighborhood advocacy. Council members also wanted to make sure that Knight would hear community feedback around land use policy. Council Member Steven Matteo asked Knight how much weight she puts on community concerns. "I would put tremendous weight on what the community has to say," Knight responded of her approach if she is indeed approved, adding that she has been "at the table" representing communities in land use negotiatons in the past.</p> <p>Repeatedly citing the city's "affordability crisis," Knight also explained that she understands fear of gentrification and that the city must be cognizant of an "aging population."</p> <p>Knight was not questioned about her independence from de Blasio, who nominated her to the commission after his appointments office identified her as a strong candidate.</p> <p>"[I]n order to create more affordable units," Knight said, "we have to look at various land-use tools to implement the possibility of creating units. So, I think that MIH, ZQA, they're all components of the mayor's...housing plan and will have to be more greatly considered to support the growth of new housing."</p> <p>During a Tuesday <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/housing-and-city-planning-officials-talk-mayors-rezoning-plan/" target="_blank">appearance</a> on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, de Blasio's planning chief, Weisbrod, said of Wednesday's City Planning Commission hearing and the zoning plans, "We expect to hear a lot of comments on all sides of this issue." The controversy around MIH and ZQA, he said, "Won't get fully resolved until the City Council decides this early next year."</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank">@tweetBenMax</a></p>