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/rezoning 2017-10-18T22:15:00+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Max & Murphy on Politics 2017-06-01T04:00:00+00:00 2017-06-01T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6183:max-a-murphy-on-housing Carmen Russo <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="max murphy screenshots" width="600" height="240" style="font-size: 12.16px;" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p>Each week, Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and Jarrett Murphy of City Limits discuss the latest on policy and politics in New York.&nbsp;Episodes, which are typically 10-15 minutes, began in February, 2016 with a focus on housing, but have expanded to other topics. Episodes are below, and can also be found on iTunes and other podcast networks. LISTEN:</p> <p><strong>June 1st, 2017: Election Season is Here!</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/325575488&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 25th, 2017: De Blasio in the Bronx; City's Transit System Becomes a Focus</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/324498315&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 17th, 2017: The Mayor's Homelessness Plan &amp; Election Year Politics</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/323070985&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 8th, 2017: Controversy at Correction; The Latest in the Mayoral Race; Rezoning Politics; Stalled Voting Reforms; &amp; More:</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/321573277&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>April 21, 2017: De Blasio Versus the Media, Re-election Year News, &amp; The Mayor in the Boroughs</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/318826130&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 9th, 2017: Federal cuts looming? 421-a debates &amp; the Mayor's new approach to homelessness</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/311585999&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>January 19th, 2017</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/303542171&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>December 2, 2016: 421-A Back from the Dead? New $ for Public Housing, and ZoneIn!</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/295897990&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>October 27, 2016: What's at stake for New York City on Election Day?</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/290255553&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>August 12, 2016: New York City Homeownership Trends, MIH gets real, and more:</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/278002906&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>July 26, 2016: With the presidential campaign in full swing and the national party platforms adopted, Max &amp; Murphy are joined by Rachel Fee, executive director of the New York Housing Conference, to discuss federal housing policy and how it relates to New York:</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/275446551&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>June 23, 2016: In a special episode, we were joined by two leaders of Coalition for the Homeless, Mary Brosnahan and Shelly Nortz, to discuss a wide range of issues related to city and state homelessness-fighting policies, including problems around state funding and signs of progress with city management:</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/270557367&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>June 16, 2016: The Latest at NYCHA, from its Chair &amp; CEO</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/269593193&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>June 9, 2016: A Lot to Watch for On Housing: Next Rezonings, New Legislation, State MOU?</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/268311634&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong> May 26, 2016: Tenant Protection Efforts and Signs of Progress at NYCHA</strong> <iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/266078255&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 12, 2016: NYCHA's 'Core Challenge' with guest Ritchie Torres, New York City Council member and chair of the public housing committee</strong>&nbsp; <iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/263810263&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 4, 2016: A Lot in the Spring Balance</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/262502772&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>April 21, 2016: Presidential Candidates Visit Public Housing; Next Up: 421-A</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/260200696&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>April 8, 2016: The presidential primaries are here - in New York!</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/257974360&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>April 1, 2016: Big Housing $ in the State Budget</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/256765057&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 25, 2016: Putting MIH Into Context</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/254998332&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 18, 2016: Good and Bad News for Mayor de Blasio</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/252720407&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 10, 2016: The Politics of De Blasio's Housing Plan Heats Up</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/251187336&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 4, 2016: Governor Cuomo Casts a Shadow Over Housing Hearing</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/250186524&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Feb. 26, 2016: Amid fears of gentrification, neighborhood plans move ahead</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/249032794&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Feb. 19, 2016: As the City Council deliberates, neighborhood planning heats up</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/247884112&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Feb. 12, 2016: The City Council hears two major de Blasio zoning proposals</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/246587724&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>You can find more from Ben Max and Jarrett Murphy by visiting the latest reporting <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">from Gotham Gazette</a> and <a href="http://citylimits.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">from City Limits</a>; and find us on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="max murphy screenshots" width="600" height="240" style="font-size: 12.16px;" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p>Each week, Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and Jarrett Murphy of City Limits discuss the latest on policy and politics in New York.&nbsp;Episodes, which are typically 10-15 minutes, began in February, 2016 with a focus on housing, but have expanded to other topics. Episodes are below, and can also be found on iTunes and other podcast networks. LISTEN:</p> <p><strong>June 1st, 2017: Election Season is Here!</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/325575488&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 25th, 2017: De Blasio in the Bronx; City's Transit System Becomes a Focus</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/324498315&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 17th, 2017: The Mayor's Homelessness Plan &amp; Election Year Politics</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/323070985&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 8th, 2017: Controversy at Correction; The Latest in the Mayoral Race; Rezoning Politics; Stalled Voting Reforms; &amp; More:</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/321573277&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>April 21, 2017: De Blasio Versus the Media, Re-election Year News, &amp; The Mayor in the Boroughs</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/318826130&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 9th, 2017: Federal cuts looming? 421-a debates &amp; the Mayor's new approach to homelessness</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/311585999&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>January 19th, 2017</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/303542171&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>December 2, 2016: 421-A Back from the Dead? New $ for Public Housing, and ZoneIn!</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/295897990&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>October 27, 2016: What's at stake for New York City on Election Day?</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/290255553&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>August 12, 2016: New York City Homeownership Trends, MIH gets real, and more:</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/278002906&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>July 26, 2016: With the presidential campaign in full swing and the national party platforms adopted, Max &amp; Murphy are joined by Rachel Fee, executive director of the New York Housing Conference, to discuss federal housing policy and how it relates to New York:</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/275446551&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>June 23, 2016: In a special episode, we were joined by two leaders of Coalition for the Homeless, Mary Brosnahan and Shelly Nortz, to discuss a wide range of issues related to city and state homelessness-fighting policies, including problems around state funding and signs of progress with city management:</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/270557367&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>June 16, 2016: The Latest at NYCHA, from its Chair &amp; CEO</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/269593193&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>June 9, 2016: A Lot to Watch for On Housing: Next Rezonings, New Legislation, State MOU?</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/268311634&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong> May 26, 2016: Tenant Protection Efforts and Signs of Progress at NYCHA</strong> <iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/266078255&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 12, 2016: NYCHA's 'Core Challenge' with guest Ritchie Torres, New York City Council member and chair of the public housing committee</strong>&nbsp; <iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/263810263&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 4, 2016: A Lot in the Spring Balance</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/262502772&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>April 21, 2016: Presidential Candidates Visit Public Housing; Next Up: 421-A</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/260200696&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>April 8, 2016: The presidential primaries are here - in New York!</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/257974360&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>April 1, 2016: Big Housing $ in the State Budget</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/256765057&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 25, 2016: Putting MIH Into Context</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/254998332&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 18, 2016: Good and Bad News for Mayor de Blasio</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/252720407&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 10, 2016: The Politics of De Blasio's Housing Plan Heats Up</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/251187336&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 4, 2016: Governor Cuomo Casts a Shadow Over Housing Hearing</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/250186524&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Feb. 26, 2016: Amid fears of gentrification, neighborhood plans move ahead</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/249032794&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Feb. 19, 2016: As the City Council deliberates, neighborhood planning heats up</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/247884112&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Feb. 12, 2016: The City Council hears two major de Blasio zoning proposals</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/246587724&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>You can find more from Ben Max and Jarrett Murphy by visiting the latest reporting <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">from Gotham Gazette</a> and <a href="http://citylimits.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">from City Limits</a>; and find us on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>.</p> Part of Rezoning Plan, City Opens New Career Center in East New York 2016-12-11T05:00:00+00:00 2016-12-11T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6664:part-of-rezoning-plan-city-opens-new-career-help-center-in-east-new-york Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/bdb_espinal_town_hall.jpg" alt="bdb espinal town hall" width="600" height="398" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; CM Espinal (photo: Jeffrey Reed for the City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>After serving jail time in 2014, Anthony McGlashan, a resident of East New York, Brooklyn, struggled to find employment for three years. While he had a certification from the Anthem Institute in the field of Information Technology, he continued to be rejected by employers due to his lack of experience and his criminal background. McGlashan then turned to one of New York City’s Workforce1 Centers, a city initiative that provides free career services by pairing employers with workers, holding workshops for resume and interview preparation, and other resources to aid the job search.</p> <p>In August 2015, McGlashan enrolled in Employment Works, a city program designed to match individuals with criminal histories with full-time, permanent positions in an attempt to reduce recidivism. Through workshops and the support of the program, McGlashan was able to secure an IT support position with the State of New York Unified Court System.</p> <p>“It’s been awhile, it was a struggle,” McGlashan said. “I almost felt like giving up at one time. It was only three years, but it felt much longer than that.”</p> <p>“The program pushed me to look for a more permanent, full-time position,” he added. “It shows you what you have to do in life to get something, to fight for it. Stay ambitious and determined.”</p> <p>Those previously involved with the criminal justice system often face significant difficulties when looking for permanent job opportunities. Despite serving their time, a criminal history makes employees much less likely to be hired. To eliminate this type of employment discrimination by employers, New York City passed <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/media/fair-chance-act-campaign.page" target="_blank">the Fair Chance Act</a> in October of 2015, forbidding employers from asking for the criminal records of job applicants until a job offer has been made.</p> <p>To help further break down barriers faced when looking for a job after a conviction, Mayor Bill de Blasio, working with City Council Member Rafael Espinal and Commissioner Gregg Bishop of the Department of Small Business Services (SBS), is opening a new Workforce1 center in East New York, Brooklyn on Monday. The center, part of the East New York Neighborhood Plan that was <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6287-east-new-york-deal-sets-precedent-for-wave-of-rezonings" target="_blank">negotiated by Espinal and the de Blasio administration and passed through the City Council</a>, is tailored to the specific needs of this neighborhood.</p> <p>East New York has a high percentage of out-of-work, out-of-school youth and individuals with criminal backgrounds, according to the city. As part of the East New York rezoning that passed earlier this year, the career center is the nineteenth such center across the city. It will cost about $700,000 annually to run, according to SBS, with that money coming through a federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grant. The funding for creating the facility, about $165,000, came from the $276 million allocated for community development in the East New York plan, which encompasses a key stretch of Espinal’s district that will soon be home to new housing, retail, and other development, along with other community services, like a new school. It is an underdeveloped area with high concentrations of poverty and the first neighborhood rezoned under the de Blasio affordable housing plan.</p> <p>“We are investing in the people of East New York,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement accompanying the announcement of the new workforce center’s opening. “We are committed to providing the training, the education and the job-placements families need to work their way into the middle class.”</p> <p>Council Member Espinal, who <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6287-east-new-york-deal-sets-precedent-for-wave-of-rezonings" target="_blank">negotiated with the de Blasio administration</a> to pass the multi-faceted, “anti-gentrification” rezoning for his district in April, called the high unemployment rate in Brooklyn, especially in East New York, “unacceptable.”</p> <p>“The economic disparities in our city that have put a strain on so many New Yorker’s must be addressed,” Espinal said in a statement. “That is why I pushed so hard to secure this Workforce1 Center as part of the East New York Neighborhood Rezoning Plan. After all, a house is not affordable without a job.”</p> <p>Some of the debate centered on the East New York plan -- and other rezonings being considered around the city -- revolved around the levels of affordability for new rent-stabilized housing in the rezoned area. New housing in East New York will be deeply subsidized by the city, but there are still concerns of displacement. Relatedly, Espinal and others rallied on Saturday against predatory homeowner speculation that has been occurring in the area in anticipation of community improvements and rising property value.</p> <p>“All New Yorker’s should have access to good paying jobs and the tools they need to secure a bright future for their families,” Espinal said. “I am excited that the center has opened so quickly and look forward to the opportunities it will create for our community.”</p> <p>Alex Vitale, a Brooklyn College sociology professor, said opening this career center in East New York reflects the mayor’s understanding of the biggest challenge facing young people of color: unemployment.</p> <p>“High levels of joblessness among these young people is a major contribution to participation in underground economies of drug dealing, property crime, and prostitution,” Vitale said in an email.</p> <p>While these centers provide job-searching resources, Vitale said the mayor should continue to identify more ways for unemployed youth to get jobs, increasing public and private sector opportunity.</p> <p>“The question is whether these centers will produce an overall increase in employment or merely rearrange who gets the few jobs that are out there,” Vitale said. “The mayor should also take steps to significantly increase the number of jobs for these young people, through public employment if the private sector is unable or unwilling to do it.”</p> <p>According to the city, the new East New York center includes partnerships with community-based organizations. Espinal points out that while the unemployment rate continues to drop nationally, it has remained higher in Brooklyn, and it is even higher in East New York.</p> <p>“A quality career opportunity can be a ticket out of poverty for all New Yorkers, including those who were formerly acquainted with the criminal justice system,” said Bishop, the city’s commissioner of small business services, in a statement. “This career center will be an asset for the entire East New York community.”</p> <p>

***
by Devin Gannon for Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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

***
by Devin Gannon for Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: details of the funding for the career center have been clarified from the original version of this article.</p>
Protecting the Soul of Flushing, and Beyond 2016-06-22T04:00:00+00:00 2016-06-22T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6407:protecting-the-soul-of-flushing-beyond Amanda Sherwin <p><span dir="ltr"><span style="color: black; font-family: Calibri,Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: x-small;"><span style="font-size: 16px;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2015/soul-flushing.jpg" alt="soul flushing" width="600" height="338" />&nbsp;</span></span></span></p> <p><span dir="ltr"><span style="color: black; font-family: Calibri,Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: x-small;"><span style="font-size: 16px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">132-40 Sanford Ave in Flushing, a Treetop Development-owned rent-stabilized building</span></span></span><span style="color: black; font-family: Calibri,Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: x-small;"><span style="font-size: 16px;"><br /> </span></span></span></p> <hr /> <p>After more than a year of intensive community engagement, Flushing&rsquo;s&nbsp;<a href="http://citylimits.org/2016/02/09/plan-to-rezone-flushing-west-flies-under-the-radar/" target="_blank">"under the radar" </a>rezoning study of an 11-block waterfront area dubbed Flushing West was <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20160531/REAL_ESTATE/160539972/city-withdraws-plan-to-create-new-queens-neighborhood" target="_blank">suddenly withdrawn by the Department of City Planning (DCP)</a>. The decision was prompted by a letter from City Council Member Peter Koo, who outlined a comprehensive list of outstanding concerns including &ldquo;that the numbers don&rsquo;t add up&rdquo; for developers who perceive that the rezoning amounts to a &ldquo;downzoning.&rdquo;</p> <p>DCP&rsquo;s decision to pause the study elicited <a href="http://qns.com/story/2016/06/03/calls-for-affordable-flushing-housing-remain-in-aftermath-of-mayors-defeat-of-flushing-west-plan/" target="_blank">mixed reactions</a>, in part because the rezoning study did spotlight the heavy infrastructural strain of Flushing&rsquo;s white hot real estate market and unified multiple community stakeholders to protect the neighborhood&rsquo;s rapidly diminishing affordable housing and advocate for equitable community development.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio recently penned a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-de-blasio/the-soul-of-our-city_b_10307708.html" target="_blank">Huffington Post column</a> proposing that in the current market climate of hyper-gentrification, the city&rsquo;s existential identity is defined by residents of public housing and rent-stabilized apartments. As the mayor opines, &ldquo;It&rsquo;s in protecting these people that we protect the soul of our neighborhoods.&rdquo; I dare say the soul of Flushing has been under attack and protecting its diverse, working-class residents is long overdue.</p> <p>Like many neighborhoods of color, affordable housing in Flushing is threatened by predatory equity investment. Investors target &ldquo;underperforming&rdquo; and &ldquo;undervalued&rdquo; multi-family residential buildings in strategic markets (i.e., &ldquo;up and coming&rdquo; and gentrifying areas). They count on capturing unrealized market value through replacing current tenants with those that can afford to pay higher rents or reselling properties at huge profits after making nominal capital improvements. Treetop Development LLC, one of the largest real estate companies in the New York City area, has a business model based on these &ldquo;multi-faceted&rdquo; strategies, to the detriment of communities.</p> <p>Treetop&rsquo;s <a href="http://treetopdev.com/profile.html" target="_blank">online profile</a> notes, &ldquo;We actively acquire and transform existing rental properties in the region by modernizing living spaces, common areas and building systems before returning them to market. We are well-known for creating cutting-edge projects in neighborhoods coming up as desirable new addresses.&rdquo; Since its establishment in 2005, Treetop Development LLC has been one of the region&rsquo;s most active investors in multi-family properties including federally subsidized, project-based Section 8 developments and rent-regulated buildings.</p> <p>In the past few years, Treetop has acquired and flipped numerous rent-stabilized buildings, generating huge profits. In July 2013, Treetop purchased <a href="http://treetopdev.com/projects.php?project=%27west-125th-st" target="_blank">17-27 West 125th Street</a>, a 50-unit rent-stabilized building in Harlem for $13.6 million. According to Treetop&rsquo;s website, &ldquo;17-27 West 125th Street boasts large apartments, which will be renovated upon vacancy to include new wide plank hardwood flooring, modern and chic kitchens and bathrooms, and stainless steel appliances.&rdquo; After spending <a href="http://newyork.citybizlist.com/article/293644/treetop-development-completes-306-million-sale-of-50-unit-apartment-building-at-17-west-125th-street" target="_blank">only $1.5 million on &ldquo;signature&rdquo; capital improvements</a>, Treetop sold the building to Thor Equities for a whopping $30.6 million in August 2015 (a $17 million gross profit after 25 months of ownership).</p> <p>Similarly in 2014, Treetop acquired a portfolio of six rent-stabilized buildings with a total of 139 rental and seven retail units in Washington Heights for $23 million. These properties, referred to as the&nbsp;<a href="http://therealdeal.com/2015/12/14/hillcrest-buys-washington-heights-portfolio-from-treetop/" target="_blank">"Columbia Audubon"</a> portfolio due to their proximity to Columbia University Hospital and Audubon Avenue, were sold a little over a year later, in December 2015, for $36 million to a group of private investors.</p> <p>In describing Treetop&rsquo;s strategy to purchase and flip a <a href="http://therealdeal.com/2015/08/27/bcbs-berger-excelsiors-miller-launch-jv/" target="_blank">multi-family portfolio</a> in Central Harlem, co-principal Adam Mermelstein explained, &ldquo;This portfolio is the perfect example of how picking the neighborhoods, identifying underutilized properties, effective management and recognizing the right time to buy and sell can pay tremendous dividends.&rdquo; The portfolio purchased by Treetop for $22 million in 2013 was comprised of 12 five-story walk-up apartments and included rent-stabilized buildings on St. Nicholas Ave and Frederick Douglass Blvd. Two years later, Treetop sold the portfolio to a newly formed investment firm for $35 million, generating a profit equal to 59% of Treetop&rsquo;s original purchase price.</p> <p>Treetop Development LLC was featured in <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&rsquo;s New York Business</a> for its enormous $138.8 million acquisition of eight rent-stabilized buildings in Queens representing the county&rsquo;s largest multi-family transaction in 2015. Seven of the rent-stabilized buildings (totaling 489 apartments) are clustered in a three-block area near downtown Flushing and one building is in Elmhurst. Treetop wasted no time in making cosmetic upgrades to common areas such as lobbies and hallways, and renovating vacated apartments. A recent visit and conversation with a long-time, rent-stabilized tenant in one of Treetop&rsquo;s Flushing buildings indicated that the common areas had already undergone capital improvements which permitted the prior landlord to increase rents.</p> <p>Since Treetop&rsquo;s acquisition, tenants have reported <a href="http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/ComplaintsByAddressServlet?requestid=1&amp;allbin=4114214" target="_blank">construction-related disruption and dust</a>, spotty heat and hot water, and a sudden increase in vacant apartments. City Council Member Koo&rsquo;s office has submitted a list of complaints pertaining to these buildings to 311.</p> <p>This past year has been very busy for Treetop as it expands its extensive portfolio of rent-stabilized buildings in <a href="http://therealdeal.com/2015/05/11/treetop-pays-38m-for-8-building-manhattan-leg-of-three-borough-pool/" target="_blank">Harlem</a> and Flushing, sold <a href="http://arielpa.nyc/press-release/ariel-property-advisors-assists-treetop-development-in-acquisition-of-mott-haven-development-site" target="_blank">&ldquo;select holdings at high profit margins,&rdquo;</a> and refinanced some properties through mortgage consolidation, as in the case of four Brooklyn properties including 188 South 3rd St., a rent-stabilized building in Southside Williamsburg. Among its early acquisitions in New York City&rsquo;s multi-family market, Treetop paid a little over $5 million in August 2006 for the 41-unit building, intending to <a href="http://50.56.218.160/archive/category.php?category_id=5&amp;id=9837" target="_blank">convert the apartments into upscale rentals</a>. A few months later, <a href="http://www.nypress.com/rent-strike/" target="_blank">various publications</a> including the Metropolitan Council for Housing&rsquo;s newsletter detailed the reasons why Treetop&rsquo;s Mermelstein was named the city&rsquo;s <a href="http://metcouncilonhousing.org/sites/default/files/back_issues/2007/tenant_inquilino_2007_february.pdf" target="_blank">&ldquo;most abusive landlord&rdquo;</a> by a group of tenant advocacy organizations.</p> <p>Treetop&rsquo;s 188 South 3rd St. was in the news again in July 2013 when a <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20130718/williamsburg/massive-fire-torches-top-floor-of-williamsburg-building" target="_blank">three-alarm fire</a> erupted between the ceiling of the top floor and the roof. Over one hundred firefighters responded to the early morning blaze that took approximately two hours to extinguish. <a href="http://brooklyn.news12.com/news/3-alarm-fire-breaks-out-in-williamsburg-apartment-building-on-south-3rd-street-1.5716072" target="_blank">Several tenants were interviewed</a> noting long-standing electrical problems and non-professional repairs. Charlin Ramos said to Brooklyn News 12, &ldquo;I knew this was going to happen, I predicted it was going to happen.&rdquo; Jacqueline Jimenez claimed Treetop ignored numerous calls from tenants. Extensive damage required many tenants to vacate and according to the <a href="http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/PropertyProfileOverviewServlet?boro=3&amp;houseno=188&amp;street=south%203%20street&amp;requestid=0&amp;s=A03C41B885B461E4F46BD08866A7430E" target="_blank">Department of Buildings</a>, the current status of 188 South 3rd St. is that a partial vacate order remains in effect as well as civil penalties and an outstanding <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/buildings/rules/1_RCNY_102-01.pdf" target="_blank">Class 1 violation</a> defined as &ldquo;immediately hazardous.&rdquo;</p> <p>The same weekend that Mayor de Blasio&rsquo;s column was published by Huffington Post, the New York Times published an opinion piece titled, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/05/opinion/sunday/how-to-force-out-rent-controlled-tenants.html?smid=fb-share&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">How to Force Out Rent-Controlled Tenants</a>. The timing and message of these articles underscore the precarity of rent-regulated housing that has been affordable to working-class New Yorkers. Key forces destabilizing the city&rsquo;s neighborhoods, especially its communities of color, are the tactics deployed by predatory equity investors such as Treetop Development LLC. While the Flushing West rezoning study provided an opportunity to highlight the outstanding need for affordable housing, the current state of the neighborhood&rsquo;s rent-stabilized housing requires immediate action to protect long-time tenants, or as the mayor would describe them, the soul of Flushing.</p> <p>In early May, the Flushing West Community Alliance (FRCA) released a <a href="http://minkwon.org/downloads/FRCA_Flushing_White_Paper_28apr16.pdf" target="_blank">comprehensive research report</a> that includes anti-harassment and anti-displacement measures. Based on numerous discussions with rent-stabilized tenants, FRCA recommends that landlords with a history of tenant harassment should not be able to receive permits necessary for renovations that will enable them to increase rents. At minimum, the <a href="http://bradlander.nyc/news/updates/city-council-ramps-up-efforts-to-preserve-existing-housing-for-low-income-new-yorkers" target="_blank">four bills</a> introduced to the New York City Council earlier this year, including Brad Lander&rsquo;s &ldquo;Certificate of No Harassment,&rdquo; should be acted on immediately. Although the Flushing West rezoning process is temporarily on hold, speculative real estate market conditions have not abated which means rent stabilized tenants need strengthened protections now.</p> <p>***<br />Tarry Hum is a professor at the City University of New York and author of <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Making-Global-Immigrant-Neighborhood-Brooklyns/dp/143991091X" target="_blank">Making a Global Immigrant Neighborhood: Brooklyn's Sunset Park</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><span dir="ltr"><span style="color: black; font-family: Calibri,Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: x-small;"><span style="font-size: 16px;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2015/soul-flushing.jpg" alt="soul flushing" width="600" height="338" />&nbsp;</span></span></span></p> <p><span dir="ltr"><span style="color: black; font-family: Calibri,Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: x-small;"><span style="font-size: 16px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">132-40 Sanford Ave in Flushing, a Treetop Development-owned rent-stabilized building</span></span></span><span style="color: black; font-family: Calibri,Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: x-small;"><span style="font-size: 16px;"><br /> </span></span></span></p> <hr /> <p>After more than a year of intensive community engagement, Flushing&rsquo;s&nbsp;<a href="http://citylimits.org/2016/02/09/plan-to-rezone-flushing-west-flies-under-the-radar/" target="_blank">"under the radar" </a>rezoning study of an 11-block waterfront area dubbed Flushing West was <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20160531/REAL_ESTATE/160539972/city-withdraws-plan-to-create-new-queens-neighborhood" target="_blank">suddenly withdrawn by the Department of City Planning (DCP)</a>. The decision was prompted by a letter from City Council Member Peter Koo, who outlined a comprehensive list of outstanding concerns including &ldquo;that the numbers don&rsquo;t add up&rdquo; for developers who perceive that the rezoning amounts to a &ldquo;downzoning.&rdquo;</p> <p>DCP&rsquo;s decision to pause the study elicited <a href="http://qns.com/story/2016/06/03/calls-for-affordable-flushing-housing-remain-in-aftermath-of-mayors-defeat-of-flushing-west-plan/" target="_blank">mixed reactions</a>, in part because the rezoning study did spotlight the heavy infrastructural strain of Flushing&rsquo;s white hot real estate market and unified multiple community stakeholders to protect the neighborhood&rsquo;s rapidly diminishing affordable housing and advocate for equitable community development.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio recently penned a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-de-blasio/the-soul-of-our-city_b_10307708.html" target="_blank">Huffington Post column</a> proposing that in the current market climate of hyper-gentrification, the city&rsquo;s existential identity is defined by residents of public housing and rent-stabilized apartments. As the mayor opines, &ldquo;It&rsquo;s in protecting these people that we protect the soul of our neighborhoods.&rdquo; I dare say the soul of Flushing has been under attack and protecting its diverse, working-class residents is long overdue.</p> <p>Like many neighborhoods of color, affordable housing in Flushing is threatened by predatory equity investment. Investors target &ldquo;underperforming&rdquo; and &ldquo;undervalued&rdquo; multi-family residential buildings in strategic markets (i.e., &ldquo;up and coming&rdquo; and gentrifying areas). They count on capturing unrealized market value through replacing current tenants with those that can afford to pay higher rents or reselling properties at huge profits after making nominal capital improvements. Treetop Development LLC, one of the largest real estate companies in the New York City area, has a business model based on these &ldquo;multi-faceted&rdquo; strategies, to the detriment of communities.</p> <p>Treetop&rsquo;s <a href="http://treetopdev.com/profile.html" target="_blank">online profile</a> notes, &ldquo;We actively acquire and transform existing rental properties in the region by modernizing living spaces, common areas and building systems before returning them to market. We are well-known for creating cutting-edge projects in neighborhoods coming up as desirable new addresses.&rdquo; Since its establishment in 2005, Treetop Development LLC has been one of the region&rsquo;s most active investors in multi-family properties including federally subsidized, project-based Section 8 developments and rent-regulated buildings.</p> <p>In the past few years, Treetop has acquired and flipped numerous rent-stabilized buildings, generating huge profits. In July 2013, Treetop purchased <a href="http://treetopdev.com/projects.php?project=%27west-125th-st" target="_blank">17-27 West 125th Street</a>, a 50-unit rent-stabilized building in Harlem for $13.6 million. According to Treetop&rsquo;s website, &ldquo;17-27 West 125th Street boasts large apartments, which will be renovated upon vacancy to include new wide plank hardwood flooring, modern and chic kitchens and bathrooms, and stainless steel appliances.&rdquo; After spending <a href="http://newyork.citybizlist.com/article/293644/treetop-development-completes-306-million-sale-of-50-unit-apartment-building-at-17-west-125th-street" target="_blank">only $1.5 million on &ldquo;signature&rdquo; capital improvements</a>, Treetop sold the building to Thor Equities for a whopping $30.6 million in August 2015 (a $17 million gross profit after 25 months of ownership).</p> <p>Similarly in 2014, Treetop acquired a portfolio of six rent-stabilized buildings with a total of 139 rental and seven retail units in Washington Heights for $23 million. These properties, referred to as the&nbsp;<a href="http://therealdeal.com/2015/12/14/hillcrest-buys-washington-heights-portfolio-from-treetop/" target="_blank">"Columbia Audubon"</a> portfolio due to their proximity to Columbia University Hospital and Audubon Avenue, were sold a little over a year later, in December 2015, for $36 million to a group of private investors.</p> <p>In describing Treetop&rsquo;s strategy to purchase and flip a <a href="http://therealdeal.com/2015/08/27/bcbs-berger-excelsiors-miller-launch-jv/" target="_blank">multi-family portfolio</a> in Central Harlem, co-principal Adam Mermelstein explained, &ldquo;This portfolio is the perfect example of how picking the neighborhoods, identifying underutilized properties, effective management and recognizing the right time to buy and sell can pay tremendous dividends.&rdquo; The portfolio purchased by Treetop for $22 million in 2013 was comprised of 12 five-story walk-up apartments and included rent-stabilized buildings on St. Nicholas Ave and Frederick Douglass Blvd. Two years later, Treetop sold the portfolio to a newly formed investment firm for $35 million, generating a profit equal to 59% of Treetop&rsquo;s original purchase price.</p> <p>Treetop Development LLC was featured in <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&rsquo;s New York Business</a> for its enormous $138.8 million acquisition of eight rent-stabilized buildings in Queens representing the county&rsquo;s largest multi-family transaction in 2015. Seven of the rent-stabilized buildings (totaling 489 apartments) are clustered in a three-block area near downtown Flushing and one building is in Elmhurst. Treetop wasted no time in making cosmetic upgrades to common areas such as lobbies and hallways, and renovating vacated apartments. A recent visit and conversation with a long-time, rent-stabilized tenant in one of Treetop&rsquo;s Flushing buildings indicated that the common areas had already undergone capital improvements which permitted the prior landlord to increase rents.</p> <p>Since Treetop&rsquo;s acquisition, tenants have reported <a href="http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/ComplaintsByAddressServlet?requestid=1&amp;allbin=4114214" target="_blank">construction-related disruption and dust</a>, spotty heat and hot water, and a sudden increase in vacant apartments. City Council Member Koo&rsquo;s office has submitted a list of complaints pertaining to these buildings to 311.</p> <p>This past year has been very busy for Treetop as it expands its extensive portfolio of rent-stabilized buildings in <a href="http://therealdeal.com/2015/05/11/treetop-pays-38m-for-8-building-manhattan-leg-of-three-borough-pool/" target="_blank">Harlem</a> and Flushing, sold <a href="http://arielpa.nyc/press-release/ariel-property-advisors-assists-treetop-development-in-acquisition-of-mott-haven-development-site" target="_blank">&ldquo;select holdings at high profit margins,&rdquo;</a> and refinanced some properties through mortgage consolidation, as in the case of four Brooklyn properties including 188 South 3rd St., a rent-stabilized building in Southside Williamsburg. Among its early acquisitions in New York City&rsquo;s multi-family market, Treetop paid a little over $5 million in August 2006 for the 41-unit building, intending to <a href="http://50.56.218.160/archive/category.php?category_id=5&amp;id=9837" target="_blank">convert the apartments into upscale rentals</a>. A few months later, <a href="http://www.nypress.com/rent-strike/" target="_blank">various publications</a> including the Metropolitan Council for Housing&rsquo;s newsletter detailed the reasons why Treetop&rsquo;s Mermelstein was named the city&rsquo;s <a href="http://metcouncilonhousing.org/sites/default/files/back_issues/2007/tenant_inquilino_2007_february.pdf" target="_blank">&ldquo;most abusive landlord&rdquo;</a> by a group of tenant advocacy organizations.</p> <p>Treetop&rsquo;s 188 South 3rd St. was in the news again in July 2013 when a <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20130718/williamsburg/massive-fire-torches-top-floor-of-williamsburg-building" target="_blank">three-alarm fire</a> erupted between the ceiling of the top floor and the roof. Over one hundred firefighters responded to the early morning blaze that took approximately two hours to extinguish. <a href="http://brooklyn.news12.com/news/3-alarm-fire-breaks-out-in-williamsburg-apartment-building-on-south-3rd-street-1.5716072" target="_blank">Several tenants were interviewed</a> noting long-standing electrical problems and non-professional repairs. Charlin Ramos said to Brooklyn News 12, &ldquo;I knew this was going to happen, I predicted it was going to happen.&rdquo; Jacqueline Jimenez claimed Treetop ignored numerous calls from tenants. Extensive damage required many tenants to vacate and according to the <a href="http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/PropertyProfileOverviewServlet?boro=3&amp;houseno=188&amp;street=south%203%20street&amp;requestid=0&amp;s=A03C41B885B461E4F46BD08866A7430E" target="_blank">Department of Buildings</a>, the current status of 188 South 3rd St. is that a partial vacate order remains in effect as well as civil penalties and an outstanding <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/buildings/rules/1_RCNY_102-01.pdf" target="_blank">Class 1 violation</a> defined as &ldquo;immediately hazardous.&rdquo;</p> <p>The same weekend that Mayor de Blasio&rsquo;s column was published by Huffington Post, the New York Times published an opinion piece titled, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/05/opinion/sunday/how-to-force-out-rent-controlled-tenants.html?smid=fb-share&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">How to Force Out Rent-Controlled Tenants</a>. The timing and message of these articles underscore the precarity of rent-regulated housing that has been affordable to working-class New Yorkers. Key forces destabilizing the city&rsquo;s neighborhoods, especially its communities of color, are the tactics deployed by predatory equity investors such as Treetop Development LLC. While the Flushing West rezoning study provided an opportunity to highlight the outstanding need for affordable housing, the current state of the neighborhood&rsquo;s rent-stabilized housing requires immediate action to protect long-time tenants, or as the mayor would describe them, the soul of Flushing.</p> <p>In early May, the Flushing West Community Alliance (FRCA) released a <a href="http://minkwon.org/downloads/FRCA_Flushing_White_Paper_28apr16.pdf" target="_blank">comprehensive research report</a> that includes anti-harassment and anti-displacement measures. Based on numerous discussions with rent-stabilized tenants, FRCA recommends that landlords with a history of tenant harassment should not be able to receive permits necessary for renovations that will enable them to increase rents. At minimum, the <a href="http://bradlander.nyc/news/updates/city-council-ramps-up-efforts-to-preserve-existing-housing-for-low-income-new-yorkers" target="_blank">four bills</a> introduced to the New York City Council earlier this year, including Brad Lander&rsquo;s &ldquo;Certificate of No Harassment,&rdquo; should be acted on immediately. Although the Flushing West rezoning process is temporarily on hold, speculative real estate market conditions have not abated which means rent stabilized tenants need strengthened protections now.</p> <p>***<br />Tarry Hum is a professor at the City University of New York and author of <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Making-Global-Immigrant-Neighborhood-Brooklyns/dp/143991091X" target="_blank">Making a Global Immigrant Neighborhood: Brooklyn's Sunset Park</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
Legislation Aimed at Holding City Accountable for Rezoning Commitments 2016-05-05T04:00:00+00:00 2016-05-05T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6314:legislation-aimed-at-holding-city-accountable-for-rezoning-commitments Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/25169837451_05a83bcf0f_z.jpg" alt="city hall rotunda during announcement" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Announcement at City Hall (photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">With the recent passage of the East New York rezoning and community development plan, the city committed to revitalizing the neglected Brooklyn neighborhood by creating affordable housing, investing in community infrastructure, and promoting economic development. The first among 15 neighborhood rezonings planned by Mayor Bill de Blasio, East New York ushers in a new era of planned change and city promises.</p> <p dir="ltr">As these rezoning and development plans progress, a parallel effort is moving through the City Council to ensure that the city is held to its word in making commitments to communities when modifying land-use rules and upzoning neighborhoods for development.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last month, <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2637116&amp;GUID=AB629863-4E14-4F88-8AEC-D03AED71CD90&amp;FullText=1" target="_blank">a bill</a> was introduced in the City Council -- sponsored by Public Advocate Letitia James, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Council Members Rafael Espinal and Deborah Rose -- that would create a publicly accessible database of commitments made by the administration in any city-sponsored Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application. The database and an accompanying annual report would allow elected officials and, perhaps more importantly, the general public to track the promises to communities made by the Mayor and city agencies.</p> <p dir="ltr">The database and reports would provide regular updates on the progress of initiated projects and track projects left unfulfilled. Following the final passage of any city-sponsored land-use application, the commitments would be recorded on the database within 30 days.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It will not only record commitments,” said Public Advocate James, “It’s an ongoing reminder of the commitment made by the city to the general public.”</p> <p dir="ltr">James recognizes the need to push this bill at a time when the city is gearing up to rezone and redevelop those 15 neighborhoods across the city, starting with East New York, as part of an ambitious plan by Mayor Bill de Blasio to harness gentrification and create affordable housing in neighborhoods under strain from market forces.</p> <p dir="ltr">The public advocate, formerly a Brooklyn City Council member, says she has seen a pattern in similar neighborhood rezonings in the past where guarantees made by the city routinely fell through the cracks. She cited Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint as a few areas where the city <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151117/williamsburg/de-blasio-zoning-plan-unites-civic-groups-opposition-it" target="_blank">reneged on its pledges</a> to provide ample community benefits while allowing real estate development. “I see all of these luxury condos that have gone up and no public benefits and amenities,” James said.</p> <p dir="ltr">James’ <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/316327-de-blasios-support-atlantic-yards-helped-old-ally/" target="_blank">vocal opposition</a> to the Atlantic Yards redevelopment in Brooklyn was in part because of the city’s failure to ensure adequate community benefits particularly affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The bill is a transparency and accountability effort ensuring that promised benefits are delivered,” she added. James said the bill would be prospective and would not apply retroactively to any land use deals.</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council Member Brad Lander is a “big fan of planning” and he gives the administration credit for the broad community development plan created for East New York. “There’s a lot of important parts to getting planning right,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">One of those important parts, he believes, is tracking community commitments and the public advocate’s bill would make those commitments “visible, public, and online, and ensure regular tracking and reporting,” Lander said in support.</p> <p dir="ltr">Of course, tracking does not necessarily mean that promises will definitely be kept, he said. “It’s very hard to mandate keeping of promises,” he said, pointing out that the Council can only make budget decisions for a one-year period and cannot control decisions made in later years by new elected officials. But he added that it provides people with a strong tool to hold the city publicly accountable.</p> <p dir="ltr">If there’s any elected official now facing this, it’s Espinal, the Council member who represents a majority of the East New York area under the new rezoning plan. He was front and center in the negotiations with the de Blasio administration and managed to secure $267 million in capital funds for East New York under the plan (plus other investments through school and sewer construction that comes from other funding sources).</p> <p dir="ltr">Ensuring that the capital projects outlined in the East New York deal are carried out is “one of the most important parts of the plan,” Espinal told Gotham Gazette shortly after it was voted through by the Council land use committee. “We want to make sure that the commitments that are made by the administration are kept, that the community residents are able to track this easily online so that we won’t be kept guessing on when these projects will start and when they’ll be completed.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Espinal is hoping, and trying to see, that the bill passes before the East New York commitments are set in stone -- which he said would be 30 days after the full Council vote of April 20.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We’re currently working with the administration in creating the template of what that (database) will look like so the bill is actually being worked on and it’s something that we hope to pass very soon,” Espinal said. “It’s gonna happen within a month or so.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In a letter that listed the various capital commitments in the East New York plan, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen said her office was working with the Mayor’s Office of Operations and city agencies to “develop a tool that will track the progress made against each commitment and make this information available online for the public.” These commitments, the letter states, will be posted on the city’s website within 30 days of the council’s full vote. MOO will also post an annual progress report online.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Our goal from the beginning of the process has been to ensure that we create a clear set of commitments, which can be tracked by the community and the Council Member to ensure that we are honoring our commitments made as a part of rezoning,” the letter reads.</p> <p dir="ltr">These efforts would become mandatory if James and the Speaker’s bill passes. Currently, there is no hearing set for the bill, which would go before the land use committee, but a spokesperson for Speaker Mark-Viverito said they expect to find a date soon. The bill will require one committee hearing to garner feedback from the de Blasio administration and the public, followed by another committee meeting for a vote and then a vote through the full Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Obviously my interest would be to put this in place as quickly as possible,” Mark-Viverito told Gotham Gazette after a recent news conference at City Hall. “We want to be able to track whatever commitments are made on any new development deals or land use deals.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Both James and Mark-Viverito said that they were having conversations with the administration on the bill. An aide for the speaker said there was a “a normal back and forth that the administration’s generally supported.”</p> <p>And it appears the de Blasio administration is onboard. "We look forward to working closely with the City Council and Public Advocate on this important transparency measure," said Austin Finan, spokesperson for the mayor, in an email.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/25169837451_05a83bcf0f_z.jpg" alt="city hall rotunda during announcement" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Announcement at City Hall (photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">With the recent passage of the East New York rezoning and community development plan, the city committed to revitalizing the neglected Brooklyn neighborhood by creating affordable housing, investing in community infrastructure, and promoting economic development. The first among 15 neighborhood rezonings planned by Mayor Bill de Blasio, East New York ushers in a new era of planned change and city promises.</p> <p dir="ltr">As these rezoning and development plans progress, a parallel effort is moving through the City Council to ensure that the city is held to its word in making commitments to communities when modifying land-use rules and upzoning neighborhoods for development.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last month, <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2637116&amp;GUID=AB629863-4E14-4F88-8AEC-D03AED71CD90&amp;FullText=1" target="_blank">a bill</a> was introduced in the City Council -- sponsored by Public Advocate Letitia James, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Council Members Rafael Espinal and Deborah Rose -- that would create a publicly accessible database of commitments made by the administration in any city-sponsored Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application. The database and an accompanying annual report would allow elected officials and, perhaps more importantly, the general public to track the promises to communities made by the Mayor and city agencies.</p> <p dir="ltr">The database and reports would provide regular updates on the progress of initiated projects and track projects left unfulfilled. Following the final passage of any city-sponsored land-use application, the commitments would be recorded on the database within 30 days.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It will not only record commitments,” said Public Advocate James, “It’s an ongoing reminder of the commitment made by the city to the general public.”</p> <p dir="ltr">James recognizes the need to push this bill at a time when the city is gearing up to rezone and redevelop those 15 neighborhoods across the city, starting with East New York, as part of an ambitious plan by Mayor Bill de Blasio to harness gentrification and create affordable housing in neighborhoods under strain from market forces.</p> <p dir="ltr">The public advocate, formerly a Brooklyn City Council member, says she has seen a pattern in similar neighborhood rezonings in the past where guarantees made by the city routinely fell through the cracks. She cited Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint as a few areas where the city <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151117/williamsburg/de-blasio-zoning-plan-unites-civic-groups-opposition-it" target="_blank">reneged on its pledges</a> to provide ample community benefits while allowing real estate development. “I see all of these luxury condos that have gone up and no public benefits and amenities,” James said.</p> <p dir="ltr">James’ <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/316327-de-blasios-support-atlantic-yards-helped-old-ally/" target="_blank">vocal opposition</a> to the Atlantic Yards redevelopment in Brooklyn was in part because of the city’s failure to ensure adequate community benefits particularly affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The bill is a transparency and accountability effort ensuring that promised benefits are delivered,” she added. James said the bill would be prospective and would not apply retroactively to any land use deals.</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council Member Brad Lander is a “big fan of planning” and he gives the administration credit for the broad community development plan created for East New York. “There’s a lot of important parts to getting planning right,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">One of those important parts, he believes, is tracking community commitments and the public advocate’s bill would make those commitments “visible, public, and online, and ensure regular tracking and reporting,” Lander said in support.</p> <p dir="ltr">Of course, tracking does not necessarily mean that promises will definitely be kept, he said. “It’s very hard to mandate keeping of promises,” he said, pointing out that the Council can only make budget decisions for a one-year period and cannot control decisions made in later years by new elected officials. But he added that it provides people with a strong tool to hold the city publicly accountable.</p> <p dir="ltr">If there’s any elected official now facing this, it’s Espinal, the Council member who represents a majority of the East New York area under the new rezoning plan. He was front and center in the negotiations with the de Blasio administration and managed to secure $267 million in capital funds for East New York under the plan (plus other investments through school and sewer construction that comes from other funding sources).</p> <p dir="ltr">Ensuring that the capital projects outlined in the East New York deal are carried out is “one of the most important parts of the plan,” Espinal told Gotham Gazette shortly after it was voted through by the Council land use committee. “We want to make sure that the commitments that are made by the administration are kept, that the community residents are able to track this easily online so that we won’t be kept guessing on when these projects will start and when they’ll be completed.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Espinal is hoping, and trying to see, that the bill passes before the East New York commitments are set in stone -- which he said would be 30 days after the full Council vote of April 20.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We’re currently working with the administration in creating the template of what that (database) will look like so the bill is actually being worked on and it’s something that we hope to pass very soon,” Espinal said. “It’s gonna happen within a month or so.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In a letter that listed the various capital commitments in the East New York plan, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen said her office was working with the Mayor’s Office of Operations and city agencies to “develop a tool that will track the progress made against each commitment and make this information available online for the public.” These commitments, the letter states, will be posted on the city’s website within 30 days of the council’s full vote. MOO will also post an annual progress report online.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Our goal from the beginning of the process has been to ensure that we create a clear set of commitments, which can be tracked by the community and the Council Member to ensure that we are honoring our commitments made as a part of rezoning,” the letter reads.</p> <p dir="ltr">These efforts would become mandatory if James and the Speaker’s bill passes. Currently, there is no hearing set for the bill, which would go before the land use committee, but a spokesperson for Speaker Mark-Viverito said they expect to find a date soon. The bill will require one committee hearing to garner feedback from the de Blasio administration and the public, followed by another committee meeting for a vote and then a vote through the full Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Obviously my interest would be to put this in place as quickly as possible,” Mark-Viverito told Gotham Gazette after a recent news conference at City Hall. “We want to be able to track whatever commitments are made on any new development deals or land use deals.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Both James and Mark-Viverito said that they were having conversations with the administration on the bill. An aide for the speaker said there was a “a normal back and forth that the administration’s generally supported.”</p> <p>And it appears the de Blasio administration is onboard. "We look forward to working closely with the City Council and Public Advocate on this important transparency measure," said Austin Finan, spokesperson for the mayor, in an email.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
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>

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

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

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

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

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated with details of the Sunday rally.</p>
AARP Emerges as Key De Blasio Ally 2016-03-22T01:13:02+00:00 2016-03-22T01:13:02+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6233:aarp-emerges-as-key-de-blasio-ally Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/aarp_ny.jpg" alt="aarp ny" height="338" width="600" /></p> <p>AARP members pack City Council chambers (photo via @aarpny)</p> <hr /> <p>There are about 800,000 AARP members in New York City and Mayor Bill de Blasio has been arm-in-arm with them of late. The organization has come out in strong support of key pieces of de Blasio's affordable housing agenda and his plan to create a city-run retirement savings program for private sector workers.</p> <p>De Blasio has sought and embraced the support, frequently engaging with AARP members and regularly citing AARP's endorsement as validation for his housing plan, specifically controversial changes to the city's zoning rules that he is negotiating through the City Council. On Tuesday, the Council will pass changes to the zoning code that AARP supports as essential to creating more affordable housing for seniors.</p> <p>Not only is AARP helpful in the near-term as de Blasio builds support for his policies, but older voters are also an important bloc as de Blasio heads toward a 2017 re-election bid. There are more than 2 million registered voters in New York City over the age of 50, which is the threshold for AARP membership, and 72 percent, or 1.5 million, are Democrats, according to Steve Romalewski, Director of <a href="http://www.gc.cuny.edu/Page-Elements/Academics-Research-Centers-Initiatives/Centers-and-Institutes/Center-for-Urban-Research/CUNY-Mapping-Service" target="_blank">CUNY Mapping Service</a> at the Center for Urban Research/The Graduate Center.</p> <p>Older people are known to vote in higher percentages than other age groups, and that is the case in New York City. According to Romalewski, in the 2013 mayoral election, which saw very low overall turnout as de Blasio cruised to a landslide, about 38% of the one million-plus registered voters 65 and older voted, compared to 12% of the one million-plus registered voters 35 or younger.</p> <p>While AARP has become a key ally for the mayor, the group does not officially endorse candidates. Still, de Blasio's attention to issues of concern for older people and their regular exposure to him as a champion of their causes certainly appear to have created a mutually beneficial dynamic. AARP support for de Blasio's zoning changes became loud during a tough time for the mayor as community boards and others around the city criticized the plan.</p> <p>On Monday evening, de Blasio held his fourth tele-town hall with AARP-NY in the last nine months, during which he has discussed affordable housing and other issues with thousands of older constituents. According to AARP, 12,800 people participated over the course of an hour-long tele-town hall in February.</p> <p>During Monday's call, de Blasio struck a celebratory tone on the eve of the City Council voting through the zoning changes. Saying that Tuesday is "going to be a great day for New York City," de Blasio thanked AARP members for "the decisive support you have provided for our affordable housing plan." The "historic" day, de Blasio said, will usher in new policies "to open up a lot of different places where we can create the affordable housing seniors need." De Blasio told call participants that there will be a celebratory rally in Foley Square at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.</p> <p>Over the past two months, AARP also figured significantly in two de Blasio-led rallies at City Hall - one on his housing policies, one on his new retirement savings plan - and helped coordinate an in-person town hall meeting de Blasio held on senior housing in Manhattan.</p> <p>"AARP is an extraordinary force for good," de Blasio said during one of the tele-town halls, "looking out for the needs of our seniors, making sure their rights are respected, and building a more fair society."</p> <p>In response to de Blasio's affordable housing plans outlined in his 2015 State of the City speech, AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel said in a statement, "Mayor de Blasio outlined a bold initiative to help make New York City more affordable...AARP looks forward to working with Mayor de Blasio and the City Council to address a primary concern of so many New Yorkers - the cost of living here - and continuing to make New York a great place to live, work and play for all age groups."</p> <p>AARP has followed up on that pledge, especially as the debate over de Blasio's key senior housing-related proposal, known as Zoning for Quality and Affordability, recently came toward a vote in the City Council. AARP has <a href="https://action.aarp.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&amp;page=UserAction&amp;id=5626" target="_blank">encouraged its members</a> to call their City Council representatives and conducted a targeted social media campaign to lobby Council members. It also purchased radio ads in support of the mayor's plan and sent mailings. (Another advocacy group for older New Yorkers, LiveOn NY, has also been a vocal supporter of ZQA.)</p> <p>In a Friday interview with WNYC, de Blasio said that as he and his administration engaged more people on his zoning proposals and larger housing plan, more came to support it. "[A]s this legislation moved forward," de Blasio <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/de-blasio-talks-affordable-housing-and-legacy/" target="_blank">told WNYC's Brigid Bergin</a>, "crucial organizations like AARP got involved and they spoke powerfully to seniors about why this would help create more senior housing. And that brought in a lot of support." He also referenced the support of a variety of labor unions.</p> <p>A nonpartisan advocacy group, AARP does not endorse candidates or make campaign contributions. It does, however, support policies, and it has put significant resources behind de Blasio's zoning changes. AARP has also committed to full-throated support for the retirement savings program, which the group's representatives say is a major national priority.</p> <p>Still, AARP representatives are firm that the organization does not endorse, donate to campaigns, or promote candidates through independent expenditures. In response to a tweet from Gotham Gazette in which this reporter speculated that AARP could be a formidable source of election support for de Blasio, AARP Associate State Director for New York City Chris Widelo <a href="https://twitter.com/C2R5W/status/711949665999196161" target="_blank">tweeted back</a>, "we are strictly non-partisan and do not endorse...but our members do vote!"</p> <p>During a phone interview Monday afternoon, Widelo explained more about AARP's approach to issue advocacy versus candidate campaigns. "If it were an election, I think our tone would be different," Widelo said. He added that AARP has been behind the mayor's housing plan with such energy because it is a key priority, but he stressed that the organization will not be supporting de Blasio's reelection campaign. "Next year, you'll probably notice AARP, we have a hard deadline when candidates file paperwork and become a candidate in our eyes, even if they are a sitting elected official, and we adjust how we may coordinate." Widelo said that the deadline is in the summer, but that AARP will judge the political landscape.</p> <p>AARP has also done tele-town halls with Governor Andrew Cuomo and Public Advocate Letitia James, Widelo noted. "It just so happens that our priorities have lined up with the mayor's and others here in the city," Widelo said. "We're happy to have the mayor of the largest city in the country on our tele-town hall, for sure," he added, "but for us, it's more important to tell [members] the story about what this policy is...it's educational."</p> <p>While AARP is appreciative of the mayor's attention to issues older New Yorkers care about, de Blasio is certainly happy to have the group's support.</p> <p>At a March 9 rally outside City Hall to support his housing agenda, de Blasio was surrounded by representatives from AARP and several labor unions, each of which he thanked. "I have to say, there are so many great organizations," de Blasio yelled through a megaphone, "but one that has done absolutely awesome work has been AARP."</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/aarp_ny.jpg" alt="aarp ny" height="338" width="600" /></p> <p>AARP members pack City Council chambers (photo via @aarpny)</p> <hr /> <p>There are about 800,000 AARP members in New York City and Mayor Bill de Blasio has been arm-in-arm with them of late. The organization has come out in strong support of key pieces of de Blasio's affordable housing agenda and his plan to create a city-run retirement savings program for private sector workers.</p> <p>De Blasio has sought and embraced the support, frequently engaging with AARP members and regularly citing AARP's endorsement as validation for his housing plan, specifically controversial changes to the city's zoning rules that he is negotiating through the City Council. On Tuesday, the Council will pass changes to the zoning code that AARP supports as essential to creating more affordable housing for seniors.</p> <p>Not only is AARP helpful in the near-term as de Blasio builds support for his policies, but older voters are also an important bloc as de Blasio heads toward a 2017 re-election bid. There are more than 2 million registered voters in New York City over the age of 50, which is the threshold for AARP membership, and 72 percent, or 1.5 million, are Democrats, according to Steve Romalewski, Director of <a href="http://www.gc.cuny.edu/Page-Elements/Academics-Research-Centers-Initiatives/Centers-and-Institutes/Center-for-Urban-Research/CUNY-Mapping-Service" target="_blank">CUNY Mapping Service</a> at the Center for Urban Research/The Graduate Center.</p> <p>Older people are known to vote in higher percentages than other age groups, and that is the case in New York City. According to Romalewski, in the 2013 mayoral election, which saw very low overall turnout as de Blasio cruised to a landslide, about 38% of the one million-plus registered voters 65 and older voted, compared to 12% of the one million-plus registered voters 35 or younger.</p> <p>While AARP has become a key ally for the mayor, the group does not officially endorse candidates. Still, de Blasio's attention to issues of concern for older people and their regular exposure to him as a champion of their causes certainly appear to have created a mutually beneficial dynamic. AARP support for de Blasio's zoning changes became loud during a tough time for the mayor as community boards and others around the city criticized the plan.</p> <p>On Monday evening, de Blasio held his fourth tele-town hall with AARP-NY in the last nine months, during which he has discussed affordable housing and other issues with thousands of older constituents. According to AARP, 12,800 people participated over the course of an hour-long tele-town hall in February.</p> <p>During Monday's call, de Blasio struck a celebratory tone on the eve of the City Council voting through the zoning changes. Saying that Tuesday is "going to be a great day for New York City," de Blasio thanked AARP members for "the decisive support you have provided for our affordable housing plan." The "historic" day, de Blasio said, will usher in new policies "to open up a lot of different places where we can create the affordable housing seniors need." De Blasio told call participants that there will be a celebratory rally in Foley Square at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.</p> <p>Over the past two months, AARP also figured significantly in two de Blasio-led rallies at City Hall - one on his housing policies, one on his new retirement savings plan - and helped coordinate an in-person town hall meeting de Blasio held on senior housing in Manhattan.</p> <p>"AARP is an extraordinary force for good," de Blasio said during one of the tele-town halls, "looking out for the needs of our seniors, making sure their rights are respected, and building a more fair society."</p> <p>In response to de Blasio's affordable housing plans outlined in his 2015 State of the City speech, AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel said in a statement, "Mayor de Blasio outlined a bold initiative to help make New York City more affordable...AARP looks forward to working with Mayor de Blasio and the City Council to address a primary concern of so many New Yorkers - the cost of living here - and continuing to make New York a great place to live, work and play for all age groups."</p> <p>AARP has followed up on that pledge, especially as the debate over de Blasio's key senior housing-related proposal, known as Zoning for Quality and Affordability, recently came toward a vote in the City Council. AARP has <a href="https://action.aarp.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&amp;page=UserAction&amp;id=5626" target="_blank">encouraged its members</a> to call their City Council representatives and conducted a targeted social media campaign to lobby Council members. It also purchased radio ads in support of the mayor's plan and sent mailings. (Another advocacy group for older New Yorkers, LiveOn NY, has also been a vocal supporter of ZQA.)</p> <p>In a Friday interview with WNYC, de Blasio said that as he and his administration engaged more people on his zoning proposals and larger housing plan, more came to support it. "[A]s this legislation moved forward," de Blasio <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/de-blasio-talks-affordable-housing-and-legacy/" target="_blank">told WNYC's Brigid Bergin</a>, "crucial organizations like AARP got involved and they spoke powerfully to seniors about why this would help create more senior housing. And that brought in a lot of support." He also referenced the support of a variety of labor unions.</p> <p>A nonpartisan advocacy group, AARP does not endorse candidates or make campaign contributions. It does, however, support policies, and it has put significant resources behind de Blasio's zoning changes. AARP has also committed to full-throated support for the retirement savings program, which the group's representatives say is a major national priority.</p> <p>Still, AARP representatives are firm that the organization does not endorse, donate to campaigns, or promote candidates through independent expenditures. In response to a tweet from Gotham Gazette in which this reporter speculated that AARP could be a formidable source of election support for de Blasio, AARP Associate State Director for New York City Chris Widelo <a href="https://twitter.com/C2R5W/status/711949665999196161" target="_blank">tweeted back</a>, "we are strictly non-partisan and do not endorse...but our members do vote!"</p> <p>During a phone interview Monday afternoon, Widelo explained more about AARP's approach to issue advocacy versus candidate campaigns. "If it were an election, I think our tone would be different," Widelo said. He added that AARP has been behind the mayor's housing plan with such energy because it is a key priority, but he stressed that the organization will not be supporting de Blasio's reelection campaign. "Next year, you'll probably notice AARP, we have a hard deadline when candidates file paperwork and become a candidate in our eyes, even if they are a sitting elected official, and we adjust how we may coordinate." Widelo said that the deadline is in the summer, but that AARP will judge the political landscape.</p> <p>AARP has also done tele-town halls with Governor Andrew Cuomo and Public Advocate Letitia James, Widelo noted. "It just so happens that our priorities have lined up with the mayor's and others here in the city," Widelo said. "We're happy to have the mayor of the largest city in the country on our tele-town hall, for sure," he added, "but for us, it's more important to tell [members] the story about what this policy is...it's educational."</p> <p>While AARP is appreciative of the mayor's attention to issues older New Yorkers care about, de Blasio is certainly happy to have the group's support.</p> <p>At a March 9 rally outside City Hall to support his housing agenda, de Blasio was surrounded by representatives from AARP and several labor unions, each of which he thanked. "I have to say, there are so many great organizations," de Blasio yelled through a megaphone, "but one that has done absolutely awesome work has been AARP."</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Addressing NYC's School Overcrowding Crisis 2016-03-07T19:27:28+00:00 2016-03-07T19:27:28+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6210:addressing-nycs-school-overcrowding-crisis Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/img2424.jpg" alt="img2424" height="401" width="600" /></p> <p>Protesting school overcrowding in Queens</p> <hr /> <p>All parents in New York City deserve the peace of mind that their children will be able to attend a school where they can thrive and grow. Unfortunately, following years of neglect from the Bloomberg administration, our city's school system is plagued by school overcrowding and excessive class sizes, where hundreds of thousands of our children simply don't have adequate space to learn.</p> <p>With education a top priority for the city, it's critical that our leaders take strong action to address the chronic underfunding of our city's school infrastructure. Key to addressing this issue is investing sufficient capital resources in the city budget, as well as improving the current school planning process, which is broken.</p> <p>Recently, we've had some good news. When the city Department of Education (DOE) released its school capital plan, it included a commitment from Mayor de Blasio to invest nearly $900 million in additional resources to build more school seats. In the same plan, the DOE raised its needs assessment to 83,000 additional seats, given enrollment projections and existing overcrowding. This is closer to the 100,000-seat figure that Class Size Matters estimated in its recent report, "<a href="http://www.classsizematters.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/SPACE-CRUNCH-Report-Final-OL.pdf" target="_blank">Space Crunch</a>." Together, these two adjustments are a welcome acknowledgement of the crisis in school overcrowding, and we applaud them.</p> <p>But more should be done. The number of new seats in the capital plan is 49,000—only about 59 percent of the DOE's own admitted need—and New York City's population is growing faster than any other large city in the nation. The mayor is now urging the City Council to adopt rezoning plans to accelerate the construction of thousands of new affordable and market-rate housing units, which will increase pressure on our school system. At this critical moment, the city has a real opportunity to address housing and education together.</p> <p>Right now, more than half a million students are crammed into over-utilized schools, according to DOE data. In many cases, this means excessive class sizes of 30 or more, a loss of art, music, or science rooms, and a lack of dedicated spaces for students to receive counseling or mandated special education services – no less the wraparound services inherent in the community school model.</p> <p>According to the analysis in a recent report by Make the Road New York—"<a href="http://www.maketheroad.org/report.php?ID=4178" target="_blank">Where's My Seat?</a>"—immigrant communities have especially egregious overcrowding problems and even greater unmet needs in the DOE capital plan. In many of the schools in these neighborhoods, children are forced to eat their lunch as early as 10 a.m. or are bused to schools far away from their homes. Many do not have adequate opportunity for physical education because there is not enough space in their gyms.</p> <p>We need to build, lease, and expand more schools. At least the 83,000 seats that the DOE projects are necessary. In addition, the process of school planning and siting must be made more efficient. There are many communities, like Sunset Park, which have suffered from extreme overcrowding for a decade or more, even though funding to build more schools in the neighborhood has existed in the capital plan, because the School Construction Agency has not been able to site a single one.</p> <p>According to the DOE, only 15 percent of the school seats needed by 2019 have sites identified and are in the process of being designed. In seven districts, that percentage is zero. The city will fall even further behind in creating seats if the mayor's rezoning proposals are adopted, unless much more is done to build and site schools. A recent Environmental Impact Statement for the East New York rezoning proposal found it would exacerbate school overcrowding, and, along with other changes, drive high school overcrowding in the borough to 109 percent of capacity. Yet the DOE capital plan does not include a single Brooklyn high school to be built.</p> <p>That is why we are urging the City Council, along with the mayor, to create a commission or task force of experts and stakeholder groups, to propose reforms to the school planning process, so that schools must be built along with housing, instead of decades afterwards. Among the issues to be considered would be reforms to the zoning process, including whether the threshold to consider the need for a new school should be lowered – especially when the schools are already overcrowded; whether the formula used by City Planning to estimate the impact of new housing on schools needs to be updated; whether the city should require impact fees from developers and/or use eminent domain more frequently; and how the trends in lost seats, utilization rates, and enrollment could be made more transparent and more accurate through regular reporting by the DOE.</p> <p>As Mayor de Blasio repeated in his recent State of the City speech, the goal across our city must be to ensure that neighborhoods thrive. There cannot be successful neighborhoods unless there are schools with enough space for the children in every community across the city to learn and prosper. It's time to invest all the necessary resources and improve the school planning process to ensure the bright future that all of our children deserve.</p> <p>***<br />Leonie Haimson is the Executive Director of Class Size Matters. Javier H. Valdés is the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/leoniehaimson" target="_blank">@leoniehaimson</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/javierhvaldes" target="_blank">@javierhvaldes</a>.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/img2424.jpg" alt="img2424" height="401" width="600" /></p> <p>Protesting school overcrowding in Queens</p> <hr /> <p>All parents in New York City deserve the peace of mind that their children will be able to attend a school where they can thrive and grow. Unfortunately, following years of neglect from the Bloomberg administration, our city's school system is plagued by school overcrowding and excessive class sizes, where hundreds of thousands of our children simply don't have adequate space to learn.</p> <p>With education a top priority for the city, it's critical that our leaders take strong action to address the chronic underfunding of our city's school infrastructure. Key to addressing this issue is investing sufficient capital resources in the city budget, as well as improving the current school planning process, which is broken.</p> <p>Recently, we've had some good news. When the city Department of Education (DOE) released its school capital plan, it included a commitment from Mayor de Blasio to invest nearly $900 million in additional resources to build more school seats. In the same plan, the DOE raised its needs assessment to 83,000 additional seats, given enrollment projections and existing overcrowding. This is closer to the 100,000-seat figure that Class Size Matters estimated in its recent report, "<a href="http://www.classsizematters.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/SPACE-CRUNCH-Report-Final-OL.pdf" target="_blank">Space Crunch</a>." Together, these two adjustments are a welcome acknowledgement of the crisis in school overcrowding, and we applaud them.</p> <p>But more should be done. The number of new seats in the capital plan is 49,000—only about 59 percent of the DOE's own admitted need—and New York City's population is growing faster than any other large city in the nation. The mayor is now urging the City Council to adopt rezoning plans to accelerate the construction of thousands of new affordable and market-rate housing units, which will increase pressure on our school system. At this critical moment, the city has a real opportunity to address housing and education together.</p> <p>Right now, more than half a million students are crammed into over-utilized schools, according to DOE data. In many cases, this means excessive class sizes of 30 or more, a loss of art, music, or science rooms, and a lack of dedicated spaces for students to receive counseling or mandated special education services – no less the wraparound services inherent in the community school model.</p> <p>According to the analysis in a recent report by Make the Road New York—"<a href="http://www.maketheroad.org/report.php?ID=4178" target="_blank">Where's My Seat?</a>"—immigrant communities have especially egregious overcrowding problems and even greater unmet needs in the DOE capital plan. In many of the schools in these neighborhoods, children are forced to eat their lunch as early as 10 a.m. or are bused to schools far away from their homes. Many do not have adequate opportunity for physical education because there is not enough space in their gyms.</p> <p>We need to build, lease, and expand more schools. At least the 83,000 seats that the DOE projects are necessary. In addition, the process of school planning and siting must be made more efficient. There are many communities, like Sunset Park, which have suffered from extreme overcrowding for a decade or more, even though funding to build more schools in the neighborhood has existed in the capital plan, because the School Construction Agency has not been able to site a single one.</p> <p>According to the DOE, only 15 percent of the school seats needed by 2019 have sites identified and are in the process of being designed. In seven districts, that percentage is zero. The city will fall even further behind in creating seats if the mayor's rezoning proposals are adopted, unless much more is done to build and site schools. A recent Environmental Impact Statement for the East New York rezoning proposal found it would exacerbate school overcrowding, and, along with other changes, drive high school overcrowding in the borough to 109 percent of capacity. Yet the DOE capital plan does not include a single Brooklyn high school to be built.</p> <p>That is why we are urging the City Council, along with the mayor, to create a commission or task force of experts and stakeholder groups, to propose reforms to the school planning process, so that schools must be built along with housing, instead of decades afterwards. Among the issues to be considered would be reforms to the zoning process, including whether the threshold to consider the need for a new school should be lowered – especially when the schools are already overcrowded; whether the formula used by City Planning to estimate the impact of new housing on schools needs to be updated; whether the city should require impact fees from developers and/or use eminent domain more frequently; and how the trends in lost seats, utilization rates, and enrollment could be made more transparent and more accurate through regular reporting by the DOE.</p> <p>As Mayor de Blasio repeated in his recent State of the City speech, the goal across our city must be to ensure that neighborhoods thrive. There cannot be successful neighborhoods unless there are schools with enough space for the children in every community across the city to learn and prosper. It's time to invest all the necessary resources and improve the school planning process to ensure the bright future that all of our children deserve.</p> <p>***<br />Leonie Haimson is the Executive Director of Class Size Matters. Javier H. Valdés is the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/leoniehaimson" target="_blank">@leoniehaimson</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/javierhvaldes" target="_blank">@javierhvaldes</a>.</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
     

Read more by this writer.

</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
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>