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 2018-09-22T11:13:10+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com What's The [Data] Point? 4, with Sally Goldenberg 2018-05-04T04:00:00+00:00 2018-05-04T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7655:what-s-the-data-point-4-with-sally-goldenberg Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The [Data] Point? Episode 39</strong><strong> -- 4, with Sally Goldenberg [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]</strong></p> <!--<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/wtdp-w-cbrecher-120.jpg" alt="wtdp w cbrecher 120" width="440" height="120" style="display: block; margin: 10px auto;" /></p>--> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/wtpd-md-bm-sally-goldenberg.jpg" alt="wtpd md bm sally goldenberg" width="277" height="143" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" />Sally Goldenberg, a senior reporter for Politico New York currently covering housing and real estate, joins the podcast to discuss Mayor de Blasio's approach to neighborhood rezonings and affordable housing, among other topics. The episode's data point, 4, is the number of neighborhood rezonings that have been passed so far under de Blasio: East New York, Downtown Far Rockaway, East Harlem, and the Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx. We discuss those, as well as proposals that have not gone through, new project and rezoning ideas on the table, and much more.</p> <p>With a good deal of experience covering City Hall, city politics, budgets, and now housing, this week's guest brings a great deal of expertise to the discussion.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Maria Doulis of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MariaDoulis</a>). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/439374909&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The [Data] Point? Episode 39</strong><strong> -- 4, with Sally Goldenberg [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]</strong></p> <!--<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/wtdp-w-cbrecher-120.jpg" alt="wtdp w cbrecher 120" width="440" height="120" style="display: block; margin: 10px auto;" /></p>--> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/wtpd-md-bm-sally-goldenberg.jpg" alt="wtpd md bm sally goldenberg" width="277" height="143" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" />Sally Goldenberg, a senior reporter for Politico New York currently covering housing and real estate, joins the podcast to discuss Mayor de Blasio's approach to neighborhood rezonings and affordable housing, among other topics. The episode's data point, 4, is the number of neighborhood rezonings that have been passed so far under de Blasio: East New York, Downtown Far Rockaway, East Harlem, and the Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx. We discuss those, as well as proposals that have not gone through, new project and rezoning ideas on the table, and much more.</p> <p>With a good deal of experience covering City Hall, city politics, budgets, and now housing, this week's guest brings a great deal of expertise to the discussion.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Maria Doulis of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MariaDoulis</a>). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/439374909&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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What's The [Data] Point? $307.45, with Anita Laremont of City Planning 2018-04-18T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-18T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7620:what-s-the-data-point-307-45-with-anita-laremont-of-city-planning Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The [Data] Point? Episode 37</strong><strong> -- $307.45,&nbsp;with Anita Laremont [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]</strong></p> <!--<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/wtdp-w-cbrecher-120.jpg" alt="wtdp w cbrecher 120" width="440" height="120" style="display: block; margin: 10px auto;" /></p>--> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/wtdp-anita-w-maria-and-ben.jpg" alt="wtdp anita w maria and ben" width="277" height="143" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" />Anita Laremont is the general counsel and chief data officer at the Department of City Planning, where major decisions are made around how land is used in New York City. Laremont joined the podcast to discuss some of the significant projects and changes that City Planning has ushered through over the past several years, including historic changes to the city's land use rules meant to spur affordable housing, neighborhood rezonings, and why the city doesn't have a master plan.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Maria Doulis of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MariaDoulis</a>). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/431659503&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The [Data] Point? Episode 37</strong><strong> -- $307.45,&nbsp;with Anita Laremont [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]</strong></p> <!--<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/wtdp-w-cbrecher-120.jpg" alt="wtdp w cbrecher 120" width="440" height="120" style="display: block; margin: 10px auto;" /></p>--> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/wtdp-anita-w-maria-and-ben.jpg" alt="wtdp anita w maria and ben" width="277" height="143" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" />Anita Laremont is the general counsel and chief data officer at the Department of City Planning, where major decisions are made around how land is used in New York City. Laremont joined the podcast to discuss some of the significant projects and changes that City Planning has ushered through over the past several years, including historic changes to the city's land use rules meant to spur affordable housing, neighborhood rezonings, and why the city doesn't have a master plan.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Maria Doulis of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MariaDoulis</a>). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/431659503&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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De Blasio Planning Appointee Becomes Ardent Foe 2018-03-28T04:00:00+00:00 2018-03-28T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7577:de-blasio-planning-appointee-becomes-ardent-foe Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14134422963_fe30f84dca_z.jpg" alt="Mayor de Blasio afforable housing" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio unveils his housing plan (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Michelle de la Uz was first appointed to the powerful City Planning Commission in 2012, by then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, then re-appointed in 2017 by the current Public Advocate, Letitia James. Over the course of time, and with de Blasio now in his fifth year as mayor, de la Uz has become the most consistent and often lone dissenter on the 13-member commission, voting against a variety of de Blasio’s land use plans.</p> <p>During a recent appearance on the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7548-max-murphy-podcast-michelle-de-la-uz">Max &amp; Murphy podcast</a> from Gotham Gazette and City Limits, de la Uz gave her perspective on the city’s housing crisis and de Blasio’s approach to affordable housing and changing land use rules for various swaths of the city, often known as neighborhood rezonings, which have so far occurred in low-income communities of color like East New York, East Harlem, and the Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx.</p> <p>The City Planning Commission is responsible for reviewing land-use applications across the city, ranging from small projects on individual plots of land to the redevelopment of the Hudson Yards, community-wide plans, and more. Several hundred applications come through the Commission each year, most of them not controversial, but there are typically at least a handful of great significance.</p> <p>Seven of the CPC members are appointed by the mayor, five by the individual borough presidents, and one by the public advocate. De la Uz described working on the Commission as a privilege, and said of the different land review processes that, “some of them are quite technical and relatively minor, honestly, and others really call into question what are broader public policy questions around planning.”</p> <p>Also the executive director of the <a href="http://www.fifthave.org/">Fifth Avenue Committee</a>, a non-profit community development organization in Brooklyn that seeks to promote economic and social justice through a wide range of local initiatives, de la Uz has a particular philosophy about city planning and land use that not only comes from a social justice and equity lens, but also starts with “do no harm.”</p> <p>“One of the reasons why I was appointed by Public Advocate de Blasio and Public Advocate Tish James, was not only my knowledge and expertise, but also quite honestly my independence,” she said, “at the time I think he was enamored with it.”</p> <p>De la Uz has been an outspoken critic of the mayor’s planning policies, and recently voted against the major rezoning plans in East Harlem, East New York, Jerome Avenue, downtown Far Rockaway, and Inwood, often as the only dissenter on the Commission. This slate of rezonings would allow for more development in these neighborhoods and is central to the de Blasio’s affordable housing policy and community development efforts.</p> <p>According to the his plan, <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/755-17/housing-2-0-mayor-de-blasio-lifts-affordable-homeownership">Housing New York 2.0</a>, the city aims to build or preserve 300,000 affordable homes by 2026. Neighborhood rezonings typically include new land use rules to allow more housing with greater density, and a variety of neighborhood investments, such as new schools, transportation improvements, park land, and more. De Blasio has defended his administration’s rezoning of only low-income communities of color, indicating that the city has gone where there has been interest from local officials and opportunity to add housing.</p> <p>While de la Uz agrees that the mayor’s policies are headed in the right direction, she emphasizes the need to provide deeper affordability and for more careful zoning. She thinks there is significant room for improvement to the approach, including how the city leverages private investment to create affordable housing and how it uses other subsidies at its disposal.</p> <p>On the podcast, de la Uz spoke about the<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/hpd/downloads/pdf/about/2017-hvs-initial-findings.pdf"> New York Housing and Vacancy Survey of 2017</a> (HVS), and the upcoming HVS of 2018, which indicate that apartment vacancy rates in the city are extremely low, at 3.63% citywide, which qualifies as a housing crisis (below 5%). This has been a consistent problem for more than 20 years. Low vacancy rates give leverage to landlords over tenants in rent negotiations. The city addresses this imbalance with rent stabilization, among other programs.</p> <p>According to a city official, in 2017 there were 966,000 rent-stabilized units (occupied and vacant available), comprising 44 percent of the total rental stock. De la Uz described rent-stabilized housing as one the city’s most valuable assets, together with public housing.</p> <p>Giving some credit to the de Blasio administration’s efforts, de la Uz pointed out that “the city produced more [housing] units in the last few years than it’s had in decades, and I think that certainly is an endorsement of Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan.” She also mentioned other measures that de Blasio has instituted to help tenants keep their rents affordable or stay in their homes.</p> <p>As of November, landlords in certain areas need to provide <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/hpd/about/press-releases/2017/11/11-30-17.page">“certificates of no harassment”</a> signed by tenants, if they want to make significant alterations to their building. And, as of August 2017, the city has <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/547-17/mayor-de-blasio-signs-legislation-provide-low-income-new-yorkers-access-counsel-for#/0">promised legal counsel </a>to many low-income tenants facing eviction. De la Uz also expressed cautious optimism about the new “<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/hpd/downloads/pdf/about/neighborhood-pillars.pdf">Neighborhood Pillars</a>” program, which will pledge capital to help non-profit organizations acquire and preserve affordability in existing, unregulated, and rent-stabilized buildings.</p> <p>“What’s interesting is that rents, especially at the upper income levels, are actually coming down,” she said, “the problem is that the rents really aren’t coming down for the folks that are most in need, and the people the Fifth Avenue Committee serves, and other non-profit community development corporations serve.” This pattern corresponds with the vacancy rates of different affordability brackets: according to the HVS, for units with rents less than $800 a month, the vacancy rate is 1.15%, while for units with rents more than $2,000 a month, the vacancy rate is 7.42%, and above $2,500 asking rent, the vacancy rate was reported at 8.74% in 2017.</p> <p>A key part of de Blasio’s housing plan is the <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/plans/mih/mandatory-inclusionary-housing.page">Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy</a> (MIH), which, through zoning actions, forces residential developers to build a certain percentage of units that are affordable to households in different income brackets, measured as a percentage of Area Median Income.</p> <p>De la Uz expressed dissatisfaction with the MIH targets -- she voted against MIH at the Commission -- which underlies many of the neighborhood rezonings and land use measures the city backs to help create affordable housing through new development. “We know it’s the most aggressive mandatory inclusion policy in the country, but the need is much, much greater than that,” de la Uz said of how the MIH income targets play out in low-income communities.</p> <p>Asked to respond to de la Uz’s critiques, a spokesperson for the de Blasio administration noted that the city added $2 billion to its affordable housing budget last year, specifically to preserve and build more deeply-affordable units, with nearly half allocated for families living on less than $43,000 per year. The city official also reported that the share of households that are rent burdened is still high, but it is stable with about half of renter households rent-burdened, and one-third severely burdened. A household is defined as rent-burdened if it spends 30% or more of its income on rent, and severely rent-burdened if that percentage hits 50.</p> <p>De la Uz made a connection between the MIH targets and the strong local opposition to the major rezonings: “you have nearly 27% of New York City’s population that is not benefitting, whose incomes are so low that they are not benefiting from any of the new development that's happening in a community, right, so that's part of the problem -- MIH doesn't reach below 40% AMI, and yet in a number of the neighborhoods that have been rezoned or are targeted for rezoning, that’s the majority of residents in that community. So no wonder people are opposing it...none of the new housing is going to be for them. People want to see themselves in what is happening.”</p> <p>While that is not entirely true, there has been some community opposition to the rezonings, with some people feeling that development will exacerbate market pressures, accelerate gentrification, and displace local businesses and residents. Although these rezonings have come in packages which include major investments in the neighborhoods, one critic, Emily Goldstein of the Association for Neighborhood &amp; Housing Development, <a href="https://anhd.org/new-york-city-needs-to-stop-negotiating-rezonings-from-an-uneven-playing-field/">has pointed out</a> that wealthier neighborhoods have been able to receive city resources “without having to “trade” for something City Hall wants.”</p> <p>De la Uz explained where her skepticism comes from, saying, “I think [it’s] because I run a non-profit community development corporation, one that has seen all the mistakes of past rezonings.” Citing significant losses of rent-stabilized housing in North Park Slope, South Park Slope, and Sunset Park following their respective rezonings in 2003, 2007, and 2009, during Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure, she emphasized the need for caution. “Zoning can be too broad, you need a scalpel...It could be more targeted.”</p> <p>De la Uz also expressed frustration with the environmental impact review process employed by the City Planning Department. At the moment, rent-stabilized housing is not viewed as at risk of demolition, but following the rezonings in Park Slope and Sunset Park, she said “certainly Fifth Avenue Committee and I, personally, have seen that that's just not the case.” More broadly, they don’t take into account risks of displacement of rent-stabilized tenants. “We have no data, or no data that’s being shared. That’s really critical, that the city and state’s information around rent stabilization is not publicly accessible,” she said, “If you don’t measure it how could you possibly know what the impact is?”</p> <p>In the Jerome Avenue corridor rezoning process, for example, a neighborhood where the real-estate market is relatively weak, the Department of City Planning predicts that all of the residential development in the short-term will be subsidized and 100% will be income-targeted, according to <a href="https://citylimits.org/2018/03/23/jerome-avenue-rezoning-gets-unanimous-council-nod-despite-local-opposition/">Abigail Savitch-Lew from City Limits</a>. Even in such cases, de la Uz wants to ask the question, “what was there before? - because in a number of these communities, there were naturally occurring affordable communities that had no subsidy from government to create the affordability, and often times the income level of the folks were lower than the new housing that's being created, especially in East New York. You know, that's a community that's moderate income that has a lot of homeowners.”</p> <p>“What's being lost at what AMI level, and what’s being gained at what AMI level?” de la Uz asked. She also raised the concern that the rezonings displace undocumented immigrants. “We’re talking about people who are not eligible for the new affordable housing programs,” she said.</p> <p>“You really need multiple strategies, and the city now, with the tenant right to counsel, and the certificate of no harassment, with MIH, these are the things -- and many more things -- that you have to put together in order to have the desired outcome of really increasing economic diversity and preserving not just buildings, but neighborhoods and the people that have lived in them,” de la Uz said, giving the de Blasio administration and other officials some credit.</p> <p>She raised the possibility of using another strategy, saying, “none of the land use actions have thought about using value capture to help preserve public housing. NYCHA is talked about as if it’s a totally different universe despite the fact that it is all in these communities.”</p> <p>The Gowanus rezoning process, occurring right in de la Uz’s backyard, could be a welcome break with the pattern of only rezoning poorer neighborhoods, as <a href="https://citylimits.org/2017/05/10/the-high-income-neighborhoods-the-city-could-look-to-rezone/">some have called for</a> rezonings in more prosperous areas. The process is being led by City Council Member Brad Lander, who succeeded de Blasio in the City Council representing the area, and who was de la Uz’s predecessor at Fifth Avenue Committee.</p> <p>De la Uz discussed her work with the Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice, a coalition of public housing residents, industrial business advocates, nonprofits, religious groups, and civic members, who are currently advocating for the community’s interests in four separate rezoning processes, including the larger Gowanus plan.</p> <p>GNCJ is pushing for even deeper affordability than in MIH, investment in NYCHA through value capture, and the creation of the city’s first eco-district; close-by are three manufactured gas sites, and the neighborhood has lived with the environmental impacts for decades, not to mention the polluted Gowanus Canal. Additionally, there is a large industrial-business zone in the area, “that really needs much more attention and really should be leveraged, and should be thought of as part the mayor’s 100,000 jobs plan.”</p> <p>Since de la Uz and Fifth Avenue Committee are involved in the local processes, she will have to recuse herself on the City Planning Commission.</p> <p>On the city’s larger battle to create affordable housing, de la Uz also touched on the large number of vacant apartments in the city, according to the HVS.</p> <p>“I think the other interesting number is the number of apartments that are vacant, but not for rent. So, pied-a-terres. There are over 70,000 apartments in the city of New York that are vacant or not really available, because someone is using them as investment properties. That number is more than the homeless population that we have in the city of New York. We don’t tax those units differently, for instance. To have an affordable housing crisis, and to have a public housing authority crisis, to have the highest number of pied-a-terres in the city’s history, not looked at, in my mind, as something that should be taxed or should be regulated more directly. They're not contributing to relieving the city’s housing crisis basically, they’re sitting there as investment property,” De la Uz said.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio has repeatedly advocated for a pied-a-terre tax and a mansion tax, which would additionally tax sales of expensive properties to support more affordable housing subsidies. Any tax legislation would have to pass through the State Legislature.</p> <p>“We support wealthy out of towners paying their fair share through a pied-à-terre tax,” said de Blasio spokesperson Melissa Grace. “As we continue to explore our options in this challenging legal area, the Mayor is pushing hard for a mansion tax targeting a similar ultra-high-income group. Meanwhile, the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement is aggressively enforcing laws that bar property owners from taking permanent housing off the market to create illegal hotels.”</p> <p>***<br />by Gabriel Slaughter and Ben Max</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14134422963_fe30f84dca_z.jpg" alt="Mayor de Blasio afforable housing" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio unveils his housing plan (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Michelle de la Uz was first appointed to the powerful City Planning Commission in 2012, by then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, then re-appointed in 2017 by the current Public Advocate, Letitia James. Over the course of time, and with de Blasio now in his fifth year as mayor, de la Uz has become the most consistent and often lone dissenter on the 13-member commission, voting against a variety of de Blasio’s land use plans.</p> <p>During a recent appearance on the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7548-max-murphy-podcast-michelle-de-la-uz">Max &amp; Murphy podcast</a> from Gotham Gazette and City Limits, de la Uz gave her perspective on the city’s housing crisis and de Blasio’s approach to affordable housing and changing land use rules for various swaths of the city, often known as neighborhood rezonings, which have so far occurred in low-income communities of color like East New York, East Harlem, and the Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx.</p> <p>The City Planning Commission is responsible for reviewing land-use applications across the city, ranging from small projects on individual plots of land to the redevelopment of the Hudson Yards, community-wide plans, and more. Several hundred applications come through the Commission each year, most of them not controversial, but there are typically at least a handful of great significance.</p> <p>Seven of the CPC members are appointed by the mayor, five by the individual borough presidents, and one by the public advocate. De la Uz described working on the Commission as a privilege, and said of the different land review processes that, “some of them are quite technical and relatively minor, honestly, and others really call into question what are broader public policy questions around planning.”</p> <p>Also the executive director of the <a href="http://www.fifthave.org/">Fifth Avenue Committee</a>, a non-profit community development organization in Brooklyn that seeks to promote economic and social justice through a wide range of local initiatives, de la Uz has a particular philosophy about city planning and land use that not only comes from a social justice and equity lens, but also starts with “do no harm.”</p> <p>“One of the reasons why I was appointed by Public Advocate de Blasio and Public Advocate Tish James, was not only my knowledge and expertise, but also quite honestly my independence,” she said, “at the time I think he was enamored with it.”</p> <p>De la Uz has been an outspoken critic of the mayor’s planning policies, and recently voted against the major rezoning plans in East Harlem, East New York, Jerome Avenue, downtown Far Rockaway, and Inwood, often as the only dissenter on the Commission. This slate of rezonings would allow for more development in these neighborhoods and is central to the de Blasio’s affordable housing policy and community development efforts.</p> <p>According to the his plan, <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/755-17/housing-2-0-mayor-de-blasio-lifts-affordable-homeownership">Housing New York 2.0</a>, the city aims to build or preserve 300,000 affordable homes by 2026. Neighborhood rezonings typically include new land use rules to allow more housing with greater density, and a variety of neighborhood investments, such as new schools, transportation improvements, park land, and more. De Blasio has defended his administration’s rezoning of only low-income communities of color, indicating that the city has gone where there has been interest from local officials and opportunity to add housing.</p> <p>While de la Uz agrees that the mayor’s policies are headed in the right direction, she emphasizes the need to provide deeper affordability and for more careful zoning. She thinks there is significant room for improvement to the approach, including how the city leverages private investment to create affordable housing and how it uses other subsidies at its disposal.</p> <p>On the podcast, de la Uz spoke about the<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/hpd/downloads/pdf/about/2017-hvs-initial-findings.pdf"> New York Housing and Vacancy Survey of 2017</a> (HVS), and the upcoming HVS of 2018, which indicate that apartment vacancy rates in the city are extremely low, at 3.63% citywide, which qualifies as a housing crisis (below 5%). This has been a consistent problem for more than 20 years. Low vacancy rates give leverage to landlords over tenants in rent negotiations. The city addresses this imbalance with rent stabilization, among other programs.</p> <p>According to a city official, in 2017 there were 966,000 rent-stabilized units (occupied and vacant available), comprising 44 percent of the total rental stock. De la Uz described rent-stabilized housing as one the city’s most valuable assets, together with public housing.</p> <p>Giving some credit to the de Blasio administration’s efforts, de la Uz pointed out that “the city produced more [housing] units in the last few years than it’s had in decades, and I think that certainly is an endorsement of Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan.” She also mentioned other measures that de Blasio has instituted to help tenants keep their rents affordable or stay in their homes.</p> <p>As of November, landlords in certain areas need to provide <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/hpd/about/press-releases/2017/11/11-30-17.page">“certificates of no harassment”</a> signed by tenants, if they want to make significant alterations to their building. And, as of August 2017, the city has <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/547-17/mayor-de-blasio-signs-legislation-provide-low-income-new-yorkers-access-counsel-for#/0">promised legal counsel </a>to many low-income tenants facing eviction. De la Uz also expressed cautious optimism about the new “<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/hpd/downloads/pdf/about/neighborhood-pillars.pdf">Neighborhood Pillars</a>” program, which will pledge capital to help non-profit organizations acquire and preserve affordability in existing, unregulated, and rent-stabilized buildings.</p> <p>“What’s interesting is that rents, especially at the upper income levels, are actually coming down,” she said, “the problem is that the rents really aren’t coming down for the folks that are most in need, and the people the Fifth Avenue Committee serves, and other non-profit community development corporations serve.” This pattern corresponds with the vacancy rates of different affordability brackets: according to the HVS, for units with rents less than $800 a month, the vacancy rate is 1.15%, while for units with rents more than $2,000 a month, the vacancy rate is 7.42%, and above $2,500 asking rent, the vacancy rate was reported at 8.74% in 2017.</p> <p>A key part of de Blasio’s housing plan is the <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/plans/mih/mandatory-inclusionary-housing.page">Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy</a> (MIH), which, through zoning actions, forces residential developers to build a certain percentage of units that are affordable to households in different income brackets, measured as a percentage of Area Median Income.</p> <p>De la Uz expressed dissatisfaction with the MIH targets -- she voted against MIH at the Commission -- which underlies many of the neighborhood rezonings and land use measures the city backs to help create affordable housing through new development. “We know it’s the most aggressive mandatory inclusion policy in the country, but the need is much, much greater than that,” de la Uz said of how the MIH income targets play out in low-income communities.</p> <p>Asked to respond to de la Uz’s critiques, a spokesperson for the de Blasio administration noted that the city added $2 billion to its affordable housing budget last year, specifically to preserve and build more deeply-affordable units, with nearly half allocated for families living on less than $43,000 per year. The city official also reported that the share of households that are rent burdened is still high, but it is stable with about half of renter households rent-burdened, and one-third severely burdened. A household is defined as rent-burdened if it spends 30% or more of its income on rent, and severely rent-burdened if that percentage hits 50.</p> <p>De la Uz made a connection between the MIH targets and the strong local opposition to the major rezonings: “you have nearly 27% of New York City’s population that is not benefitting, whose incomes are so low that they are not benefiting from any of the new development that's happening in a community, right, so that's part of the problem -- MIH doesn't reach below 40% AMI, and yet in a number of the neighborhoods that have been rezoned or are targeted for rezoning, that’s the majority of residents in that community. So no wonder people are opposing it...none of the new housing is going to be for them. People want to see themselves in what is happening.”</p> <p>While that is not entirely true, there has been some community opposition to the rezonings, with some people feeling that development will exacerbate market pressures, accelerate gentrification, and displace local businesses and residents. Although these rezonings have come in packages which include major investments in the neighborhoods, one critic, Emily Goldstein of the Association for Neighborhood &amp; Housing Development, <a href="https://anhd.org/new-york-city-needs-to-stop-negotiating-rezonings-from-an-uneven-playing-field/">has pointed out</a> that wealthier neighborhoods have been able to receive city resources “without having to “trade” for something City Hall wants.”</p> <p>De la Uz explained where her skepticism comes from, saying, “I think [it’s] because I run a non-profit community development corporation, one that has seen all the mistakes of past rezonings.” Citing significant losses of rent-stabilized housing in North Park Slope, South Park Slope, and Sunset Park following their respective rezonings in 2003, 2007, and 2009, during Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure, she emphasized the need for caution. “Zoning can be too broad, you need a scalpel...It could be more targeted.”</p> <p>De la Uz also expressed frustration with the environmental impact review process employed by the City Planning Department. At the moment, rent-stabilized housing is not viewed as at risk of demolition, but following the rezonings in Park Slope and Sunset Park, she said “certainly Fifth Avenue Committee and I, personally, have seen that that's just not the case.” More broadly, they don’t take into account risks of displacement of rent-stabilized tenants. “We have no data, or no data that’s being shared. That’s really critical, that the city and state’s information around rent stabilization is not publicly accessible,” she said, “If you don’t measure it how could you possibly know what the impact is?”</p> <p>In the Jerome Avenue corridor rezoning process, for example, a neighborhood where the real-estate market is relatively weak, the Department of City Planning predicts that all of the residential development in the short-term will be subsidized and 100% will be income-targeted, according to <a href="https://citylimits.org/2018/03/23/jerome-avenue-rezoning-gets-unanimous-council-nod-despite-local-opposition/">Abigail Savitch-Lew from City Limits</a>. Even in such cases, de la Uz wants to ask the question, “what was there before? - because in a number of these communities, there were naturally occurring affordable communities that had no subsidy from government to create the affordability, and often times the income level of the folks were lower than the new housing that's being created, especially in East New York. You know, that's a community that's moderate income that has a lot of homeowners.”</p> <p>“What's being lost at what AMI level, and what’s being gained at what AMI level?” de la Uz asked. She also raised the concern that the rezonings displace undocumented immigrants. “We’re talking about people who are not eligible for the new affordable housing programs,” she said.</p> <p>“You really need multiple strategies, and the city now, with the tenant right to counsel, and the certificate of no harassment, with MIH, these are the things -- and many more things -- that you have to put together in order to have the desired outcome of really increasing economic diversity and preserving not just buildings, but neighborhoods and the people that have lived in them,” de la Uz said, giving the de Blasio administration and other officials some credit.</p> <p>She raised the possibility of using another strategy, saying, “none of the land use actions have thought about using value capture to help preserve public housing. NYCHA is talked about as if it’s a totally different universe despite the fact that it is all in these communities.”</p> <p>The Gowanus rezoning process, occurring right in de la Uz’s backyard, could be a welcome break with the pattern of only rezoning poorer neighborhoods, as <a href="https://citylimits.org/2017/05/10/the-high-income-neighborhoods-the-city-could-look-to-rezone/">some have called for</a> rezonings in more prosperous areas. The process is being led by City Council Member Brad Lander, who succeeded de Blasio in the City Council representing the area, and who was de la Uz’s predecessor at Fifth Avenue Committee.</p> <p>De la Uz discussed her work with the Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice, a coalition of public housing residents, industrial business advocates, nonprofits, religious groups, and civic members, who are currently advocating for the community’s interests in four separate rezoning processes, including the larger Gowanus plan.</p> <p>GNCJ is pushing for even deeper affordability than in MIH, investment in NYCHA through value capture, and the creation of the city’s first eco-district; close-by are three manufactured gas sites, and the neighborhood has lived with the environmental impacts for decades, not to mention the polluted Gowanus Canal. Additionally, there is a large industrial-business zone in the area, “that really needs much more attention and really should be leveraged, and should be thought of as part the mayor’s 100,000 jobs plan.”</p> <p>Since de la Uz and Fifth Avenue Committee are involved in the local processes, she will have to recuse herself on the City Planning Commission.</p> <p>On the city’s larger battle to create affordable housing, de la Uz also touched on the large number of vacant apartments in the city, according to the HVS.</p> <p>“I think the other interesting number is the number of apartments that are vacant, but not for rent. So, pied-a-terres. There are over 70,000 apartments in the city of New York that are vacant or not really available, because someone is using them as investment properties. That number is more than the homeless population that we have in the city of New York. We don’t tax those units differently, for instance. To have an affordable housing crisis, and to have a public housing authority crisis, to have the highest number of pied-a-terres in the city’s history, not looked at, in my mind, as something that should be taxed or should be regulated more directly. They're not contributing to relieving the city’s housing crisis basically, they’re sitting there as investment property,” De la Uz said.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio has repeatedly advocated for a pied-a-terre tax and a mansion tax, which would additionally tax sales of expensive properties to support more affordable housing subsidies. Any tax legislation would have to pass through the State Legislature.</p> <p>“We support wealthy out of towners paying their fair share through a pied-à-terre tax,” said de Blasio spokesperson Melissa Grace. “As we continue to explore our options in this challenging legal area, the Mayor is pushing hard for a mansion tax targeting a similar ultra-high-income group. Meanwhile, the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement is aggressively enforcing laws that bar property owners from taking permanent housing off the market to create illegal hotels.”</p> <p>***<br />by Gabriel Slaughter and Ben Max</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: City Planning Commissioner Michelle de la Uz 2018-03-19T04:00:00+00:00 2018-03-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7548:max-murphy-podcast-michelle-de-la-uz Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>March 19, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Michelle de la Uz<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/michelle-de-la-uz-277.jpg" alt="michelle de la uz 277" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Michelle de la Uz is a commissioner on the City Planning Commission, where she was originally appointed by then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and Executive Director of Fifth Avenue Committee, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that manages affordable housing projects and provides other services to low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. De la Uz has been an independent voice on the City Planning Commission, regularly voting "no" on major proposals coming from de Blasio's administration. She joined the podcast to discuss the current housing crisis in New York City, the mayor's approach to development, and more.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're 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>&nbsp;and guest Michelle de la Uz. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/416060193&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>March 19, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Michelle de la Uz<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/michelle-de-la-uz-277.jpg" alt="michelle de la uz 277" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Michelle de la Uz is a commissioner on the City Planning Commission, where she was originally appointed by then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and Executive Director of Fifth Avenue Committee, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that manages affordable housing projects and provides other services to low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. De la Uz has been an independent voice on the City Planning Commission, regularly voting "no" on major proposals coming from de Blasio's administration. She joined the podcast to discuss the current housing crisis in New York City, the mayor's approach to development, and more.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're 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>&nbsp;and guest Michelle de la Uz. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/416060193&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
On Land Use, Johnson Promises 'Deference' to Members But 'No Veto' 2018-03-09T05:00:00+00:00 2018-03-09T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7530:on-land-use-johnson-promises-deference-to-members-but-no-veto Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/39625100192_76d7406276_z.jpg" alt="Johnson Rodriguez City Council" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson, center, &amp; CM Rodriguez, right (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said Thursday that the elected Council members of the body he leads will get “deference” but “no veto” on land use matters.</p> <p>Even before he was officially elected the new speaker of the Council, Johnson had already begun to define how he would approach the job. In clear breaks from his predecessor, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Johnson promised greater independence from the mayor, expanded oversight over city agencies, and a more active role in land use decisions, which is one of the most significant roles played by the 51-member legislative body.</p> <p>Promising to bolster the Council’s land use division with more resources and staff, Johnson seemed to want a heavier hand in local development projects, or land use applications, where the previous speaker tended to almost completely defer to the local Council member’s sentiments and negotiations. Johnson, however, has implied that he won’t allow the same kind of leeway that Mark-Viverito gave to members to oppose or reject proposals in their districts, which, under Mayor Bill de Blasio, include a number of neighborhood rezonings that can shape the landscape and character of neighborhoods for generations.</p> <p>At an event Thursday, hosted by the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Johnson explained his approach, saying that he would involve himself in land use applications if a local Council member requested it, but at the same time, would not allow any single member to act as an obstacle to a worthwhile project with benefits for a community.</p> <p>When asked about the ongoing land use process for a proposed rezoning in Inwood in Uptown Manhattan, Johnson first admitted that he knew little about the ins-and-outs of the particular plan. “On the Inwood rezoning, this is not me in any way shirking, but I honestly, I haven’t been briefed on it,” he said, when panellist Debralee Santos from the Manhattan Times asked him about his general approach to land use issues and specifically two rezonings, a recently completed one in the Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx and the ongoing one in Inwood in Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez’s district.</p> <p>“I’ve been so crazy dealing with so many other things across the city,” Johnson added. “I see people tweet at me about it, and I’ve read some articles about it, but I have not had the opportunity to sit down with Councilman Rodriguez or the other elected officials and have a conversation about it.”</p> <p>In the past few years, the City Council and the de Blasio administration have come face-to-face with the fact that even with rezonings that invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a neighborhood, that have gone through months of negotiations and received hundreds of hours of testimony and feedback from communities, there are inevitably those who remain dissatisfied. In some cases, Council members capitulate to community backlash, killing a project, but often they do not.</p> <p>For instance, in 2015 East New York became home to the administration’s first successful neighborhood rezoning. Despite Council Member Rafael Espinal negotiating commitments of more than $260 million in investments from the city as well as a slew of other community benefits -- besides the affordable housing and economic development that undergirded the rezoning -- a segment of housing advocates argued that the rezoning would continue, and exacerbate, the nascent gentrification of the district. (The advocates even threatened to organize a challenge to Espinal’s 2017 reelection bid but did not follow through.) Espinal approved the project in the end, claiming advocates did not recognize the quality of the deal coming to the long-ignored community.</p> <p>But, in 2016, owing to vocal community resentment, Council Member Rodriguez announced his opposition to a proposed development, also in Inwood, the day before it was scheduled to be voted on by the Council’s land use committee. The project was unanimously rejected by the committee based on Rodriguez’s verdict.</p> <p>It was different, however, for Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who faced widespread criticism for vacillating on the proposed redevelopment of the Bedford Union Armory in Crown Heights. Eventually, faced with angry residents and a strong primary challenger, Cumbo rejected the proposal before her, which forced the city to amend its plans to later have them approved.</p> <p>On Thursday at CUNY, Santos pointed to the Inwood Library as one controversial aspect of the larger rezoning, where residents of the neighborhood have called for an entirely separate land-use application for the building. “That’s a local institution that people believe should merit its own process altogether, its own ULURP [Uniform Land Use Review Procedure],” Santos pointed out.</p> <p>“So I don’t know anything about it,” Johnson conceded. “But I’m happy to work with the stakeholders involved and find a solution. My general principle is, unless the rezoning or the land use action that’s proposed is totally off-the-wall and doesn’t make any sense or if there is no community buy-in, which it may be this case in Inwood from what I’m seeing, I try to get to a place of ‘yes.’”</p> <p>Johnson recounted his own experience with the rezoning of Pier 40 in his Manhattan district in 2016, where in the end, he managed to extract $100 million worth of investments from the city while creating affordable housing and senior housing. “I worked on it for two-and-a-half years. There were many places where I wanted to walk away from that rezoning, it was frustrating me so much that I didn’t think I’d be able to close the deal. But in the end, I always work to get to a place of ‘yes,’” he said.</p> <p>Would he get similarly involved in the Inwood rezoning, Santos asked.</p> <p>“If I’m asked by the local elected official,” Johnson said. It’s unclear to what extent Johnson will assert himself if asked by other parties in a negotiation, such as the mayor’s office or real estate developers.</p> <p>And though he noted that most rezonings go through a negotiated process, and most of them are approved, he said he will not allow a local Council member to determine the fate of any single land-use process that he deems worthy. “One thing I said is, is there member deference involved? Of course, there’s member deference involved,” he said. “But there’s no veto. No one gets a veto. There’s a difference between deference and a veto. If someone is opposing a project or asking for things that are totally unreasonable, someone needs to step in and say, ‘that doesn’t make any sense.’”</p> <p>Though Johnson said he was not up to speed on the Inwood rezoning, in a statement to Gotham Gazette, Council Member Rodriguez indicated he is pleased with the speaker’s support thus far in the process.</p> <p>“Speaker Johnson and the Land Use Committee staff have been very supportive throughout the rezoning,” Rodriguez said. “Land Use has taken the time to understand the needs of the community the council members share. They understand council members have the best knowledge of the whole population in their districts and are seeking an optimal outcome.”</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/graphics/2017/39625100192_76d7406276_z.jpg" alt="Johnson Rodriguez City Council" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson, center, &amp; CM Rodriguez, right (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said Thursday that the elected Council members of the body he leads will get “deference” but “no veto” on land use matters.</p> <p>Even before he was officially elected the new speaker of the Council, Johnson had already begun to define how he would approach the job. In clear breaks from his predecessor, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Johnson promised greater independence from the mayor, expanded oversight over city agencies, and a more active role in land use decisions, which is one of the most significant roles played by the 51-member legislative body.</p> <p>Promising to bolster the Council’s land use division with more resources and staff, Johnson seemed to want a heavier hand in local development projects, or land use applications, where the previous speaker tended to almost completely defer to the local Council member’s sentiments and negotiations. Johnson, however, has implied that he won’t allow the same kind of leeway that Mark-Viverito gave to members to oppose or reject proposals in their districts, which, under Mayor Bill de Blasio, include a number of neighborhood rezonings that can shape the landscape and character of neighborhoods for generations.</p> <p>At an event Thursday, hosted by the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Johnson explained his approach, saying that he would involve himself in land use applications if a local Council member requested it, but at the same time, would not allow any single member to act as an obstacle to a worthwhile project with benefits for a community.</p> <p>When asked about the ongoing land use process for a proposed rezoning in Inwood in Uptown Manhattan, Johnson first admitted that he knew little about the ins-and-outs of the particular plan. “On the Inwood rezoning, this is not me in any way shirking, but I honestly, I haven’t been briefed on it,” he said, when panellist Debralee Santos from the Manhattan Times asked him about his general approach to land use issues and specifically two rezonings, a recently completed one in the Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx and the ongoing one in Inwood in Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez’s district.</p> <p>“I’ve been so crazy dealing with so many other things across the city,” Johnson added. “I see people tweet at me about it, and I’ve read some articles about it, but I have not had the opportunity to sit down with Councilman Rodriguez or the other elected officials and have a conversation about it.”</p> <p>In the past few years, the City Council and the de Blasio administration have come face-to-face with the fact that even with rezonings that invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a neighborhood, that have gone through months of negotiations and received hundreds of hours of testimony and feedback from communities, there are inevitably those who remain dissatisfied. In some cases, Council members capitulate to community backlash, killing a project, but often they do not.</p> <p>For instance, in 2015 East New York became home to the administration’s first successful neighborhood rezoning. Despite Council Member Rafael Espinal negotiating commitments of more than $260 million in investments from the city as well as a slew of other community benefits -- besides the affordable housing and economic development that undergirded the rezoning -- a segment of housing advocates argued that the rezoning would continue, and exacerbate, the nascent gentrification of the district. (The advocates even threatened to organize a challenge to Espinal’s 2017 reelection bid but did not follow through.) Espinal approved the project in the end, claiming advocates did not recognize the quality of the deal coming to the long-ignored community.</p> <p>But, in 2016, owing to vocal community resentment, Council Member Rodriguez announced his opposition to a proposed development, also in Inwood, the day before it was scheduled to be voted on by the Council’s land use committee. The project was unanimously rejected by the committee based on Rodriguez’s verdict.</p> <p>It was different, however, for Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who faced widespread criticism for vacillating on the proposed redevelopment of the Bedford Union Armory in Crown Heights. Eventually, faced with angry residents and a strong primary challenger, Cumbo rejected the proposal before her, which forced the city to amend its plans to later have them approved.</p> <p>On Thursday at CUNY, Santos pointed to the Inwood Library as one controversial aspect of the larger rezoning, where residents of the neighborhood have called for an entirely separate land-use application for the building. “That’s a local institution that people believe should merit its own process altogether, its own ULURP [Uniform Land Use Review Procedure],” Santos pointed out.</p> <p>“So I don’t know anything about it,” Johnson conceded. “But I’m happy to work with the stakeholders involved and find a solution. My general principle is, unless the rezoning or the land use action that’s proposed is totally off-the-wall and doesn’t make any sense or if there is no community buy-in, which it may be this case in Inwood from what I’m seeing, I try to get to a place of ‘yes.’”</p> <p>Johnson recounted his own experience with the rezoning of Pier 40 in his Manhattan district in 2016, where in the end, he managed to extract $100 million worth of investments from the city while creating affordable housing and senior housing. “I worked on it for two-and-a-half years. There were many places where I wanted to walk away from that rezoning, it was frustrating me so much that I didn’t think I’d be able to close the deal. But in the end, I always work to get to a place of ‘yes,’” he said.</p> <p>Would he get similarly involved in the Inwood rezoning, Santos asked.</p> <p>“If I’m asked by the local elected official,” Johnson said. It’s unclear to what extent Johnson will assert himself if asked by other parties in a negotiation, such as the mayor’s office or real estate developers.</p> <p>And though he noted that most rezonings go through a negotiated process, and most of them are approved, he said he will not allow a local Council member to determine the fate of any single land-use process that he deems worthy. “One thing I said is, is there member deference involved? Of course, there’s member deference involved,” he said. “But there’s no veto. No one gets a veto. There’s a difference between deference and a veto. If someone is opposing a project or asking for things that are totally unreasonable, someone needs to step in and say, ‘that doesn’t make any sense.’”</p> <p>Though Johnson said he was not up to speed on the Inwood rezoning, in a statement to Gotham Gazette, Council Member Rodriguez indicated he is pleased with the speaker’s support thus far in the process.</p> <p>“Speaker Johnson and the Land Use Committee staff have been very supportive throughout the rezoning,” Rodriguez said. “Land Use has taken the time to understand the needs of the community the council members share. They understand council members have the best knowledge of the whole population in their districts and are seeking an optimal outcome.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Questions Arise as De Blasio Rezones Series of Low-Income Neighborhoods 2018-03-06T05:00:00+00:00 2018-03-06T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7521:questions-arise-as-de-blasio-rezones-series-of-low-income-neighborhoods Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/east_new_york_planning_map.png" alt="east new york planning map" width="600" height="330" /></p> <p>City Planning map of East New York rezoning area</p> <hr /> <p>Later this year, the Department of City Planning is slated to release a “draft planning framework” as part of a process to rezone Gowanus, an initiative spearheaded by Brooklyn City Council Member Brad Lander aimed at increasing affordable housing and making a variety of other neighborhood improvements. Rezoning Gowanus, a middle-to-upper income, majority-white neighborhood, would be a departure from the city’s prevailing approach to reimagining a number of neighborhoods across the city.</p> <p>At the beginning of his mayoralty, Bill de Blasio set an objective to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing in the city, a goal that has since been expanded to 300,000 by 2026. To that end, de Blasio listed about ten neighborhood to rezone, the central purpose of which is to permit added housing density. The community-wide plans that have moved forward or are on the verge of passage through the City Council thus far have include lower-income communities: East New York, East Harlem, and the Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx. Downtown Far Rockaway was also rezoned, and plans are moving ahead for Inwood and on the North Shore of Staten Island.</p> <p>The rezonings include changes to an area’s land use rules, typically allowing for taller residential buildings that must include a certain set percentage of affordable housing units, and promises of amenities like new schools, improved street designs, and other community benefits.</p> <p>But from the start, questions have arisen around which neighborhoods are chosen for such major changes, and whether those changes accelerate forces of displacement for current residents. A <a href="https://citylimits.org/2017/05/10/the-high-income-neighborhoods-the-city-could-look-to-rezone/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City Limits analysis</a> of East New York, East Harlem, and the Jerome Avenue corridor found that 85 percent of the residents included in the rezoning areas are black or Latino and over 50 percent of the households take in less than $35,000 annually. Far Rockaway and Inwood are in line with demographic profile of the three main, larger city-led rezonings.</p> <p>Asked by Gotham Gazette about the pattern of his administration’s rezonings falling in lower-income neighborhoods, de Blasio said in February that the sample size of the rezonings is small, so no sweeping conclusions could be drawn from the pattern. He also reiterated his view that low-income communities are the ones that are most suitable for increased development.</p> <p>“The opportunities to create more affordable housing have been first and foremost in some communities that have been been underbuilt for a variety of reasons,” he said. “We look for where is the opportunity to make the biggest impact.”</p> <p>“East New York is the classic example,” the mayor continued. “There was a lot to work with. In some cases, there’s public land or private sites that hadn’t been built out.”’</p> <p>De Blasio went on to insist that his rezoning plans have been focused on increasing affordable housing stock wherever the opportunity presents itself. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“So my point would be, one, on the rezonings, we’re still first and foremost going to be focused on affordable housing. That’s the reason we’re doing the rezonings, overwhelmingly. And two, that’s going to be where land and where building sites are,” de Blasio explained. “But at the same time, anything we can get our hands on -- Gowanus is in the pipeline as an example.”</p> <p>While de Blasio has pushed through different elements of the zoning packages, including the mandatory affordable housing attached to any upzoning, in something of a surprise, de Blasio’s practices have tracked with that of his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, in terms of the neighborhoods tabbed for such increases in density. A <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/22/nyregion/22zoning.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2010 Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy study</a> of the rezonings under then-Mayor Bloomberg, for example, found that rezonings in areas with whiter than average populations were more likely to retain restrictive zoning ordinances. In turn, the city allowed comparatively more density in rezonings in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the de Blasio-led rezonings, which do include many more safeguards for communities than Bloomberg’s, have been embraced by many local elected officials, especially those who’ve been able to negotiate for more local investments from the city. The de Blasio rezonings, however, have also been met with resistance from various affordable housing advocates and some elected officials.</p> <p>“Overall the neighborhoods that are being rezoned are mostly low-income communities of color,” Emily Goldstein, senior campaign organizer at the Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development, told <a href="https://commercialobserver.com/2018/02/a-massive-rezoning-promises-to-remake-the-central-bronx/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Commercial Observer</a> in February. “They’ve all had many years of disinvestment, and now they’re facing this idea that, in order to get reinvestment they’ve needed all along, it has to come with a rezoning. I think there’s huge concern of how these shifts in the market will affect displacement. There’s a question of what’s going to get built and for whom.”</p> <p>In an interview with Gotham Gazette, Katie Goldstein, executive director of affordable housing advocacy group Tenants and Neighbors, argued the city's rezonings have created housing that is nominally affordable, but in reality too expensive for the residents in certain neighborhoods. And the location selections, she said, exacerbate displacement pressures and gentrification. “What we’re seeing now is really just city-sponsored gentrification in these neighborhoods that have already been experiencing displacement pressures,” Goldstein told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>In an interview with Gotham Gazette last month, Comptroller Scott Stringer voiced similar concerns regarding the mayor’s approach to affordable housing. “Sometimes, there’s disconnect between the housing that we’re building and the people that can access that affordable housing,” he said. The overarching question that many have asked about de Blasio’s larger affordable housing plan, including the housing to be built in rezoned neighborhoods, has been “Affordable for whom?”</p> <p>For his part, de Blasio argues the rezonings will not spur out-of-character development, nor significant displacement. Instead, the mayor says, creating affordable housing in low-income areas helps to reduce displacement pressures, especially when paired with provisions that require 30 percent of the units to be built under the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) guidelines that de Blasio and the City Council passed last term.</p> <p>New York City must build its way out of the housing crisis, de Blasio believes; sitting on existing housing stock will only lead to higher rents and more displacement. He also regularly reminds critics that the rezonings are not only paired with MIH, but also significant investments in eviction prevention efforts.</p> <p>In addition, de Blasio offers, the added housing density in rezoned neighborhoods is coupled with improvements to infrastructure, schools, parks, public transportation, job training, and more, allocating resources for the community at hand and its thousands of new residents. Furthermore, low-income neighborhoods, in de Blasio’s telling, have been underdeveloped compared to more affluent areas, as they have not been rezoned for decades. &nbsp;</p> <p>Lander, who replaced de Blasio in the City Council almost a decade ago, is helming the Gowanus rezoning, in its early stages, with community input. The process began in fall 2016 with a series of community visioning and planning meetings. As Lander has repeatedly noted, Gowanus would be a different type of rezoning than the ones de Blasio has put forth.</p> <p>According to the aforementioned City Limits analysis, Gowanus -- a neighborhood bordering Park Slope that shares a name with the canal that runs through it -- is over half white with a annual median income of over $65,000.</p> <p>Lander believes the city should not only rezone Gowanus but should make it a priority to upzone other more affluent neighborhoods throughout the city. According to Lander, loosening zoning restrictions and building affordable housing in traditionally tightly-zoned, affluent neighborhoods can help desegregate New York.</p> <p>“I think it is our responsibility to affirmatively focus on upper-income neighborhoods and white neighborhoods [for upzonings],” he said. “We’ve started to have a conversation about Fair Housing and about what we do to combat residential segregation, and build a more integrated city.”</p> <p>“One central way of doing that,” he explained, “is by rezoning wealthier neighborhoods.”</p> <p>Moses Gates, director of community planning and design at Regional Planning Association, told Gotham Gazette that it is not as if Gowanus is the sole low-density, tightly-zoned, middle-to-upper-income community throughout the city that could use more affordable housing.</p> <p>Gates said that, contrary to de Blasio’s claims, lower-income neighborhoods are not necessarily better-suited for upzonings. “If the response is ‘we’re doing it in low-income neighborhoods because this is where we have historically had housing development,’ I’d ask the city, ‘What does that mean?’” Gates said. “It’s not like there’s no people in East New York. It’s not like East New York has less density and better transit access than Forest Hills.” &nbsp;</p> <p>Along with Forest Hills, urban planning experts have pointed toward middle-to-upper-income, low-density neighborhoods such as Long Island City, Bayside, Midwood, and Chelsea as opportune locations to upzone. The de Blasio administration has also raised the prospect of rezoning Washington Heights, Bushwick, Chinatown, Southern Boulevard, Flushing, and, as mentioned, the Bay Street Corridor on Staten Island’s North Shore. &nbsp;</p> <p>More broadly, Gates contended the de Blasio administration has not been clear on what it is trying to accomplish with its rezonings and it has not chosen optimal locations for them. “I think the city needs to look at transit-accessible places,” said Gates. “I think the city needs to look at places that do not currently have affordable housing opportunities.”</p> <p>One of the obstacles to rezoning proposals can be opposition from local City Council members, many of whom are loath to invite outcry from constituents and community boards that are often opposed to adding density close to home. Though he has made clear his philosophy is one of ‘getting to ‘yes,’’ new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has also indicated he will continue the tradition of heeding the local Council representative’s wishes on land use matters, including neighborhood rezonings, and involving relevant community boards and other stakeholders. The City Council as a whole has the final vote to approve neighborhood rezonings, or single projects that require a land use approval process.</p> <p>“Council Member Koo was not happy with the Flushing rezoning, and it didn’t go anywhere,” Johnson said at a press conference last month when asked by Gotham Gazette about the mayor’s neighborhood rezoning selections. “Every district has individual needs.”</p> <p>He added, “Anytime you talk about rezoning, it needs to be a process that respects the local Council member, the local community board, [and[ the Borough President.”</p> <p>The Jerome Avenue corridor rezoning moved through committee at the City Council on Tuesday, and will soon be voted through the full Council. The final deal reached between the de Blasio administration and local City Council Members Vanessa Gibson and Fernando Cabrera is projected to bring 4,600 new homes to the 95-block rezoned area, according to the mayor's office, and includes two new schools, about $56 million in parks investments, and other community benefits. According to the mayor's office, all housing built in the area will be affordable and subsidized in the near-term, will measures in place to ensure permanent affordability for about 1,150 of the housing units.</p> <p>“The Jerome Avenue Neighborhood Plan invests in communities that have never before gotten a fair shake," said Melissa Grace, a spokesperson for the mayor, in a statement.</p> <p>Council Member Donovan Richards, who represents Far Rockaway, a community home to a rezoning led by the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and more focused on commercial than residential growth, positioned himself as a cautious supporter of de Blasio’s neighborhood selections. “We’ve seen opportunities and communities like the Rockaways, because there is a lot of land that’s never been tapped into,” he said during a phone interview. “When you look at East New York, also -- neighborhoods with immense amounts of land where the city has never invested.”</p> <p>But Richards -- who last term chaired the zoning subcommittee and participated in key negotiations to amend zoning codes and on individual projects -- said efforts to increase affordable housing stock should not exclusively “fall on the back of communities like Far Rockaway or Jerome [Avenue] or Inwood.”</p> <p>“I don’t think the focus should be just in low-income communities,” Richards continued. “We should be looking for opportunities everywhere.”</p> <p>Additionally, Richards argued New York is “still a very segregated city,” a problem the city’s housing policies need to address. “We need to work toward righting that wrong if we’re going to give low-income residents an opportunity at succeeding in New York City,” he said.</p> <p>Asked why he believes the de Blasio administration has not adopted this strategy, Council Member Lander said he wasn't sure. “I don’t want to speculate; I don’t know the answer to it,” he said. “And I think it’s a fair question.”</p> <p> </p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/east_new_york_planning_map.png" alt="east new york planning map" width="600" height="330" /></p> <p>City Planning map of East New York rezoning area</p> <hr /> <p>Later this year, the Department of City Planning is slated to release a “draft planning framework” as part of a process to rezone Gowanus, an initiative spearheaded by Brooklyn City Council Member Brad Lander aimed at increasing affordable housing and making a variety of other neighborhood improvements. Rezoning Gowanus, a middle-to-upper income, majority-white neighborhood, would be a departure from the city’s prevailing approach to reimagining a number of neighborhoods across the city.</p> <p>At the beginning of his mayoralty, Bill de Blasio set an objective to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing in the city, a goal that has since been expanded to 300,000 by 2026. To that end, de Blasio listed about ten neighborhood to rezone, the central purpose of which is to permit added housing density. The community-wide plans that have moved forward or are on the verge of passage through the City Council thus far have include lower-income communities: East New York, East Harlem, and the Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx. Downtown Far Rockaway was also rezoned, and plans are moving ahead for Inwood and on the North Shore of Staten Island.</p> <p>The rezonings include changes to an area’s land use rules, typically allowing for taller residential buildings that must include a certain set percentage of affordable housing units, and promises of amenities like new schools, improved street designs, and other community benefits.</p> <p>But from the start, questions have arisen around which neighborhoods are chosen for such major changes, and whether those changes accelerate forces of displacement for current residents. A <a href="https://citylimits.org/2017/05/10/the-high-income-neighborhoods-the-city-could-look-to-rezone/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City Limits analysis</a> of East New York, East Harlem, and the Jerome Avenue corridor found that 85 percent of the residents included in the rezoning areas are black or Latino and over 50 percent of the households take in less than $35,000 annually. Far Rockaway and Inwood are in line with demographic profile of the three main, larger city-led rezonings.</p> <p>Asked by Gotham Gazette about the pattern of his administration’s rezonings falling in lower-income neighborhoods, de Blasio said in February that the sample size of the rezonings is small, so no sweeping conclusions could be drawn from the pattern. He also reiterated his view that low-income communities are the ones that are most suitable for increased development.</p> <p>“The opportunities to create more affordable housing have been first and foremost in some communities that have been been underbuilt for a variety of reasons,” he said. “We look for where is the opportunity to make the biggest impact.”</p> <p>“East New York is the classic example,” the mayor continued. “There was a lot to work with. In some cases, there’s public land or private sites that hadn’t been built out.”’</p> <p>De Blasio went on to insist that his rezoning plans have been focused on increasing affordable housing stock wherever the opportunity presents itself. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“So my point would be, one, on the rezonings, we’re still first and foremost going to be focused on affordable housing. That’s the reason we’re doing the rezonings, overwhelmingly. And two, that’s going to be where land and where building sites are,” de Blasio explained. “But at the same time, anything we can get our hands on -- Gowanus is in the pipeline as an example.”</p> <p>While de Blasio has pushed through different elements of the zoning packages, including the mandatory affordable housing attached to any upzoning, in something of a surprise, de Blasio’s practices have tracked with that of his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, in terms of the neighborhoods tabbed for such increases in density. A <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/22/nyregion/22zoning.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2010 Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy study</a> of the rezonings under then-Mayor Bloomberg, for example, found that rezonings in areas with whiter than average populations were more likely to retain restrictive zoning ordinances. In turn, the city allowed comparatively more density in rezonings in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the de Blasio-led rezonings, which do include many more safeguards for communities than Bloomberg’s, have been embraced by many local elected officials, especially those who’ve been able to negotiate for more local investments from the city. The de Blasio rezonings, however, have also been met with resistance from various affordable housing advocates and some elected officials.</p> <p>“Overall the neighborhoods that are being rezoned are mostly low-income communities of color,” Emily Goldstein, senior campaign organizer at the Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development, told <a href="https://commercialobserver.com/2018/02/a-massive-rezoning-promises-to-remake-the-central-bronx/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Commercial Observer</a> in February. “They’ve all had many years of disinvestment, and now they’re facing this idea that, in order to get reinvestment they’ve needed all along, it has to come with a rezoning. I think there’s huge concern of how these shifts in the market will affect displacement. There’s a question of what’s going to get built and for whom.”</p> <p>In an interview with Gotham Gazette, Katie Goldstein, executive director of affordable housing advocacy group Tenants and Neighbors, argued the city's rezonings have created housing that is nominally affordable, but in reality too expensive for the residents in certain neighborhoods. And the location selections, she said, exacerbate displacement pressures and gentrification. “What we’re seeing now is really just city-sponsored gentrification in these neighborhoods that have already been experiencing displacement pressures,” Goldstein told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>In an interview with Gotham Gazette last month, Comptroller Scott Stringer voiced similar concerns regarding the mayor’s approach to affordable housing. “Sometimes, there’s disconnect between the housing that we’re building and the people that can access that affordable housing,” he said. The overarching question that many have asked about de Blasio’s larger affordable housing plan, including the housing to be built in rezoned neighborhoods, has been “Affordable for whom?”</p> <p>For his part, de Blasio argues the rezonings will not spur out-of-character development, nor significant displacement. Instead, the mayor says, creating affordable housing in low-income areas helps to reduce displacement pressures, especially when paired with provisions that require 30 percent of the units to be built under the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) guidelines that de Blasio and the City Council passed last term.</p> <p>New York City must build its way out of the housing crisis, de Blasio believes; sitting on existing housing stock will only lead to higher rents and more displacement. He also regularly reminds critics that the rezonings are not only paired with MIH, but also significant investments in eviction prevention efforts.</p> <p>In addition, de Blasio offers, the added housing density in rezoned neighborhoods is coupled with improvements to infrastructure, schools, parks, public transportation, job training, and more, allocating resources for the community at hand and its thousands of new residents. Furthermore, low-income neighborhoods, in de Blasio’s telling, have been underdeveloped compared to more affluent areas, as they have not been rezoned for decades. &nbsp;</p> <p>Lander, who replaced de Blasio in the City Council almost a decade ago, is helming the Gowanus rezoning, in its early stages, with community input. The process began in fall 2016 with a series of community visioning and planning meetings. As Lander has repeatedly noted, Gowanus would be a different type of rezoning than the ones de Blasio has put forth.</p> <p>According to the aforementioned City Limits analysis, Gowanus -- a neighborhood bordering Park Slope that shares a name with the canal that runs through it -- is over half white with a annual median income of over $65,000.</p> <p>Lander believes the city should not only rezone Gowanus but should make it a priority to upzone other more affluent neighborhoods throughout the city. According to Lander, loosening zoning restrictions and building affordable housing in traditionally tightly-zoned, affluent neighborhoods can help desegregate New York.</p> <p>“I think it is our responsibility to affirmatively focus on upper-income neighborhoods and white neighborhoods [for upzonings],” he said. “We’ve started to have a conversation about Fair Housing and about what we do to combat residential segregation, and build a more integrated city.”</p> <p>“One central way of doing that,” he explained, “is by rezoning wealthier neighborhoods.”</p> <p>Moses Gates, director of community planning and design at Regional Planning Association, told Gotham Gazette that it is not as if Gowanus is the sole low-density, tightly-zoned, middle-to-upper-income community throughout the city that could use more affordable housing.</p> <p>Gates said that, contrary to de Blasio’s claims, lower-income neighborhoods are not necessarily better-suited for upzonings. “If the response is ‘we’re doing it in low-income neighborhoods because this is where we have historically had housing development,’ I’d ask the city, ‘What does that mean?’” Gates said. “It’s not like there’s no people in East New York. It’s not like East New York has less density and better transit access than Forest Hills.” &nbsp;</p> <p>Along with Forest Hills, urban planning experts have pointed toward middle-to-upper-income, low-density neighborhoods such as Long Island City, Bayside, Midwood, and Chelsea as opportune locations to upzone. The de Blasio administration has also raised the prospect of rezoning Washington Heights, Bushwick, Chinatown, Southern Boulevard, Flushing, and, as mentioned, the Bay Street Corridor on Staten Island’s North Shore. &nbsp;</p> <p>More broadly, Gates contended the de Blasio administration has not been clear on what it is trying to accomplish with its rezonings and it has not chosen optimal locations for them. “I think the city needs to look at transit-accessible places,” said Gates. “I think the city needs to look at places that do not currently have affordable housing opportunities.”</p> <p>One of the obstacles to rezoning proposals can be opposition from local City Council members, many of whom are loath to invite outcry from constituents and community boards that are often opposed to adding density close to home. Though he has made clear his philosophy is one of ‘getting to ‘yes,’’ new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has also indicated he will continue the tradition of heeding the local Council representative’s wishes on land use matters, including neighborhood rezonings, and involving relevant community boards and other stakeholders. The City Council as a whole has the final vote to approve neighborhood rezonings, or single projects that require a land use approval process.</p> <p>“Council Member Koo was not happy with the Flushing rezoning, and it didn’t go anywhere,” Johnson said at a press conference last month when asked by Gotham Gazette about the mayor’s neighborhood rezoning selections. “Every district has individual needs.”</p> <p>He added, “Anytime you talk about rezoning, it needs to be a process that respects the local Council member, the local community board, [and[ the Borough President.”</p> <p>The Jerome Avenue corridor rezoning moved through committee at the City Council on Tuesday, and will soon be voted through the full Council. The final deal reached between the de Blasio administration and local City Council Members Vanessa Gibson and Fernando Cabrera is projected to bring 4,600 new homes to the 95-block rezoned area, according to the mayor's office, and includes two new schools, about $56 million in parks investments, and other community benefits. According to the mayor's office, all housing built in the area will be affordable and subsidized in the near-term, will measures in place to ensure permanent affordability for about 1,150 of the housing units.</p> <p>“The Jerome Avenue Neighborhood Plan invests in communities that have never before gotten a fair shake," said Melissa Grace, a spokesperson for the mayor, in a statement.</p> <p>Council Member Donovan Richards, who represents Far Rockaway, a community home to a rezoning led by the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and more focused on commercial than residential growth, positioned himself as a cautious supporter of de Blasio’s neighborhood selections. “We’ve seen opportunities and communities like the Rockaways, because there is a lot of land that’s never been tapped into,” he said during a phone interview. “When you look at East New York, also -- neighborhoods with immense amounts of land where the city has never invested.”</p> <p>But Richards -- who last term chaired the zoning subcommittee and participated in key negotiations to amend zoning codes and on individual projects -- said efforts to increase affordable housing stock should not exclusively “fall on the back of communities like Far Rockaway or Jerome [Avenue] or Inwood.”</p> <p>“I don’t think the focus should be just in low-income communities,” Richards continued. “We should be looking for opportunities everywhere.”</p> <p>Additionally, Richards argued New York is “still a very segregated city,” a problem the city’s housing policies need to address. “We need to work toward righting that wrong if we’re going to give low-income residents an opportunity at succeeding in New York City,” he said.</p> <p>Asked why he believes the de Blasio administration has not adopted this strategy, Council Member Lander said he wasn't sure. “I don’t want to speculate; I don’t know the answer to it,” he said. “And I think it’s a fair question.”</p> <p> </p> Bronx Rezoning Moves to City Council as Negotiations Enter Final Stages 2018-01-28T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-28T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7446:bronx-rezoning-moves-to-city-council-as-negotiations-enter-final-stages Ben Max <img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/jerome-ave-aerial.jpg" alt="jerome ave aerial" width="600" height="394" /> <p>Jerome Ave corridor rezoning, via City Planning</p> <hr /> <p>The City Planning Commission voted January 17 to approve a comprehensive rezoning plan for the Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx, putting the proposal before the City Council for scrutiny in the final stretch of the lengthy land use review process. The rezoning would follow four others ushered through by the de Blasio administration as it somewhat controversially seeks to add housing density, including thousands of new affordable units, and make other investments in mostly low-income communities across the five boroughs.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/plans/jerome-ave/jerome-ave-updates.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Jerome Avenue Neighborhood Plan</a> put forth by the administration with local input envisions changing land use regulations in a 92-block area along Jerome Avenue, from East 165th Street to 184th Street, which currently comprises a mix of commercial, industrial, and residential space. The proposed plan would allow mixed-use development along the corridor with the intent of creating more affordable housing, while also funding new infrastructure, quality-of-life improvements, job creation, and economic development initiatives for the community. &nbsp;</p> <p>While a deal appears imminent and the clock is ticking, negotiations are ongoing between the administration and City Council Members Vanessa Gibson and Fernando Cabrera, whose districts span the proposed rezoning and who will have the final say in whether the rezoning is approved. Gibson, Cabrera, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. met recently to discuss the changes to the plan that they want to see before it is passed by the Council.</p> <p>The City Planning Commission’s approval of the plan started the 50-day clock for the Council to accept or reject the proposal. The entire body typically votes with the local Council member(s) on land use issues and has rarely overridden a member’s position. The Council’s subcommittee on zoning and franchises is expected to hold a public hearing on the rezoning on Wednesday, February 7. &nbsp;</p> <p>“It is and has been very fruitful,” Gibson said of the negotiation process, in a phone interview on Thursday. But there remain a few big ticket items that have yet to be resolved, she said, including preserving more affordable housing and expanding school capacity to deal with the expected increase in population from new housing created under the plan.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/jerome_ave_vertical.png" alt="jerome ave vertical" width="320" height="412" style="margin-right: 15px; float: left;" />The city has promised to create 4,000 new housing units in the rezoned area, which will include affordable units set aside for different income bands under the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy. The administration is also planning a Certificate of No Harassment pilot program to prevent tenant harassment and displacement, and will guarantee that half of new housing units created by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development will go to existing residents. Additionally, it has committed millions of dollars for infrastructure improvements -- including $4.6 million to revamp Corporal Fischer Park; $4 million to rebuild the Morton Playground; sidewalk lighting; and security upgrades -- and jobs and business development plans through the Department of Small Business Services</p> <p>As is, the plan will also preserve 1,500 affordable units, a number that Gibson wants to see increased to 2,500 to cope with the gentrification pressures that neighborhoods targeted for rezoning have come to expect. She emphasized that many affordable units currently in those neighborhoods will see their city rent subsidies expire in less than a decade, and that the administration should take preemptive action.</p> <p>“The city has a very good opportunity to engage those landlords on new programs and tax incentives so they can remain in the affordability program and access some of our resources for the next 30 or 40 years,” she said. “Now if we go over 2,500, I’m not mad. But I think 2,500 should be the floor.”</p> <p>As with other rezonings that have been approved in the last three years, Gibson expressed larger concerns about displacement of existing residents as zoning changes bring additional density and improvements to the communities along Jerome Avenue. But she maintained that, unlike other areas that have seen luxury developers quickly move in to capitalize on a proposed rezoning, Jerome Avenue will likely not see market-rate housing being built in the short term.</p> <p>“People are fearful, they have a right to be fearful, but the market in Jerome does not propel luxury housing right now,” she said.</p> <p>Gibson predicted that recent increases in the minimum wage and residents getting prevailing-wage and union-wage jobs will eventually lead them to be ineligible for deeply affordable housing as they start to earn more than 30 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), a federal measure that includes surrounding suburban counties and the city. The New York City region’s AMI in 2017 was $85,900 for a family of three. Gibson insisted that the MIH set-asides should therefore include additional moderate and middle-income housing.</p> <p>“It has to be a diverse mixture of incomes, obviously with the majority of those incomes being on the lower end at 30 and 40 percent of AMI as well as set asides for formerly homeless families coming directly from the shelter,” she said.</p> <p>Jerome Avenue is the latest proving ground for the administration’s neighborhood rezoning efforts, which are part of achieving the mayor’s target of creating and preserving 300,000 units of affordable housing across the city by 2026. The first such rezoning, in East New York, largely set the tone, with the local Council Member, Rafael Espinal, having <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6287-east-new-york-deal-sets-precedent-for-wave-of-rezonings">extracted</a> a slew of concessions from the administration including a new 1,000-seat school and about $267 million in capital investments. Diaz Jr. and the two Bronx Council members are working off of a similar script, as was the case with rezonings in East Harlem and Far Rockaway.</p> <p>Diaz Jr. signed off on the city’s plan in November, granted the city meet certain conditions that he laid out in his non-binding <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/plans-studies/jerome-ave/bronx-president-recommendation.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">formal approval</a> in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), a multi-step process that also involves non-binding votes by the affected community boards, which also approved it with conditions.</p> <p>The borough president said in his response that the city had “acted in good faith” in listening to the community’s concerns. But he maintained, “There is still more work to be done.” He called on the city to put in place a minimum of their monetary commitments before the rezoning is approved, an increase in the number of affordable housing units preserved to at least 2,000, enhanced enforcement of housing codes, the establishment of a new community center in Highbridge, and additional funding for improvement of parks and transit infrastructure.</p> <p>Jerome Avenue is also home to a large automotive industry, and Diaz Jr. urged the city to identify locations where displaced facilities could relocate as well as fund relocation, training, and certification for those businesses. Gibson has made similar demands. The city’s plan would only retain about 20 percent of the 151 auto businesses in the neighborhood, she recently told Gotham Gazette at City Hall, and she is pushing to retain at least 50 percent. &nbsp;</p> <p>Diaz Jr. also insisted that the city must address the school seat shortage in the district -- roughly 3,248 seats -- by identifying potential sites for new facilities. That is one of the biggest priorities for Gibson and Cabrera as well. Gibson said she and her Council colleague are pushing for two new elementary schools in school districts 9 and 10.</p> <p>“The challenge we face is we don’t have large parcels of city-owned land,” she said, emphasizing that the administration will have to work with private landowners to find suitable locations for new schools, while also expanding capacity at existing facilities that can bear it.</p> <p>“A school that we build of 500 seats is going to help us now but it wont help us in the future if we’re looking at potentially 4,000 units of housing,” she said. “So there has to be some give and take.”</p> <p>Gibson is confident about securing that pledge from the city before the Council votes on the project. “We’ve been very consistent on what our priorities are and, at the end of the day, we are working as hard as we can to achieve that. I do know that the admin in the past typically waits until the very end to make all of their commitments and announcements and to the best extent that I can, I’m trying to avoid that because I don’t like to operate last minute.”</p> <p>Asked about the final stages of negotiations, a&nbsp;spokesperson for the Department of City Planning said in a statement, "We continue to work hand-in-hand with local elected officials and community leaders to build and protect affordable housing while also boosting economic vitality along the Jerome corridor."</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/jerome-ave-aerial.jpg" alt="jerome ave aerial" width="600" height="394" /> <p>Jerome Ave corridor rezoning, via City Planning</p> <hr /> <p>The City Planning Commission voted January 17 to approve a comprehensive rezoning plan for the Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx, putting the proposal before the City Council for scrutiny in the final stretch of the lengthy land use review process. The rezoning would follow four others ushered through by the de Blasio administration as it somewhat controversially seeks to add housing density, including thousands of new affordable units, and make other investments in mostly low-income communities across the five boroughs.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/plans/jerome-ave/jerome-ave-updates.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Jerome Avenue Neighborhood Plan</a> put forth by the administration with local input envisions changing land use regulations in a 92-block area along Jerome Avenue, from East 165th Street to 184th Street, which currently comprises a mix of commercial, industrial, and residential space. The proposed plan would allow mixed-use development along the corridor with the intent of creating more affordable housing, while also funding new infrastructure, quality-of-life improvements, job creation, and economic development initiatives for the community. &nbsp;</p> <p>While a deal appears imminent and the clock is ticking, negotiations are ongoing between the administration and City Council Members Vanessa Gibson and Fernando Cabrera, whose districts span the proposed rezoning and who will have the final say in whether the rezoning is approved. Gibson, Cabrera, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. met recently to discuss the changes to the plan that they want to see before it is passed by the Council.</p> <p>The City Planning Commission’s approval of the plan started the 50-day clock for the Council to accept or reject the proposal. The entire body typically votes with the local Council member(s) on land use issues and has rarely overridden a member’s position. The Council’s subcommittee on zoning and franchises is expected to hold a public hearing on the rezoning on Wednesday, February 7. &nbsp;</p> <p>“It is and has been very fruitful,” Gibson said of the negotiation process, in a phone interview on Thursday. But there remain a few big ticket items that have yet to be resolved, she said, including preserving more affordable housing and expanding school capacity to deal with the expected increase in population from new housing created under the plan.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/jerome_ave_vertical.png" alt="jerome ave vertical" width="320" height="412" style="margin-right: 15px; float: left;" />The city has promised to create 4,000 new housing units in the rezoned area, which will include affordable units set aside for different income bands under the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy. The administration is also planning a Certificate of No Harassment pilot program to prevent tenant harassment and displacement, and will guarantee that half of new housing units created by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development will go to existing residents. Additionally, it has committed millions of dollars for infrastructure improvements -- including $4.6 million to revamp Corporal Fischer Park; $4 million to rebuild the Morton Playground; sidewalk lighting; and security upgrades -- and jobs and business development plans through the Department of Small Business Services</p> <p>As is, the plan will also preserve 1,500 affordable units, a number that Gibson wants to see increased to 2,500 to cope with the gentrification pressures that neighborhoods targeted for rezoning have come to expect. She emphasized that many affordable units currently in those neighborhoods will see their city rent subsidies expire in less than a decade, and that the administration should take preemptive action.</p> <p>“The city has a very good opportunity to engage those landlords on new programs and tax incentives so they can remain in the affordability program and access some of our resources for the next 30 or 40 years,” she said. “Now if we go over 2,500, I’m not mad. But I think 2,500 should be the floor.”</p> <p>As with other rezonings that have been approved in the last three years, Gibson expressed larger concerns about displacement of existing residents as zoning changes bring additional density and improvements to the communities along Jerome Avenue. But she maintained that, unlike other areas that have seen luxury developers quickly move in to capitalize on a proposed rezoning, Jerome Avenue will likely not see market-rate housing being built in the short term.</p> <p>“People are fearful, they have a right to be fearful, but the market in Jerome does not propel luxury housing right now,” she said.</p> <p>Gibson predicted that recent increases in the minimum wage and residents getting prevailing-wage and union-wage jobs will eventually lead them to be ineligible for deeply affordable housing as they start to earn more than 30 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), a federal measure that includes surrounding suburban counties and the city. The New York City region’s AMI in 2017 was $85,900 for a family of three. Gibson insisted that the MIH set-asides should therefore include additional moderate and middle-income housing.</p> <p>“It has to be a diverse mixture of incomes, obviously with the majority of those incomes being on the lower end at 30 and 40 percent of AMI as well as set asides for formerly homeless families coming directly from the shelter,” she said.</p> <p>Jerome Avenue is the latest proving ground for the administration’s neighborhood rezoning efforts, which are part of achieving the mayor’s target of creating and preserving 300,000 units of affordable housing across the city by 2026. The first such rezoning, in East New York, largely set the tone, with the local Council Member, Rafael Espinal, having <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6287-east-new-york-deal-sets-precedent-for-wave-of-rezonings">extracted</a> a slew of concessions from the administration including a new 1,000-seat school and about $267 million in capital investments. Diaz Jr. and the two Bronx Council members are working off of a similar script, as was the case with rezonings in East Harlem and Far Rockaway.</p> <p>Diaz Jr. signed off on the city’s plan in November, granted the city meet certain conditions that he laid out in his non-binding <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/plans-studies/jerome-ave/bronx-president-recommendation.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">formal approval</a> in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), a multi-step process that also involves non-binding votes by the affected community boards, which also approved it with conditions.</p> <p>The borough president said in his response that the city had “acted in good faith” in listening to the community’s concerns. But he maintained, “There is still more work to be done.” He called on the city to put in place a minimum of their monetary commitments before the rezoning is approved, an increase in the number of affordable housing units preserved to at least 2,000, enhanced enforcement of housing codes, the establishment of a new community center in Highbridge, and additional funding for improvement of parks and transit infrastructure.</p> <p>Jerome Avenue is also home to a large automotive industry, and Diaz Jr. urged the city to identify locations where displaced facilities could relocate as well as fund relocation, training, and certification for those businesses. Gibson has made similar demands. The city’s plan would only retain about 20 percent of the 151 auto businesses in the neighborhood, she recently told Gotham Gazette at City Hall, and she is pushing to retain at least 50 percent. &nbsp;</p> <p>Diaz Jr. also insisted that the city must address the school seat shortage in the district -- roughly 3,248 seats -- by identifying potential sites for new facilities. That is one of the biggest priorities for Gibson and Cabrera as well. Gibson said she and her Council colleague are pushing for two new elementary schools in school districts 9 and 10.</p> <p>“The challenge we face is we don’t have large parcels of city-owned land,” she said, emphasizing that the administration will have to work with private landowners to find suitable locations for new schools, while also expanding capacity at existing facilities that can bear it.</p> <p>“A school that we build of 500 seats is going to help us now but it wont help us in the future if we’re looking at potentially 4,000 units of housing,” she said. “So there has to be some give and take.”</p> <p>Gibson is confident about securing that pledge from the city before the Council votes on the project. “We’ve been very consistent on what our priorities are and, at the end of the day, we are working as hard as we can to achieve that. I do know that the admin in the past typically waits until the very end to make all of their commitments and announcements and to the best extent that I can, I’m trying to avoid that because I don’t like to operate last minute.”</p> <p>Asked about the final stages of negotiations, a&nbsp;spokesperson for the Department of City Planning said in a statement, "We continue to work hand-in-hand with local elected officials and community leaders to build and protect affordable housing while also boosting economic vitality along the Jerome corridor."</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
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>