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New York City Council STATED MEETING - APRIL 30, 2003

by Gotham Gazette Staff, Apr 30, 2003
New York City Council Stated Meeting Report

Every two weeks the New York City Council meets for its Stated Meeting to introduce and pass legislation. As a regular feature, Searchlight covers these meetings and posts a summary of the bills passed.

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Quote of the Day:
"We have managed to make affordable housing part of the discussion of the rezonings that have to go through the council." – Councilmember Melinda Katz, chair of the land use committee, on a plan to rezone Park Slope, Brooklyn.

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Meeting Summary:
On April 30, the New York City Council approved a rezoning plan for Park Slope that will construct more than 600 new apartments. The plan allows developers to build 12-story apartment buildings on Fourth Avenue in Park Slope, twice as high as would be permitted under the old zoning regulations. It also includes $6 million in city subsidies to create affordable apartments in the area.

The plan is the first of eight rezoning proposals in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's housing plan, which will generate 65,000 apartments over the next five years. The mayor announced the plan last December and said the Park Slope proposal was a major step forward.

"The council's action sets the stage for other, similar rezonings planned throughout the city, from Greenpoint to Morrisania to the far west side of Midtown," Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement.

But the City Council – which by law must approve all zoning changes – was more tempered in its response, calling it an "acceptable" compromise after weeks of battling with the City Planning Commission.

Three Brooklyn City Council members who represent the area – Sarah Gonzalez, Bill deBlasio, and David Yassky – argued that real estate developers stood to make a lot of money because of the new regulations. In exchange for allowing taller buildings, the council members wanted to require developers to include some affordable apartments in their new buildings, a process known as "inclusionary zoning." (For more, read David Yassky's article Waterfront Housing for Everyone).

The mayor rejected the idea, arguing that placing requirements on real estate developers could kill the deal.

After weeks of wrangling, the mayor and the council reached a compromise, which still allows for taller buildings, but also provides $6 million in loans, subsidies, and tax breaks for developers to build 133 affordable apartments in the area.

"I'm trying to look at it as the glass being half full," said Yassky. "I don't think it's a model for the future, but I think it is a place to start and build on. The money is part of it, but as we move forward with the mayor's housing plan, we also need zoning incentives to ensure affordable housing is built."

The council also approved another land use plan that will preserve the historic South Street Seaport district by limiting the height of buildings. "This has been a dream of the community," said Councilmember Alan Gerson who represents lower Manhattan.

Unlike most Stated Meetings, the council passed no new laws on April 30. The council instead focused on the budget and passed a series of resolutions urging state legislators in Albany to provide a billion dollars in aid to the city.

The council passed resolutions calling on Albany to:

Pass a commuter tax
Reinstate all proposed cuts to city schools
Restore cuts to the City University of New York
Provide funding for Medicaid and city hospitals
Save psychiatric hospitals in the Bronx and Staten Island that would be closed under the governor's budget
Use a cell phone tax to fund 911 emergency phone service as promised.

The resolutions hold no legal power, but represent the council's official message to Albany. "We want to be clear and on the record about the city's need for a fair share of funding on a variety of different fronts," said Speaker Gifford Miller.

The City Council's budget hearings begin May 7. (Click here for a schedule). The next Stated Meeting is scheduled for May 14.


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