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CB2 Mulls Mandatory-ish Aspects of Mandatory Inclusionary Housing

 

Oct. 29, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge

Western Queens residents have pushed back against elements of the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing proposal that would allow developers to put required affordable housing units in separate buildings, or not create them at all.

Mandatory Inclusionary Housing is a proposed amendment to New York City’s zoning regulations. If ultimately approved by the City Council, it would require new developments built on land that has been rezoned to increase housing capacity to include 25 or 30 percent permanently affordable housing.

Therefore MIH is particularly relevant to Long Island City, because the City is planning to upzone the Court Square/Queens Plaza region.

However, the MIH proposal offers developers certain outs and alternatives to building affordable units within market-rate buildings, which has raised a red flag to Long Island City residents.

At an information session with the Department of City Planning and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development on Wednesday night, attendees bristled at the potential for developers to build required affordable housing units in separate buildings from market-rate units.

Developers can choose either to build affordable units on the same property as market-rate, but in a separate building, or on an entirely separate property within the same Community Board or within a half-mile, DCP and HPD representatives said.

The crowd responded with skepticism.

“Separate but equal?” one shouted. Another mumbled sarcastically, “[affordable] over there.”

DCP created these options to “maximize flexibility” for developers, representative Penny Lee said.

“We want to make sure we get the affordable housing, so we want to make sure to create enough economic opportunities to make it happen,” she continued.

HPD project manager Michael LoStocco noted that, for separate affordable buildings on the same property, the proposed MIH zoning text includes language intended to prevent “poor door” back entrances and stigmatization.

However, the proposal does not address the quality of the buildings themselves – for example, building materials – because that is not a zoning function, Lee said.

Another element of MIH that raised concerns on Wednesday is the ability to waive affordable housing requirements if the Board of Standards and Appeals finds it would create “unnecessary hardship” for the developer on a particular site.

This option is not exclusive to MIH; developers’ ability to skirt zoning regulations through the BSA has long been controversial. CB 2 Chair Pat O’Brien said Long Island City has already suffered from it, and he wants the BSA exemption removed from the MIH proposal.

“That is a real problem for us,” he said. “[The BSA] often act with a nodding head and a pen that has real negative effects on the people that know exactly what’s going on in the community.”

A study conducted by the office of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer – who cosponsored Wednesday’s meeting with CB 2 – found that of all appeals brought to the BSA citywide between 2005 and 2011, 87 percent were granted. Three percent were denied and the rest were withdrawn.

Van Bramer has introduced several pieces of legislation intended to reform the BSA, which he noted at Wednesday’s meeting.

However, the DCP appeared adamant that the BSA option be included in MIH.

“There has to be an out,” Lee said. “BSA applies to development throughout the City – there needs to be an out based on unique conditions associated with specific sites.”

A public hearing on MIH – as well as another major proposed zoning amendment called Zoning for Quality and Affordability – will take pace at an upcoming CB 2 meeting, after which the Board will vote on the proposals.

That meeting will take place on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. at Sunnyside Community Services, 43-31 39th St.

Reach reporter Jackie Strawbridge at [email protected]

email the author: [email protected]

4 Comments

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Mo

The title of this article is both inaccurate and misleading. This is an actual “mandatory” citywide plan that will be fast-tracked through the city council and that would take effect immediately upon passage.

As indicated by the Mayor and as requested by CB2 member in a letter to NYC Dept of planning and others, this would bring affordable housing as well as market rate housing for over 60,000 people into the ENTIRE district of CB2 and not just the LIC/Queens Plaza Area. In fact, the first places targeted for development is NOT the Queens Plaza Area as that area is co-owned by NYS, Amtrak and the City. In the first phase of the build out the developers/landlords who own the area of Queens Blvd with single story store fronts from 39ths to 52nd Street (on both sides of the Boulevard) will be able to build up to 15 story high buildings. There are 3 other smaller areas (in LIC and HP) that have also been identified for this purpose. Please see the proposal and maps at:
http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/

Out of the 200,000 units being planned for citywide, CB2 is being zoned to have nearly 1/3 of all the build outs. To accomplish this they have reclassified the zoning for every available lot in our district, now that the Mayor has abandoned using the Sunnyside Railyards because it would require dealing with over 2 dozen agencies representing the State and Federal Government before reclassifying that area.

In order to achieve the 200,000 units the Mayor wants to achieve, this current Rezoning/MIH/QAZ plan would reclassify all existing empty, under-utilized and outdoor parking lots, so they can be converted into housing (like the Phipps/Barnett location) and it will no longer permit/allow the building of ANY future parking spaces (indoor or outdoor) anywhere citywide in order to secure housing in areas being zoned as “Public Transit Only Areas”. These proposals will be fast-tracked and will be voted on by City Council Members in December 2015.

I know that the all the Rezoning, MIH and QAZ documents add up to nearly 700 pages, but if you’re going to cover a story that will adversely impact the quality of life for the current 200,000 individuals that live in our district, the least you can do as a writer/so-called journalist, is be accurate and complete

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Anon

What an absolutely idiotic plan. No wonder why the Mayor’s current approval ratings are so low. I bet the 38% positive he’s received is from developers, only.

Reply
Matt

The amount of energy developers spend trying to get out of a few slightly discounted units is incredible.

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