December 16, 2015
By Grace Rauh
Mayor Bill de Blasio's signature affordable housing initiative is being hotly debated throughout the city. And supporters and opponents of key zoning changes the mayor wants packed a City Planning Commission hearing in Lower Manhattan Wednesday to sound off about the proposals they say will remake the city, as NY1's Grace Rauh reports.
They lined up outside, New Yorkers in favor and against mayor's plan to enact significant zoning changes across the city. His administration hopes they will lead to more affordable housing.
"Communities need to understand that this is a fundamental game-changer," said Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Alicia Glen.
City Hall is pushing two initiatives. One would force developers to create affordable housing when taking advantage of new zoning rules. The other gives developers more flexibility. Taller structures would be allowed, and in some cases developers would not be required to provide parking.
"It's bristling towers everywhere," said Lynn Ellsworth, with New Yorkers for a Human-Scale City. "It's constructing up rather than out. And we think there are other ways to get affordable housing that have a human-scaled city in mind. And we want them to start over."
Early reviews of the mayor's plans were overwhelmingly negative. Advisory boards in all five boroughs voted down the zoning changes.
"It's almost like they were telling us what is best for us," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. "We should be the ones telling the city since we are the ones who live in those local communities."
Some supporters are pushing back against opponents' arguments. One senior advocate, for instance, is arguing that housing be built on parking lots, an area of contention in parts of the city.
"Without the passage of these zoning amendments these lots will sit underutilized," said Bobbie Sackman of LiveOn New York.
A top housing official from the Bloomberg administration cautioned against reading too much into the opposition. When Mayor Bloomberg tried to make zoning changes individual neighborhoods often fought them at first. De Blasio's plan would affect the entire city.
"I would argue that it appears like there is more anti-sentiment than at any other time," said Rafael Cestero, former Housing Preservation and Development commissioner. "But I'm not sure there is. It's just on a broader scale.
After the City Planning Commission weighs in on the zoning changes they go before the City Council, which is expected to begin debating the mayor's plans in February.