November 19 2015

Borough Board Rejects Mayor’s Housing Plan (Queens Tribune)

After two months of deliberation among the Community Boards, the Borough Board voted down the City Department of Planning proposals for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability in an 11 to 2 vote.

The two community boards that approved both proposals were CB 1, which approved with conditions and CB 3 which approved without conditions. CB 10 did not vote because the proposals affect so little of their board. However, Betty Braton, CB 10 chair, did voice her own disapproval at Monday’s meeting.

Vinnie Arcuri, CB 5 chairman, said the proposal was “an insult to Queens.” He felt the rezoning the DOP worked on with the boards over the past few years would be undone by this proposal.

Christine Haider, CB 11 chairwoman, stated her board was unanimous against the proposal and also feels it would upzone parts of Queens to accommodate affordable housing. She added, “You can’t take five boroughs and have the same thing, because each borough is different.”

Pat O’Brien, chairman of CB 2, said. “We have more development than anywhere else in the city. It’s exciting but it’s frightening,” he said, adding that there is also a lack of schools and transportation. He concluded that, “We don’t have an infrastructure that can bear what we anticipate what the result will be.”

Steve Goldberg, CB 6 Land Use Committee chair sat in for their Chairman Joe Hennessey. Goldberg noted that taking away parking for senior housing would increase use in already overcrowded subways in their area. He also felt that “as of right development” would, “create a field day for developers to come in and scarf up single family homes.”

Steve Kulhanek, CB 3 chairman, said his was one of the two boards that voted in favor of both proposals in a 16-11 vote. He noted that “affordable housing has been on the city’s bucket list for a long time,” and at this time they felt they couldn’t ignore.” He said they still have, “a lot of concerns,” and their vote was, “not an easy conversation.”

Joseph Risi, CB 1 chairman, said his board voted in favor of both and they felt, “voting no would send the wrong message,” adding, “We felt voting yes with stipulation, which we presented to the borough president, was the way to go.”

Katz released a statement regarding the future of the proposals after the board vote, “The Queens Borough Board’s evaluation of the proposed amendments is part of a six-month citywide public review process that began in late September as mandated by the City Charter, and includes separate reviews by Community Boards and Borough Presidents, as well as the City Planning Commission around mid-December. The City Council will have the final say as to whether the proposed amendments will be adopted.”

At last week’s Borough Land Use Committee meeting in Borough Hall, Tim McManus, a senior project manager of Brooklyn and Queens Catholic Charities, who run a majority of the city’s senior housing facilities, was there to speak in favor of the ZQA, “The number on the wait list for our apartments is astronomical,” he said. He also noted that none of their applicants for affordable housing inquire about parking. “What we have are parking lots with fewer people parking there. This is obvious in places closer to mass transit.”

“It is simply not affordable to people living in our neighborhood,” said Jung Rae Jang, an organizing fellow for the Minkwon Center for Community Action in Flushing. He believes the average median income stated in the proposal is too high for many residents of Flushing to take advantage of it.

Joe Marvilli, DOP spokesman wrote in a reaction to the fear of upzoning and the vote on Monday, “The public land use review process enables, as Mayor de Blasio said, our community boards to raise concerns and critiques about proposed changes to zoning, which often help us get to a better outcome. It’s essential that we work together with the City Council and other elected officials, communities, and civic organizations to address an affordable housing crisis that affects residents of different incomes throughout the city. Neither ZQA nor MIH would dramatically change the physical character of our neighborhoods, but they would help shape future development to serve the interests of those neighborhoods.”

At an unrelated press conference on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said community board disapproval would not hold back his plans, “I obviously respect our community boards. I – as a Council Member for eight years, I worked very close with the community boards in my district. We must create a vast amount of – more of affordable housing. We must preserve a huge amount of affordable housing, or else people will not be able to live in this city. It’s as simple as that.”

Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, or @JonathanSCronin

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