x Development Scenarios & Affordable Housing

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In the last 16 years, LIC has seen an influx of hotels, luxury apartments (12,553 since 2010) in the forms of high rises and people. In part, these changes can be attributed to two previous rezonings: one of parts of Queens Plaza in 2001 and another of Dutch Kills in 2008. Currently, the Department of City Planning (DCP) is undergoing a study to investigate another possible rezoning in the LIC ‘Core’. In our Community Plan, Justice For All would like to weigh in on this very important decision about our community, but first we want to hear from you! Below is some clarifying information about rezonings, an outline of a few different development scenarios and their potential impact for our community, and a summation of what some community members had to say about this plan.

What is zoning and rezoning?

In NYC, every piece of land is parceled out and ‘zoned’. Its zoning tells us what kind of buildings can be built there and how tall the buildings can be. There are three main types of zoning – R / M/ C. When a piece of land is rezoned, it means the way that piece of land can be used is now different – maybe the building can be taller or shorter, maybe it has to have a front or back yard, maybe it has to have commercial space on the ground floor, etc.

How does the Mayor De Blasio use zoning to bring ‘affordable housing’ to NYC?

In 2014 Mayor De Blasio put forth his plan to bring affordable housing to NYC. His planned relies on a combination of neighborhood rezoning and mandatory inclusionary housing (MIH). More specifically, De Blasio is targeting specific neighborhoods to be rezoned, such as the Long Island City ‘Core’, and if that area is rezoned, then new residential development in that area will require that between about 10-30% of the units in those buildings be ‘affordable’. Affordability is based on an index established by the Mayor and his administration – see next question for more.

If the rezoning doesn’t not happen, developers can continue to build whatever the current zoning allows without including any affordable housing.

What does Mayor De Blasio mean when he says ‘affordable housing’?

The Mayor’s index of affordability is centered around the AMI for all of New York City. This calculation includes residents in all 5 boroughs, as well as residents in parts of Westchester County and Long Island, and stands at about $86,000. Using this figure, the city has determined that the majority of affordable units will go to households making between $42,000 and $60,000, with some units being allocated for households making over $100,000. For a better understanding of how units may be allocated in our neighborhood, we can look at how units already constructed until the Mayor’s ‘affordable’ housing plan have been distributed by income. 

So far, the Mayor has overseen the construction and preservation of 77,651 units of ‘affordable housing’ across the city (Office of the Mayor, July 13, 2017). See breakdown of the numbers for yourself here. A quick overview finds that:

  • 68% of units are for households earning more than $42,000/year
  • 20% of units are for households making more than $68,000/year
  • 32% of units are for households making less than $42,000/year
  • 15% of units are for households making less than $26,000/year

How might a rezoning affect NYCHA residents?

Though it can be clear how rezonings might affect market-rate renters – driving up rents and resulting in displacement – it is not always clear how these changes may affect NYCHA residents who live on public land and whose housing costs will not be directly affected. However, other examples of rezonings in other neighborhoods gives us insight into what may happen to NYCHA residents in LIC/Astoria. In short, there is precedent that the cost of basic goods like food and laundry may go up. Moreover, rising rents may drive out the small businesses which we rely on and have come to see as a part of the fabric of our community. Moreover, increased density –can put stress on other neighborhood infrastructure like schools and transportation. Lastly, rezonings typically allow developers to build taller buildings, which not only changes the look and feel of our neighborhood, but can also block sunlight and disrupt our views.

On Monday evening, November 13th, a group of ~30 attendees sat down with a representative of ANDH and Pratt to think through different development options for LIC.

Of the options presented below, community members seemed to have a desire for Option 1 – though if agreements around affordability can not be met, then maybe we want to say no to all development and call for Option 3. Other concerns and questions presented by the community can be found below the set of options.

1. MIH rezoning with a prescription of what we think is affordable for members of our community.

  •     We are okay with the high rises coming in IF, and only if, we can ensure that the affordable units build in the buildings will be truly affordable for existing and long-time residents in the neighborhood. With this in mind, we would make specific provisions around what affordability means to us. There was consensus in the group that this mean no higher than 40-50% AMI, with units for households as low as 10%. Furthermore, there was discussion of specific provisions for seniors, disabled residents and veterans

2.  Downzoning

  • In the last 15 years, LIC has seen tower after tower go up and experienced an influx of residents. This was a mistake. We want to preserve the remaining character of our neighborhood and avoid increasing density.
  •  A secondary option in this scenario would be to outline specific concessions in height in exchange for building certain types of housing and work and commercial spaces. For example, if a developer wants to build 7 additional stories, they need to include affordable rent for Mom & Pop shops in the ground floor commercial space, or 5 artist studios in exchange for 4 additional stories, or an additional 10 stories in exchange for ‘affordable units’ that meet the needs of ‘very and extremely low income households’.
  • Because developers often quickly dig their shovels into the ground after a downzoning is approved but before it is instated, we may also want to call for a moratorium on development, which would temporarily ban any and all new development in the neighborhood until the downzoning was passed. This would allow the community to better leverage our preferences vis-à-vis the preferences of developers.  

3.  Moratorium on Development

  • Just say no. We don’t want any more development at all; at least for right now; and we want to shut down this plan to rezone LIC Core. Enough is enough!

Community Concerns:

[forthcoming]

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