This is how they do it: rezoning NYC

My previous posts addressed the differences in the plans set forth by the Bloomberg and de Blasio administrations in regards to the employment impact and the total number of affordable housing units either built or preserved.

In this post, we’ll delve into zoning and community engagement.

While in office Bloomberg rezoned about 37 percent of the city, according to the New York Times. Of those changes there was little to no community input or involvement, although his administration was known to work hand in hand with community groups on many improvements like parks and plazas.

On the New York Housing website, it states that at it’s core the de Blasio Plan objectives are to preserve and/or develop 200,000 units, along with engaging the communities in the planning with the aim of stabilizing and strengthening neighborhoods. In order to accomplish this, the city is in the midst of various stages of re-zoning.

When a neighborhood is rezoned, the laws and regulations are changed in regard to what kind of buildings can be built and where, changing the look and, in most cases, the feel of the neighborhood.

The administration's hope is (according to the website) to engage in “meaningfully” with communities and will require unprecedented levels of collaboration between government agencies, elected officials, community organizations, and everyday New Yorkers.

So far 10 New York City neighborhoods have been slated for rezoning; Manhattan: Harlem and Chinatown. Brooklyn: Gowanus, East New York, Bushwick, Far Rockaway. Queens: Long Island City. Bronx: Inwood, Jerome Avenue and Southern Blvd. Staten Island: Bay Street.

Flushings stands alone, having it’s rezoning efforts withdrawn. Each area is unique, however, and not just because of how it looks or who lives there, but what they do have in common is room for development and good access to transportation.

City Limits has a great map of the locations that are being impacted by the rezoning.

There is a push back from neighborhoods that are very aware of the previous neighborhoods, notably Williamsburg and Park Slope, that were rezoned and gentrified.

“This is not an affordable housing plan, this is a gentrification plan,” said Rachel Rivera of New York Communities for Change of East New York's re-zoning plan. “The bottom line is that far more market rate units will be created than affordable units, and far more families will be at risk of displacement.”

Of the areas being rezoned I will delve, very lightly, into two: Bushwick and East New York.

In Bushwick, Council members Antonio Reynoso and Rafael Espinal are heading up the Bushwich Community plan. Using the web platform and Facebook to communicate with the local community, they keep an active calendar of meetings where locals are welcome to attend. In an vlog interview with City Limit’s speaks with Antonio Reynoso about the Community Plan and his expectation for the timing of the rezoning vote.

A few years into their own rezoning process East New York (which is comprised of Cypress Hills and Brownsville) has completed their Community Plan, with the help of an organization called the Coalition for Community Advancement which was comprised of various organizations collaborating towards this end. Included were Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, Progress for Cypress Hills and East New York with other community and civic organizations, small businesses, houses of worship and local citizens.

The plan was presented to the city and on April 2016, the NYC Council passed a rezone plan for the East New York community.

Because of the work that was completed BEFORE the zoning was voted on, local residents gained the removal of Arlington Village from the rezone area, giving the community another opportunity to weigh in on plans, $12 million small homes preservation fund ensuring homeownership stays in reach for neighborhood residents, scaling back of the rezone area to preserve manufacturing and small business sites, and accountability and reporting measures aimed toward ensuring that these commitments are followed through on, to name a few.

Their concessions included the provisions for deeply affordable housing or the tenant and homeowner protections that they had hoped for.

Once the zoning was approved by the Board, the Department of Housing and Preservation (HPD) held a variety of workshops and sent out questionnaires. After a year of community engagement involving nearly 500 residents and neighborhood groups, HPD released the Brownsville Plan in June.

On June 16th, City Limits released an interview with Rafael Espinal looking back on the lessons of East New York’s Rezoning.

With the information being for the most part online, there is a layer of transparency that was not available during Bloomberg's tenure. To be fair, following up on the outcome of the community plans can be challenging if you don’t understand the city's maze of departments that oversee not only housing, but construction, as well.

Both the Bushwick and East New York plans are available and the community is very vocal - doing a great job of making information available and engaging their community.

In a few days we will be posting more about the community boards, who they are, what they do and how you can get involved.

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