By Bill Parry
Joe Conley was surprised by the reaction.
When Community Board 2 sent a letter to the Department of City Planning exploring the possibility of more affordable housing in Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City, it touched off harsh criticism across social media.
“Some in the public are taking potshots at myself and the board, but they don’t appear to know the difference between affordable and low-income housing,” the CB 2 chairman said.
In the letter addressed to City Planning Director Carl Weisbrod, the board asked for a review of four parcels of land in Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island Citywith the potential for rezoning in order to expand the availability of affordable housing. Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged to preserve or create 200,000 affordable units in the next 10 years.
“We just wanted to make sure we could offer up sites for consideration,” Conley said. “It’s simple forward thinking and proactive. We did this before. Right after the Olympic bid was rejected we approached the Bloomberg administration and now we have real affordable housing like Hunters Point South, where there will be 5,000 permanently affordable units.”
The CB2 letter called attention to areas including a section of Woodside bound by Northern Boulevard, Broadway and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway; a swath of land in Sunnyside bordered by 37th Avenue and Northern Boulevard from 43rd to 48th streets; and a number of parcels (Queens Plaza is the 4th) next to Queens Plaza.
“The letter is a response to what the people in our neighborhoods are talking about,” Conley said. “They are getting priced out of their own communities as the rents continue to rise. We just wanted to put something out there to open up a discussion, a very preliminary discussion. Matters like infrastructure, transit and school overcrowding will take place down the line in the process.”
Conley added that with the development of 10,000 units in Long Island City during the last 15 years, there was no requirement for affordable housing in the zoning code, thus creating a “Gold Coast” where only 1,000 units of affordable housing have been built.
While CB 2’s letter was met with criticism locally, City Planning embraced the initiative.
“We received Queens Community Board 2’s letter and appreciate its willingness to discuss the important goals of expanding housing that will be affordable to a range of incomes,” DCP spokeswoman Rachaele Raynoff said. “As we continue to evaluate the appropriateness of areas that can meet the goals of the mayor’s housing plan, we will take this into consideration. As we have stated previously, before announcing any future proposed rezoning areas, we will meet with a broad range of stakeholders, including local elected officials and the respective community boards, to proceed with ground-up, consensus-based, comprehensive planning initiatives.”
The wheels are already in motion, according to Conley.
“We already had a conversation with DCP and they are doing their analysis and we’ll hear back from them sometime in the fall,” he said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.