Borough Board votes down mayor’s zoning text amendments

By Tom Momberg

The Queens Borough Board voted overwhelmingly to disapprove two major city zoning amendments Monday to make way for more affordable housing.

Voting 12-2 against both the “Mandatory Inclusionary Housing” and “Zoning for Quality and Affordability” amendments, the majority of community board chairs throughout the borough said that although the need for affordable housing is great, the changes could overrule the contextual zoning changes community boards have been putting into their neighborhoods for decades.

The chairmen of Community Board 1, which represents neighborhoods like Long Island City, Ditmars and Woodside, and Community Board 3, which represents Jackson Heights and parts of Corona and Elmhurst, cast votes in favor. Both noted strong disagreement from within their boards but said they voted with the majority of their board members.

The zoning amendments were drafted by the Department of City Planning as part of the mayor’s plan to build or preserve at least 200,000 units of affordable housing throughout the five boroughs.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was at a news conference at Flushing Meadows Corona Park the same day as the Borough Board’s vote. The mayor said although he respects the part community boards play in the civic process, which often helps produce a better outcome for policy making and city planning, the need for affordable and senior housing trumps their potential burden.

“I am never surprised when a community board raises concerns, and particularly local concerns. But we’re going to keep moving full speed ahead to make these reforms, because we must create a vast amount of more affordable housing,” de Blasio said. “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.”

Five members of the City Council were present at the borough board meeting. The full Council will have a two-month review period starting January and will be followed by a vote on the text amendments.

Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomberg@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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