BY SUZANNE MONTEVERDI
Count Queens Borough President Melinda Katz among the growing number of Queens officials opposed to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s housing plan.
Katz issued a formal statement Tuesday announcing that she recommended the disapproval of two recent zoning amendments presented by the Department of City Planning, proposals part of de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, Housing New York.
“This is not about whether one of us is for or against affordable housing,” said Katz. “Everyone shares the goals and recognizes the need to aggressively expand affordable housing stock to meet the ever-growing demand. When we do, however, it must be done right.”
Citing her previous experience on the City Council Land Use Committee, Katz’s two major concerns with the Zoning for Quality and Affordability and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing amendments are the transience of the proposed senior affordable housing and the labor commitments which remain insufficient to effectively tackle such an endeavor.
“There is concern that affordable independent senior housing in this set of proposals would not be permanently affordable,” she said. “Also, given the implications in scale and scope by the proposed rezonings, skilled labor commitments would assure quality, durability and safety of the construction. Both pointed oversights have remained unaddressed.”
Another major issue for Katz is the proposal’s failure to consider the complicated parking situation that Queens residents will face if the amendments are adopted as they currently stand.
“In a transit desert like Queens where subways reach only a third of the borough, there must be the same mandate to build parking as there is for market housing,” she remarked.
With regards to the suggested rezonings, Katz noted that much of Queens was just rezoned during this past decade, and done in a manner that would “assure that every rezoning designation struck the important balance between development and smart growth.” She asks that the DCP strategize a more “nuanced approach” for handling the proposed rezonings of Queens’ neighborhoods.
Despite her stance on the ZQA and MIH amendments, Katz believes that affordable housing concerns must remain in conversation, and she acknowledges Mayor de Blasio’s efforts to increase available affordable housing.
“For the first time in my 22 years in office, the entire city is talking simultaneously about affordable housing and it’s because this mayor is willing to take on bold issues,” she said. “He deserves much credit for moving the citywide discourse on affordable housing toward real solutions.”
Katz’s statement comes after the Queens Borough Board’s Nov. 16 12-2 vote in disapproval of the two zoning amendments, part of a six-month citywide public review process that began in September.
Katz believes her personal recommendation for disapproval is based upon what is best for the Queens community: “In the borough of families, we must ensure that working families are able to get to their jobs, and that elders are able to lead dignified, productive and active lives.”
The City Council will have the final say in early 2016 as to whether to adopt the proposals.