By Bob Harris
The same concerns which civic leaders in Queens have about the two new zoning changes proposed by City Hall to provide affordable housing can be found in Manhattan.
Manhattan groups, such as Landmark West and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, have spoken out against these proposed zoning changes. Landmark West has written that the Upper West Side of Manhattan could be destroyed as a nice place to live if these zoning plans are passed. For decades Landmark West has worked to create historic districts and contextual zoning, but if these zoning texts are passed, building could rise 20 feet among blocks of landmarked mid-block brownstones while in other areas buildings could rise 40 feet. The result could be higher, bulkier buildings and out-of-character new buildings. Community Board 7 in Manhattan is slated to vote on this issue while CB 1 and CB 2 in Lower Manhattan have voted against it.
The Historic Districts Council, a citywide coalition of 50 organizations as of last September, is circulating a petition against overdevelopment. It speaks of over-scaled buildings, which ignore our skylines, parks and public areas, as well as the historic context of our city. It calls for planning to realize a human-scaled city. To see the petition or add your group to the petition e-mail coord
One after another, the Queens community boards have voted against both of these zoning changes. Community Board 13 voted against the proposals after criticizing the lessening or elimination of parking requirements, the increased height of buildings and the greater density which would result. Community Board 5 voted 36-1 with one abstention against the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and tabled the proposal for affordable housing.
Community Board 12 followed the recommendation of its Land Use Committee and voted down the two zoning text amendments. Opposition centered on the proposed elimination of parking for seniors in buildings that are built by developers. Community Board 8 voted almost unanimously against both plans, with only one person voting for the affordable housing proposal.
Community Board 9 voted against both proposals, while making comments that seniors do drive and that parking is terrible in Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and Woodhaven. The board was concerned that developers would seek out vulnerable property to construct profitable housing and only provide a few affordable apartments. Community Board 4 voted against the proposals with three board members voting for them.
Community Board 1 voted for the proposals with the stipulation that parking must be provided for no less than 20 percent of the affordable units, plus the units must be placed throughout the building and upgrades made to infrastructure throughout rezoned area. Community Board 7 voted similarly.
The voting about these new zoning proposals by the 14 Queens Community Boards is only advisory. The boards then meet with Queens Borough President Melinda Katz also in an advisory capacity as the Queens Borough Board. The Borough Board met last month and voted against the proposals.
After all the boroughs have voted the proposals will go back to the Department of City Planning who drew up these proposals. Any final proposals will then go to the City Council where your councilmembers will make the final binding vote on whatever plan emerges.