Council Members slam ‘City of Yes’ as ‘City of B.S.’ at Community Board 5 meeting

city of yes
Council Members Joann Ariola and Robert Holden speak on opposition to City of Yes at the Community Board 5 meeting in May
Photos via Community Board 5 Live Stream on Youtube

Council Member Joann Ariola spoke about the City of Yes at a Community Board 5 meeting earlier this month, calling the Mayor’s plan the “City of B.S.”

Ariola, who represents Glendale, Ozone Park, Woodhaven and other surrounding neighborhoods, was not alone in publicly expressing disapproval during the board meeting on Wednesday, May 8. Council Member Robert Holden, who represents CB 5 neighborhoods – Maspeth, Middle Village and Ridgewood, also expressed discontent with the city’s plans.

The unified grievances over the city plans followed a presentation by New York City Planning officials, who discussed the third and final City of Yes proposal. One of the major focuses of the City of Yes for Housing Opportunity, a portion of the larger three-pronged project, includes bringing more housing to neighborhoods, as stated by NYC planning officials.

Despite NYC planning’s presentation on the proposed changes to what it calls outdated zoning rules, elected officials and multiple residents who spoke on the plan were not convinced.

Ariola said NYC Planning’s proposals come with added complications. The councilwoman expressed that the City of Yes will take away the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure process (ULURP) and the ability for City Council members to invoke member deference, which gives them the ability to oppose certain land use decisions.

“We do not need more density,” Ariola told the board. “Remember, if you vote yes with conditions, and they don’t use those conditions, you’re still a yes. And it takes your ability to vote on any other zoning after your vote here on this particular text amendment.”

NYC Planning has stated the City of Yes would not take away ULURP or member deference.

Holden backed Ariola’s sentiments toward the city’s plans. He said the City of Yes is doing everything that the community fought against in the 90s and certainly the early 2000s.

“I didn’t think I’d live to see this, but it’s kind of hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic that they are trying to destroy our neighborhood,” Holden said.

The Councilman also discussed ongoing water drainage issues in his district and questioned how boosting low-density neighborhoods with more housing would solve the issue.

NYC Planning officials said in their presentation that the City of Yes will change outdated zoning requirements to combat a lack of housing opportunities throughout the city. The changes are also supposed to address the ongoing homelessness crisis and landlord abuse in a housing market where over half of Queens renters spend over 30% of their income on rent.

Furthermore, zoning changes made through the proposed text amendment are meant to allow for Accessible Dwelling Units (ADUs) that contribute to housing growth by making it easier to convert garage and yard spaces into housing. Many supporters of the City of Yes also consider the end of parking mandates, which makes parking optional in the construction of new buildings, as a means to allow for apartment space.

The City Council is expected to vote on City of Yes for Housing Opportunity at the end of this year.