Seniors, Parking, Prior Contextual Rezonings and Skilled Labor Commitments Chief Among Concerns

QUEENS, NY – Borough President Melinda Katz issued her recommendations to disapprove the proposed “Zoning for Quality and Affordability” (ZQA) and “Mandatory Inclusionary Housing” (MIH) zoning text amendments. In her recommendations, the former Chair of the New York City Council Land Use Committee (2002-09) cited several concerns with the proposals, namely the impermanence of senior affordable housing, the effect of eliminating parking for residents in a transit desert like Queens, the scores of extensive contextual rezonings previously issued throughout the five boroughs, and the insufficiencies in skilled labor commitments.

“This is not about whether one is for or against affordable housing,” Borough President KATZ said. “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. The breadth of neighborhoods in a city like New York requires far more nuanced and strategically planned rezonings instead of a wholesale ‘one size fits all’ approach. I was proud to be a part of creating thousands of units of affordable housing in the City Council and look forward to continuing that goal.”

“There is concern that affordable independent senior housing in this set of proposals would not be permanently affordable,” Borough President KATZ continued. “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.

“Further, 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,” Borough President KATZ continued. “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. We need to continue to allow for access to parking for all constituencies.

“Let’s not forget that over 40 neighborhoods in Queens were contextually rezoned over the past decade, many of which were rezoned during my tenure in the City Council Land Use Committee,” Borough President KATZ continued. “Each of those rezonings was carefully sculpted with extensive neighborhood participation, solicited by City Planning, in consultation with the respective City Councilmembers and community. This was to assure that every rezoning designation struck the important balance between development and smart growth, and each neighborhood’s most pressing issues as well as the existing character of the area. This type of nuanced approach, although a little more effort, would be apt in meeting the goal of creating more affordable units, albeit in the right way.”

“The need for affordable housing is certain, and I commend Mayor de Blasio for his laser-focus on utilizing the tools of government to build more,” Borough President KATZ said. “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. He deserves much credit for moving the citywide discourse on affordable housing toward real solutions.”

Borough President Katz’s recommendations on both ZQA and MIH are attached in-full. They come in the aftermath of the Queens Borough Board’s recommendation on November 16 by a vote of 12-2 to disapprove both the proposed ZQA and MIH zoning text amendments. The 14 Queens City Councilmembers abstained from the Borough Board vote as they will hold additional City Council hearings and vote in the coming months.

The proposals were prepared by the Department of City Planning (DCP) and were previously the subject of discussion at the October 19 Borough Board meeting and the November 12 Queens Land Use Public Hearing. The proposals have already undergone the public review process by the Community Boards in Queens.

The Queens Borough Board’s evaluation of the proposed amendments is part of a six-month citywide public review process that began in late September as mandated by the City Charter, and includes separate reviews by Community Boards and Borough Presidents, as well as by the City Planning Commission around mid-December. The City Council will have the final say as to whether the proposed amendments will be adopted.

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