Testimony on Zoning for Quality and Affordability and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing to the Office of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer

11/16/2015

Residents are up in arms and protesting against superscrapers casting our public parks in shadow and “zoning for quality” should amend the zoning code to protect our city's park land.

In addition "zoning for quality" must mean amending the zoning code to stop developers from taking density that has been spread all over the city, a borough, or a community district through “zoning lot mergers” and piling it up in one place for density that could never have been constructed when the zoning code was originally drafted.

We must protect the light and air of residential midblocks. A provision in the original ZQA proposal that would have raised the height of R8B contextual districts in the midblock throughout Manhattan and my district was of particular concern to me. I joined with Borough President Gale Brewer and several of our Manhattan colleagues in writing a letter to the Department of City Planning raising our concerns about this change, which could have incentivized developers to tear down old, rent-stabilized buildings. I am pleased that the R8-B height increase has since been dropped from the plan, and ask that this change remain in the final text.

Unfortunately, the midblock remains at risk under Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) plan, in which buildings in R10-A districts on avenues receive a 20-foot height increase, while those on side streets receive a 40-foot increase, making buildings the same height regardless of where they are situated on a block. This should be fixed so that the midblock is protected.

I share the Mayor's goal for the construction of affordable housing, but believe that we need to create mixed-income housing, rather than looking only at the number of low-income units created.

I am concerned that the income inequality we are trying to fight will only be exacerbated as we incentivize the construction housing for low-income and luxury units that will only continue to force the middle class from our city.

Our city already incentivizes construction of affordable housing allowing developers to double and triple dip with increased density, tax relief, and subsidies. If we are giving additional height, we should be getting additional permanent affordable housing on-site without a poor door and without a rich building/poor building. We should not let developers buy out of affordable housing by writing a check through "payment in lieu of" as cash disappears and property is forever. Mandatory Inclusionary Housing where a height increase is granted must include additional housing for our middle class working families.