NYC Council Has a Big Opportunity to Do the Right Thing

Zoning map of NYC via NYC Planning/©City of New York

When all testimonies are done, whether in favor or against changes to zoning via mandatory Inclusionary housing (MIH) or zoning for quality and affordability (ZQA), New York City’s Council members have an opportunity to side with their constituents in voting down Mayor de Blasio’s ill-conceived plan that is central to his preserving 120,000 affordable units and creating 80,000 new units of “affordable” housing.

The more controversial of the two, MIH, sounds great on paper. It mandates that affordable housing would be mandatory not voluntary and it would be permanent in districts that would be zoned for MIH. Trick is that it isn’t truly affordable. NYC Planning states that under MIH:

  • 25% of residential floor area must be for affordable housing units for residents with incomes averaging 60% AMI ($46,620 per year for a family of three), or
  • 30% of residential floor area must be for affordable housing units for residents with incomes averaging 80% AMI ($62,150 per year for a family of three)

This is more than twice the median income of residents living in the poorest districts where most of the mayor’s affordable housing is targeted for zoning and construction.

While the plan came from the need to address the affordability crisis we find ourselves in, as well as planning for the future of our city’s growing population, it is beyond clear that the overwhelming majority of New York City is against his plan in its current iteration.

46 of 59 community boards spread across the 5 boroughs have rejected and said no to these zoning changes. 6 have approved while 7 reached a split decision.

Community boards, although advisory in nature, are the grassroots bastion of democracy in our city and rarely do you have such a large consensus against such a proposal that is so vocal.

Meanwhile, New York City Planning did not heed this opposition as they voted yes for ZQA and MIH last week with a few minor changes.

Nor has our Mayor.

Now it all rests upon our democratic system of checks and balances of City government known as the New York City Council and Council Speaker Melissa for it is this body of elected officials that truly know pulse of our communities and are more often than not deeply embedded in the districts they serve.

It is also this very body which approves such changes to our government.

Yes there is an affordability crisis but with that we need truly affordable housing. We already know that affordable housing is a myth because the majority of people it’s designed to help do not qualify for these units.

We need to get back to the drawing board and come up with a real community vision if there is to be any sort of change. Residents are, after all, the ultimate experts of what they want to see in their backyard and by working with the council, planning, and the mayor, we can truly come up with a revolutionary housing plan that is a real game changer not just on paper.

The city cannot rush this process that right now benefits developers and not the residents of New York City it claims to want to help. We need a truly progressive plan and this one isn’t.

What Mayor Bill de Blasio has presented us is with Bloomberg 2.0 Lite.

Our city cannot afford more of that. Our residents cannot bear that. The Council can either speed up gentrification or help slow it down.

We need a truly progressive plan and I believe that will only happen if New York City Council Members listen to the people and work with them.

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.