Seven months after the City Planning Commission opened up public review for the East New York rezoning, the City Council has voted to approve the controversial plan to redevelop the Brooklyn neighborhood.
The full Council vote is largely ceremonial, but it is the final step in the lengthy land use process that required approvals from community boards, the Borough President, and the City Planning Commission. East New York is also the first of 15 neighborhoods that the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio hopes to rezone. It will also be the first area affected by Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), which will require all developers who build on rezoned land to set aside at least 25 percent of their apartments as affordable housing.
“This is literally the best affordable housing plan that any community has had in the history of this city,” said Council Member David Greenfield, who chairs the council’s land use committee.
The plan flew through with a vote of 45 to 1. Councilwoman Inez Barron, whose district sits immediately south of the rezoning area, was the only member who voted against it. Barron reps the 42nd District, which covers most of East New York, starting around Pitkin Avenue and stretching down to the subsidized waterfront towers in Starrett City and Spring Creek.
“This plan does not go deep enough,” she declared. “Twenty percent of my community earns less than $15,000 and will not be reached by this plan… There is no guarantee that developers will build affordable housing if they don’t want those subsidies.”
The Council has made substantial changes to the proposal since the city rolled it out last year. They pushed the city housing agency, HPD, to commit to more low-income apartments in the working-class hood, and pressed for a new tier in the MIH plan that would serve tenants who make 40 percent of the Area Median Income, or $31,000 for a three-person family.
The big modifications were made before the Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises and Land Use passed the plan last week. The city had originally committed to $150 million in infrastructure improvements and capital spending for the area, but the neighborhood’s representative, Council Member Rafael Espinal, negotiated that up to $257 million, according to DNAinfo. The administration also plans to close three homeless shelters in East New York and issue LINC vouchers to 500 homeless families to help them get into affordable housing.
There are a few other highlights. The city plans to study illegal basement conversions, which are a natural result of homeowners struggling to make mortgage payments while trying to avoid the tax increases and expensive alterations that often come with a legal basement apartment. And a $12 million fund will help homeowners conduct weatherization and conversion projects.
“Gentrification is already knocking at our door,” Espinal said today. “This is an anti-gentrification plan. This will give my constituents the tools they need to stay in the neighborhood.”