By Andrew Berman
Thousands of New Yorkers have expressed their opposition to the Mayor’s twin citywide rezoning plans, ‘Zoning for Quality and Affordability’ (ZQA) and ‘Mandatory Inclusionary Housing’ (MIH). ZQA would gut hard-won neighborhood zoning protections by lifting height limits for allowable new construction with little or no public benefit in return. MIH would be part of a city policy to only approve rezonings which significantly increase the allowable size of new residential development, while mandating that a fraction of the new housing be affordable.
The fate of these plans now lies with the City Council, which will vote to approve, disapprove, or modify them.
These plans in their current form will do more harm than good in terms of addressing unaffordability in our city, and will certainly destroy the scale and character of neighborhoods while stretching local services and infrastructure ever thinner. They will undo years of effort to implement reasonable height limits on new developments in residential neighborhoods. The city claims that such limits prevent new buildings from having adequately scaled ground floors, and from including affordable housing. But a case-by-case analysis by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) has shown that these claims are false. Current height limits rarely if ever prevent adequately-scaled ground floors in new developments or the inclusion of affordable housing, and therefore the proposed changes would only be giveaways to developers, with little or no benefit to the public at large.
Additionally, an investigation by GVSHP has shown that the City is already ignoring existing rules governing the allowable size of new developments and requirements for affordable housing, approving construction of oversized developments which do not contain the required affordable housing. This failure to abide by existing rules is, if anything, the biggest impediment to more affordable housing being included in new developments, rather than the height limits.
Ironically, GVSHP has also proposed a rezoning of the University Place area with height limits on new construction (a 300 ft. tall tower is currently planned there) and provisions for affordable housing, both of which the current zoning lacks. Belying the city’s claim that affordable housing is their number one priority, they have refused to consider this proposal.
If approved, the Mayor’s zoning changes would particularly profoundly impact parts of the Far West Village, and the East Village, where GVSHP and neighbors fought successfully to change the zoning to impose height limits for new development where none previously existed. The Mayor’s plans would lift these height limits.
The changes would also impact University Place and the surrounding blocks and the South Village, which don’t currently have height limits for new construction, but where GVSHP and neighbors have proposed and are fighting for new zoning which would. The Mayor’s plan would lift those proposed height limits as well.
Andrew Berman is the Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.
It is imperative that the City Council hear from you NOW about these massive proposed zoning
changes. In just 30 seconds, you can automatically send letters to the entire City Council
about these plans by going to www.gvshp.org/zqa