A group of Manhattan lawmakers and community board members cast a symbolic vote against two city-wide zoning changes affiliated with Mayor de Blasio's $41 billion affordable housing plan yesterday.
The Manhattan Borough Board, comprised of community board chairs, city councilmembers, and headed by Borough President Gale Brewer, joined the Borough Boards in Queens and the Bronx in voting against the initiative.
"I hope the roadmap set out by our Manhattan Borough Board today will lead to major changes,” Brewer said following the vote. "These plans need major changes before we can accept them."
The Board's vote is non-binding, and the fate of the mayor's plan ultimately hinges on City Council and the City Planning Commission votes.
DNAInfo reports that all but one of the Manhattan Councilmembers on the board skipped the meeting, Rosie Mendez being the exception. Councilman Corey Johnson told the news outlet that while he agreed with the Board, the proposals are all coming to the City Council anyway and "I don't want to prejudge."
The de Blasio administration's rezoning plan has two prongs: "Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning," which would require that 25-30% of apartments in new developments be permanently affordable, and "Zoning for Quality and Affordability," which focuses on generating more affordable senior housing and care facilities, as well as allowing for taller building heights.
Wary of the swift pace of gentrification in neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Bushwick, affordable housing advocates argue that the majority of de Blasio's proposed "affordable" apartments are hardly affordable for the average New Yorker. According to the advocacy group Faith in New York, most of de Blasio's planned affordable units are calculated for incomes of $42-67,000 per year. About 36.3% of New York City households make less than $35,000 a year [PDF], and 47.8% make less than $50,000.
The Manhattan Borough Board voted in favor of several resolutions that they say would make the plan more attractive to Manhattan residents.
These resolutions include permanent affordability in buildings that would earn extra height in exchange for affordable senior housing, tighter restrictions on building heights in new developments—especially on narrow blocks—and expanding the availability of the proposed "affordable" housing to more low-income residents.
Mayor de Blasio emphasized the Community Board's relative lack of political influence at an unrelated press conference on Monday afternoon.
"Everyone knows, in this city, community boards are part of a much bigger process that includes the City Council, the City Planning Commission, the Mayor’s Office," he said. "So, those advisory votes are meaningful, but they’re not the final word."
The mayor added that community boards "are often negative" when it comes to the prospect of new development in their neighborhoods. "That's not a news flash. We know that," he said. "I think over time we'll be able to show people that it works."
Brewer has challenged the notion that the Board's opinion is inconsequential.
"Like everyone involved in this process, Mayor de Blasio knows that the City Council is the final step," she said in a statement last week. "But the steps in between are where momentum can be built or lost, where problems can be solved, and where fatally flawed plans can stall out."
The Brooklyn Borough Board is expected to cast its vote today. The vast majority of Brooklyn's community boards have already voiced their formal opposition.
The end goal of the mayor's affordable housing plan is to create 80,000 new units of affordable housing and preserve 120,000 more. Another aspect of the plan, which has been panned by community and housing advocates from East New York to the Southwest Bronx, calls for the rezoning of fifteen low-income neighborhoods to accommodate thousands of new apartments and new commercial space.