February 3, 2016
PRESERVATION GROUPS BLAST APPROVAL OF CITYWIDE REZONING PLANS WITH NO SUBSTANTIVE CHANGES,
VOW TO BRING FIGHT TO CITY COUNCIL
A coalition of preservation organizations which have been fighting the Mayor’s citywide rezoning propposal, known as ‘Zoning for Quality and Affordability’ (ZQA), blasted the City Planning Commission’s approval of these plans today with almost no substantive changes to the proposal. The preservation groups have argued that the proposal would undo years of carefully negotiated and well-balanced guidelines for new development in residential neighborhoods, including appropriate height limits. The proposed changes would lift height limits for new development by as much as 31%. Many of the proposed height increases would apply to purely market-rate developments, and ZQA would not require the production of any affordable housing.
At least 50 of the city’s 59 community boards voted against ZQA, as did all the city’s Borough Boards and Borough Presidents.
Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation said “The Mayor’s ‘Zoning for Quality and Affordability’ (ZQA) proposal won’t improve quality or affordability in new construction in our city. It will gut carefully-crafted neighborhood zoning protections which took years to establish, and which balanced multiple interests including affordability, neighborhood character, scale, and density. ZQA throws all of that out the window. Analysis of current zoning rules shows that the proposed changes are unlikely to result in a single additional unit of affordable housing being built, and it boggles the mind that the city believes that simply allowing buildings to grow taller will help with either quality or affordability. By far the majority of our city’s communities and residents have spoken out against this plan. The Mayor’s City Planning Commission chose to ignore that. We call on the City Council to listen to the people and communities that elected them and to ensure this wrongheaded plan is stopped .”
Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council said “The Mayor’s rezoning proposal is widely rejected by community groups across the city, and rightly so. It is a clumsy, one-size-fits-all plan which ignores the painstaking efforts of residents and homeowners who have worked for years to preserve the character of their neighborhoods. Zoning for Quality and Affordability will unfortunately achieve neither. The twin goals are very laudable but this massive citywide rezoning as it currently stands is only a path to a taller city, not a more equitable one.”
Peg Breen, Executive Director of the New York Landmarks Conservancy said “ZQA amounts to a bait and switch proposal. It does not require any affordable housing and risks upending established community planning throughout the City.”
Kate Wood, President of Landmark West! said “ZQA is a Trojan Horse geared towards unlocking neighborhoods for new, out-of-scale development while delivering zero public benefit. The proposal favors developers’ ability to max out so-called ‘air rights’ over citizens’ rights to balanced, affordable, livable communities. This is not sound planning; this is our city for sale.”
Rachel Levy, Executive Director of FRIENDS of the Upper East Side Historic Districts said “The City’s goals to increase production of affordable and high quality housing are necessary if we expect to sustain a livable city for the future. But there is no evidence to suggest that the ZQA text amendment will produce a net gain of affordable housing when balanced with the loss of affordable units to redevelopment, either by itself or in combination with MIH. Any plan conceived to spur the construction of affordable housing must take into account the replacement of one existing unit for one new unit, or our neighborhoods will suffer a further loss. There is a steep cost to these proposals: the loss of light and air and the strain on streets and sidewalks, public transit, schools and parks as a result of increased height and density. What kind of city will we have if our apartments are shrouded in darkness, if there are not enough schools or parks? We ask the City to work with the State and all of its agencies determine a better route to affordability. FRIENDS also asks the administration to work with even more stakeholders to keep intact mechanisms enacted to preserve community character across the entire city. The City must thoughtfully consider each neighborhood’s unique qualities, and determine how new buildings could best be knitted into our varied communities to achieve its goals.”
The organizations vowed to mobilize the public and lobby the City Council on the proposal. The Council will be holding a public hearing on Wednesday, February 10th at 9:30 am at City Hall. Adoption of ZQA requires the approval of the City Council, which has the final say over any rezoning plan. The Council can also vote to modify or amend the plan.
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