4.2.3

Challenging de Blasio’s Height-Raising Rezoning Plans

Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA)

& Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH):

THE BIG DEAL

 The Mayor’s proposed Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), which would raise heights for new development citywide, is capturing well-deserved public attention.  Despite four abstentions, the Manhattan Borough Board voted 12-0 against ZQA & MIH last week.  Across the city–in all five boroughs–Community Boards have voted NO.  Borough Presidents are trying to lessen the blow by offering improvement suggestions.  So what does it mean for the Upper West Side?  And in general, What is the big deal? 
These changes seek to alter NYC Zoning via rushed “text” amendments, meaning no site-specific environmental studies and no prior analysis of how raising height limits would affect communities like ours.  When our leaders attempt to subvert sound planning policy, ignore unique neighborhood character, and undo years of hard work at the grassroots level by imposing top-down, one-size-fits-all developer-driven zoning changes, it is a big deal.
When the Mayor’s Department of City Planning uses the blunt instrument of zoning–with significant developer giveaways–in lieu of actual planning to give the impression that it is addressing an issue as significant as affordable housing, it is a big deal.

Disingenuously packaging two very different zoning proposals together as an “affordable housing” plan when the one in the driver’s seat (ZQA) does not guarantee the creation of affordable housing and is not contingent on approval of the other (MIH) is a big deal
 
Raising heights to incentivize development, without locking in affordability and placing existing affordable housing and small local businesses at significant risk, is a big deal.
Undermining zoning protections for 19th-century rowhouses in the newly designated Riverside-West End Historic District extension by allowing 25% height increases (from 60′ to 75′ tall) is a big deal!  Needless to say, the Landmarks Preservation Commission is not getting any additional resources nor power to manage these new pressures.
Eradicating distinctions between narrow and wide streets is a big deal.  Keeping side street midblocks low rise, so that light and air can reach the sidewalk, is a central urban planning tenet.  ZQA would raise heights on some narrow streets by 20 feet!
Ignoring rear-yard requirements established for health and safety–allowing full lot coverage in certain cases–is a big deal
Eliminating the 1983 “Sliver Law”–allowing midblock towers up to 235′ tall (the equivalent of 23 stories)–is a big deal!
Once built, tall buildings are forever–that’s a big deal!–but the proposed affordable housing under MIH is only for up to 30 years.  Other loopholes and exemptions abound.
MIH and ZQA are both large proposals that have the power to dramatically alter the face of New York City.  They could potentially have the single biggest impacts on our building regulations in half a century, yet they have been rushed through community boards in a piecemeal, constantly evolving fashion.

The BIGGEST DEAL OF ALL

 is the one Mayor de Blasio is giving developers!

CITY PLANNING VOTES WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 3rd, 10am in SPECTOR HALL, 22 Reade Steet 

Read more details from the LW!-commissioned BFJ Planning study of the impacts of ZQA & MIH on the Upper West Side. Click here for the full BFJ Planning critique.
And write your Elected Officials telling them that you, the public should be their big deal!
Here is a sample:
 
I support efforts to defend our neighborhood from Mayor de Blasio’s plan to weaken zoning protections and allow height limits within Community Board 7 to be raised by 20-30%. I am deeply concerned about the disproportionate impacts the proposed “Zoning for Quality & Affordability” plan would have on the Upper West Side, toppling our community’s hard-won zoning and historic district protections, with no serious study or disclosure of how the changes would affect our neighborhood’s human scale and unique sense of place. This is not the way to ensure affordability, architectural quality, and quality of life in our city.
Write to key decision makers who play an important role in this process:
Our colleagues at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation have set up an online tool making it easy for you to email all of the key decision-makers with a customizable message.  Please do it today!
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