City Modifies its Zoning Plan In Response to Public Concern by the Civic Council and Other Neighborhood Advocates

The Department of City Planning (DCP) has been forced to respond to the wellspring of protest from neighborhood groups like the Park Slope Civic Council against the city’s misguided zoning proposal, “Housing New York: Zoning for Quality and Affordability.”

In late February, the DCP released the zoning proposal that would – if approved by the City Council – overturn important zoning protections in neighborhoods throughout New York City, including Park Slope. It would eliminate the contextual zoning that was created in 2003 in return for the taller buildings allowed on 4th, 5th and 7th Avenues. The R6B and R7B contextual zoning along Park Slope’s residential streets was intended to ensure that new development would be in keeping with neighboring buildings.

The new zoning proposal, by contrast, would give developers an incentive to replace existing buildings with new construction that would completely fill out the allowable building envelope (the “floor area ratio”) by allowing greater height at the front of the building, the so-called street wall. In addition to spawning a great increase in new development on Park Slope’s residential streets, the Civic Council was also concerned that it would not generate more affordable housing or better design that are the ostensible goals of the rezoning. In fact, our concern was that it would result in a net loss of affordable housing by replacing existing rent stabilized housing with market rate housing.

At the end of April, the Civic Council submitted comments on the plan to DCP with regard to DCP’s required environmental assessment. It expressed our key concerns regarding the zoning proposals:

→ blanket incentives for increased development and failure to restrict those incentives to the creation of affordable housing
→ standard for affordability that would not be truly affordable to low and moderate-income families
→ the elimination of contextual zoning protections, which would result in the destruction of Park Slope’s historic character
→ failure to assess and plan for infrastructure investments, such as new schools, open space, health care facilities, etc. to support the increased housing production, which would adversely affect the neighborhood’s quality of life, and the
→ inconsistent policy on parking requirements in areas well served by transit

On May 15, Carl Weisbrod, the Director of the NYC Department of Planning, released a letter that partly responds to the intense criticism of the plan (http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/zoning-qa/dear_NYer_CW_05152015.pdf) by:

→ offering to meet with each of the city’s 59 Community Boards in May and June to present the proposal prior to the formal public review process
→ highlighting the elements of the plan that would apply to each community, and
→ refining the height limits proposed for contextual zoning districts

The full impact of these changes remains to be assessed by the Civic Council, Community Board 6 and interested residents. The DCP presentation will take place on Thursday, May 28th at 6 pm at PS 58 located at 330 Smith Street in Carroll Gardens (entrance on Carroll Street between Smith and Court Streets.)  The school is one block from the Carroll Street (F & G trains) station.

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