Council members differ on LES rezoning

By Adam Pincus | August 13, 2008 01:09PM

City Council members Alan Gerson and Rosie Mendez, who represent portions of the East Village and the Lower East Side that are being considered for rezoning, differed on affordable housing requirements in the proposal being discussed in a public hearing today.

Gerson said he would not support the plan unless it required 30 percent of units at new housing developments to be affordable. Mendez, meanwhile, said in an interview that she hoped and expected that target to be met, but would not say whether she would vote against the plan if it did not include that target number.
Mendez represents the portion of the zone north of Houston Street, while Gerson represents the area south. The proposed 111-block rezoning area stretches from Third Avenue and the Bowery to Avenue D and from Grand and Delancey streets to East 13th Street.
The proposal would limit the height of buildings on side streets, but allow taller residential buildings on the wider streets like Avenue D and Chrystie and Allen streets. Incentives are included for affordable housing.

“I don’t see it going forward without affordable housing,” Mendez said, adding “what number that will be, I don’t know.”

Both legislators spoke at a four-hour public hearing of the City Planning Commission at New York University School of Law to consider the proposal. At least 88 speakers signed up to be heard. Most supporters said they also wanted more affordable housing and protections against evictions and demolitions.
About 200 protesters held a rally outside the meeting. Some Chinatown and Lower East Side opponents, including the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and Lower East Side, say the plan is racist because it deliberately excludes Chinatown and the Hispanic area east of Avenue D, and that the new condos would create a wall dividing the neighborhoods.

Christopher Kui, executive director of Asian Americans for Equality, one of the plan’s leading supporters, said Chrystie Street should be dropped from the proposal. Critics have said the proposed rezoning for the street would allow too much dense development for the area.

Kui said Chrystie Street,Below Delancey Street, should be considered in a separate rezoning being mulled for Chinatown. The idea seemed to have some support on the Planning Board.

Commissioner Angela Battaglia said she was “confident” Christie Street could be considered in another rezoning proposal.

Gerson said about Chrystie Street: “It is a legitimate concern and something we need to look at.”