Gentrification-wary Bronx board shoots down de Blasio’s zoning plans

Proposal would add too much density, not enough low-rent units: critics
November 20, 2015 01:04PM

The Bronx Borough Board this week shot down two controversial zoning plans designed to spur the development of affordable housing, citing fears that accelerating gentrification will force out local residents.

In a 19-0 vote, the board opposed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plans, which are a key component of the administration’s goal of creating and preserving 200,000 affordable units by 2024.

Critics say the rental threshold for apartments is still too high, and that zoning chances would add density and height to neighborhoods, while removing a requirement for developers to provide parking.

“As chairman of this board, I speak for all of us in urging the City Council and our speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, to heed the united voices of The Bronx—and the growing chorus of opposition in every corner of this city—and to stop this proposal when it comes before the City Council,” Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said in a statement Thursday.

But the mayor’s spokesman Wiley Norvell reiterated the need for more affordable housing, in an email to Politico. “Make no mistake, we are in an affordable housing crisis and these policies are vital tools we need to confront it,” he wrote.

Diaz is largely seen as pro-development and has offered financial incentives to entice business owners and developers to invest in the Bronx. Developers have responded by rushing to invest, particularly in the South Bronx, although community advocates fear gentrification could force local residents out of their neighborhoods.

“I don’t want to lose our population or our flavor as a borough,” Diaz told TRD last month. “With that said, I also need to create jobs. There are some parts of the Bronx that need to be developed because they’ve looked the same way since I’m an adolescent.”

Mark-Viverito, who in recent weeks sharply criticized market-rate developers in the South Bronx, abstained from Thursday’s vote.

In Queens, most community boards have opposed de Blasio’s zoning hopes. Bed-Stuy and Sheepshead Bay/Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn have also taken aim at the zoning plans, as have boards repping the Upper West Side, Harlem and Midtown in Manhattan. [Politico newsletter] – E.B. Solomont