Long Island City community members push back against rezoning plan

Residents, business owners say 2001 rezoning is already pushing them out
February 02, 2017 08:03AM

Long Island City and Mayor Bill de Blasio

About 100 frustrated residents and business owners from Long Island City gave officials an earful at a meeting Tuesday night on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to rezone a section in the core of the neighborhood.

Community members said they’re already being pushed out of their homes and businesses by rising real estate values following the city’s 2001 rezoning of Long Island City, and fear that more development will further exacerbate gentrification, Politico reported.

“We are scared to death, because how much can you charge a kid for a ballet class?” asked Zoe Morsette, a long-time Long Island City resident who owns a working studio and said soaring rent increases in recent years have been a burden on her business.

“We’re afraid to lose all of it,” she added. “And my apartment building is in this zone and I’m wondering, are they going to tear down this building?”

Long Island City is one of 15 neighborhoods de Blasio wants to rezone as part of his affordable-housing agenda to develop 80,000 below-market apartments and preserve 120,000 existing homes for low-to-middle-income tenants. Officials from the Department of City Planning Tuesday night introduced the study of the “LIC Core Neighborhood Plan,” which would create a mixed-use district between Sunnyside Yards and Queensbridge Houses.

Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, the city rezoned Long Island City in 2001, but officials said the plan fell short of its goal of creating affordable housing and office space. City Hall had planned to create up to six million square feet of office space, but only 2 million square feet was built or is in the process of being built.

And of the 13,000 residential units either built or in the pipeline, only about 650 are below-market.

Any new rezoning would fall under de Blasio’s mandatory inclusionary program, which would require developers to set aside 20 to 30 percent of new units at below-market rents.

“We recognize that not every time we do a zoning change it’s perfect,” said Penny Lee, the city’s planner in Long Island City. “We have tried to strike a balance. We have tried to strike compromises — with the city’s goals and community objectives.”

The department wants to get a rezoning proposal ready by June so it can start the land-use approval process, known as ULURP, which could take up to seven months. [Politico] – Rich Bockmann