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Lessons of Rezoning: When It Doesn’t Work Out as Planned

I have an article in The Bridge, Lessons of Rezoning: When It Doesn’t Work Out as Planned, which begins:
Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City (LIC) have been utterly transformed since city policy toward those neighborhoods changed in 2004 and 2001, respectively. Numerous towers have sprouted after rezonings unlocked permission to build big on formerly low-rise industrial or commercial space. By one account, LIC is the nation’s fastest-growing neighborhood.
But those new towers almost exclusively contain apartments, rather than the expected result of mainly office space. The failure to plan for new residents means overcrowded public schools and insufficient open space, according to a recent report from the Municipal Art Society (MAS), a longstanding advocate for a more livable city. The neighborhoods are “whiter, wealthier, and more crowded than ever.”
In Downtown Brooklyn, a key piece of open space, 1.15-acre Willoughby Square Park—to be built over a parking garage—didn’t materialize as planned. (In fact, if the long-delayed deal doesn’t close by Jan. 27, the developer will be in default, according to Brooklyn Paper.)
While the new supply may be good news for renters of those units, the rezonings failed to require that new market-rate apartments in a development should cross-subsidize affordable ones, which is city policy today. So that has sparked catch-up projects like 80 Flatbush, a spot rezoning recently approved with far greater bulk than permitted in 2004, under the rationale that only larger towers could make affordable units and new schools financially feasible.
What Went Wrong?
A smarter review process would help. The MAS report, A Tale of Two Rezonings, points to serious flaws in the City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) process, which is supposed to mitigate adverse impacts. Better scenario planning and periodic monitoring could enhance future city rezonings, the report said, as well as the state process expected to approve Amazon’s creation of a new headquarters in LIC.
More here.

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