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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park infographics: what's built/what's coming, who's responsible, + project FAQ/timeline (pinned post)

Adams, touting "City of Yes," proposes increasing density for affordable housing; also cites M-CROWN

Mayor Eric Adams is, more or less, a YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard), and he told an audience of business machers at the Association for a Better New York this past Wednesday that it's time to build more.

As The City cautioned, however, the mayor can't act solo. Eric Adams Says Yes to City Real Estate Development — If Only the Council Could Agree, noting the Council Speaker Adrienne Adams had not signed onto the triumphant press release and that the announcement came after a controversial project in Harlem was withdrawn.

 New York City Mayor Eric Adams today laid out a plan to use the city’s zoning tools to support small businesses, create affordable housing, and promote sustainability — part of his vision for New York to become a more inclusive, equitable “City of Yes.” The plan, announced this morning at the Association for a Better New York breakfast, includes three major citywide amendments (Zoning for Economic Opportunity, Zoning for Housing Opportunity, and Zoning for Zero Carbon); an effort to invest in and plan around emerging job hubs and commercial corridors in all five boroughs, starting in the Bronx; and initiatives to cut red tape and center equity in planning. 
“We are going to turn New York into a ‘City of Yes’ — yes in my backyard, yes on my block, yes in my neighborhood,” said Mayor Adams. 

About housing

From the press release:
The second citywide text amendment — Zoning for Housing Opportunity — will encourage the creation of more housing in neighborhoods across the entire city. This amendment will: 
  • Expand opportunities for affordable and supportive homes for New Yorkers by increasing the floor area ratio for all types of affordable housing, similar to the allowance already afforded to affordable housing for seniors;
  • Broaden the acceptable variety of housing types and sizes, including studios, to accommodate a wider range of families and households;
  • Ease conversions of underutilized commercial buildings into homes; and
  • Reduce unnecessary parking requirements that add cost and take up space in buildings that could be used for additional homes.
Increasing the floor area means larger buildings and, perhaps, would formalize what is sometimes an ad hoc process, in which spot rezonings are approved at more density than nearby--see, for example, 80 Flatbush--because the projects include affordable housing.

From Adams' speech: 
In addition to making our city more sustainable, we must make it more accessible. That brings us to our third major action: expanding our housing stock. There are many factors that contribute to our housing crises, but one of the biggest is a failure to produce enough new housing to keep up with growing demand.... We will soon be releasing a detailed Housing Blueprint. But today I want to focus on one key component of that plan, updating our zoning to boost the overall housing supply in our city. We're looking to change up the rules and allow a wider range of housing types and sizes to accommodate all kinds of households across the city.
 

The CITY quoted City Planning Commission Chair Daniel Garodnick as saying the housing amendment would begin the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) in early 2024. That requires City Council approval. 

Adams said "city zoning laws put artificial limits on the number of studio apartments per building, so those developments never get built. We are going to change that no to a yes, and help a young person who moved to the greatest city on the globe, an older person stay in the city they grew up in, or a person who has experienced homelessness get permanent housing or supportive living space."

Interestingly, Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park was supposed to deliver the opposite of that: 50% of the units, in floor area, for family-sized units, responding to a perceived lack of such apartments.

About M-CROWN

From the speech:
We will continue to work with communities across the five boroughs in the City Council to plan for job opportunities, housing, and infrastructure.

For example, along Atlantic Avenue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, there is an area with outdated zoning – and we are already working with Council Members Hudson and Osse and the entire City Council to develop a plan that will benefit a major swath of Brooklyn. 
From the press release:
Building on Mayor Adams’ years of work as Brooklyn borough president on a neighborhood development initiative along Atlantic Avenue in Crown Heights known as M-CROWN, the administration will work with the community there and communities across the city, as well as the City Council, to plan for neighborhood development, job creation, and mixed-income housing.

Adams did sign onto an August 2018 letter from then-Council Member Laurie Cumbo to the Department of City Planning supporting a rezoning along the M-CROWN principles developed by Community Board 8, and his office's recommendations on land use invoked or recognized M-CROWN. But he did not, as far as I know, make it a big priority.

That said, the underdeveloped sites in the area offer an opportunity, and development might be welcomed as long as it brings new city investment and infrastructure, as well as lower-income housing.

About speed

From the speech:
And finally, we need to speed up city review of private applicants for new investments in our neighborhoods. We want to accelerate economic development by reducing administrative burdens. The Building and Land Use Approval Streamlining Taskforce, or BLAST, we call it, will be a key component of this effort. I want to thank the Department of City Planning’s Dan Garodnick and Edith Hsu-Chen for their great work on this, and I want to thank the leadership of the dozen city agencies involved.

We don’t expect to completely rework the city’s charter-mandated land use process, but we will strive to make it more user-friendly and seamless. Our agencies will learn to be better communicators, actions with private applicants, and understand that it is our job to encourage investment in New York City. That has been missing. Far too many agencies don’t understand part of their mandate is to allow the city to grow and flourish. Don’t start with no. Start with how do we get to yes. How do we build our city?
I dunno, the Department of City Planning, and the City Planning Commission have been pretty gung-ho about all the M-CROWN developments.

Finding the balance

One attendee asked "how we ensure we're meeting the needs of our local communities and listening to them while supporting growth for the city."

Adams responded, "You know we have to be honest, we've had areas of the city that were sacred cows and we were not willing to upzone. That can't continue to happen if we want to integrate our schools, then we need to integrate our neighborhoods. If we want to integrate access to healthy food, we have to integrate our neighborhoods.... And it's going to call on us to have real conversations about those communities in those areas that have historically have not participated in housing fellow New Yorkers."

The coverage


Mayor outlines sweeping rezoning plan, The Real Deal added, noting that, while Adams hopes to streamline ULURP, "his amendments first need to pass through that very process."

Some pushback

The Real Deal noted that Village Preservation, perhaps the only decently funded organization challenging development, had criticized a proposal in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s preliminary budget that would have allowed larger apartment buildings in New York City, and that Hochul dropped the plan. (It's not clear why,)

Village Preservation issued a call to arms:
Yesterday Major Adams announced a three-part plan to change the way zoning and development are regulated in New York City. While short on particulars, the goal as he stated is to allow businesses to expand more easily (including in residential neighborhoods) and to facilitate denser housing development in city neighborhoods.

While not all the vaguely outlined goals and means of getting there sound bad (some we could even get behind), there were some that had deeply troubling implications. “Denser housing” and “more housing opportunities” have typically meant seeking to upzone residential neighborhoods to allow bigger and larger development — often mostly or exclusively market-rate, with vague (at best) promises of inclusion of a fraction of much-needed affordable housing. And even 100% affordable housing developments don’t need to be supersized monstrosities that violate the scale and character of neighborhoods (though this is rare; such oversized developments are almost always market-rate or largely market-rate). They can also be built in ways that integrate seamlessly into the fabric of neighborhoods, and without huge developer giveaways, which are often the price the public is asked to pay.

What is especially concerning is that the Mayor’s announcement comes with ringing endorsements from the Real Estate Board of New York, the Regional Plan Association, the Partnership for NYC, and Open New York — groups that advocate for a pro–Big Real Estate, pro-overdevelopment agenda. The plan is touted by the administration via its chief housing officer Jessica Katz — a pro-upzoning zealot who consistently spread lies about Village Preservation and other community organizations during the SoHo/NoHo/Chinatown Upzoning fight, and who tried to falsely smear opponents of the upzoning plan as racists, because we pointed out that the plan as designed would create little or no affordable housing, destroy existing affordable housing and displace lower-income residents and residents of color, and make these neighborhoods less socio-economically and racially diverse.

While the Mayor’s plans are still being formulated, it’s critical that we let him, the City Council (which must approve such changes), and all city officials know that while zero carbon, less unnecessary red tape for small businesses, and more much-needed affordable housing are good and important goals, zoning changes that destroy the character of neighborhoods are NOT the way to achieve it.

It's unlikely that Adams, and his supporters, share that view.

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