Borough President Diaz rejects mayors zoning plan

The borough president and local community boards dealt a blow to housing proposals put forth by Mayor de Blasio.

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and the Bronx Borough Board voiced their strong opposition to the administration’s affordable housing mandate– known as Zoning for Quality and Affordability and Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning – at a board meeting on Thursday, November 19.

The Borough Board, made up of the county’s 12 community boards and its elected officials, weighed in against the measures, which are controversial changes to the citywide Zoning Resolution that governs all zoning, as part of the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

“It is clear today that the Bronx stands united in one voice in opposition to these two proposals,” said the borough president in his remarks, adding “So many different communities have different reasons to be opposed to this ‘one size fits all’ approach to the future development of our borough and our city.”

Community boards throughout the borough by-and-large opposed the plans for a variety of reasons when they gave advisory opinions, citing everything from concerns about gentrification to expected overdevelopment.

Diaz added his voice to this chorus of concerns, saying that the administration had failed to address physical and social infrastructure necessary to accommodate new development.

“The ‘neighborhood by neighborhood’ approach to planning has been very successful in the Bronx,” said Borough President Diaz. “The borough has adopted no less than 14 rezonings since 2009. These proposed text amendments go against the grain of this successful approach to community-based planning, and must be rejected; one size does not fit all.”

The controversial changes to the zoning resolution, which call for waivers of certain height and parking requirements in order to encourage new affordable and senior housing developments, are drawing opposition from local communities not in the least because they would limit or eliminate the need for developers to seek local input, according to some community leaders.

The chairman of Community Board 12, Father Richard Gorman, said that the board does not see the need for the administration’s mandate.

Gorman said the proposed zoning changes was a “pro-developer plan” because in some cases builders would not have to seek variances at the Board of Standards and Appeals, community boards and borough boards. This provides an advantage in time and money for developers, he said.

“We are turning around and changing the zoning ordinance, which is a very important document – it is like the constitution almost,” he said of the administration’s proposal, adding that such changes should not be made lightly.

Councilman James Vacca, representing a swath of the east Bronx, said that the mayor’s mandate would negate many hard-fought downzoning changes, including height restrictions

“It would mean out of context development,” he said, adding he concurs with the borough president’s remarks.

It does not address two central reasons middle class people leave the city: lack of parking and school quality, said Mary Jane Musano, Waterbury-LaSalle Community Association board member.

She lauded the borough president’s response.

While the mayor should be commended for the goal of building affordable housing, removing certain parking requirements in the processes is incredibly shortsighted, said John Doyle of the East Bronx Traffic Coalition.

Community Action for Safe Apartments, CASA, a west Bronx coalition that opposes gentrification, applauded the borough president as well.

CASA believes the ‘affordable’ rents outlined in the mayor’s plan were too high for many Bronxites to afford and urged City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who abstained at the Borough Board, to vote “no” when it comes before the council.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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