Department of City Planning makes case for senior housing friendly zoning near transit hubs

Department of City Planning makes case for senior housing friendly zoning near transit hubs
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

The community got a preview of a plan that would relax parking requirements for senior housing that could be built along Westchester Avenue, near Westchester Square’s ‘transit hub.’

The Department of City Planning made a presentation before Community Board 10’s Housing and Zoning Committee on Tuesday, June 2 on changes it believes would encourage better building designs and allow affordable senior housing to be built by providing incentives for such developments.

The changes will have to come before the board for an advisory vote this fall as part of the Uniform Land Use Review Process.

The proposals are part of the city’s Zoning for Quality and Affordability plan, part of the larger Housing New York plan that looks at building or maintaining 200,000 units of affordable and senior housing by 2024.

“We are glad the community board shares our priority to improving the availability of senior housing options within communities,” stated a DCP spokesman after the meeting. “The proportion of seniors in the city’s population is expected to increase by 2040 and this proposal will make it easier for people to age in their neighborhoods.”

Many local activists have said they think senior housing for elderly from the area is a laudable goal.

But the proposal’s preview is already drawing ire from community activists who advocated for downzoning for years because they see the plan as an upzoning, allowing for bigger building and less parking.

The plan to relax parking requirements along Westchester Avenue near Westchester Square’s transit hub to encourage development seems particularly controversial.

Waterbury LaSalle Community Association leaders Andrew Chirico and Mary Jane Musano both said that the need for parking is not going away.

“I don’t think you are ever going to go to a community and hear them say ‘we need less parking,’” said Musano, who added she believes the proposal is a giveaway to developers and the real estate lobby.

Chirico expressed concern about Westchester Square, which he said seemed to be where the proposed changes would have the most impact.

“It is really bad if it affects the Square because (merchants and community) are trying to bring the Square up,” said Chircio.

“The thing that I cannot take is that they want to relax the zoning, and say you don’t have to have parking.”

According to sources and documents, Zoning for Quality and Affordability is looking at encouraging housing development along elevated train and subways, within two or three blocks of places like the I.R.T. #6 line.

“All of a sudden they want to attack the zoning that we have been fighting for and tweaking for years, and open it up and create more loopholes,” said Chirico, who added the community vigorously fought to tighten parking requirements.

Bob Bieder, a merchant along Westchester Avenue, said that he believes DCP is looking only at statistics that show lower car ownership in existing affordable and senior housing, and does not account for the needs of merchants in the community.

“The merchants in those areas are screaming for parking, and they want to allow builders to come in and put up housing projects with less parking,” said Bieder, who added “Everyone is looking for parking there, and it is a major concern of the (Westchester Square Business Improvement District).

Bieder said it is his belief that the DCP should consider all factors when it comes to this issue.

Even if the zoning rules did change, it does not necessarily mean that affordable housing would be developed in these locations, meeting attendees said.

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