Thursday, April 20 marked the one-year anniversary of City Council’s approval of the East New York rezoning proposed by the de Blasio administration. Local City Councilmember Rafael Espinal, whose blessing ensured the proposal’s passage, was able to secure over $250 million in community benefits during negotiations with the administration. But in many other neighborhoods targeted for a rezoning, East New York has become a symbol for a bad deal—regarded as a top-down rezoning process with a problematic environmental review and insufficient mechanisms to combat potential residential displacement.
Our interviews with developers told us that East New York still isn’t really the most attractive place for development today. But that hasn’t stopped a wave of speculation, with home prices growing 19 percent year-over-year from 2015 to 2016, and Property Shark declaring East New York one of the city’s “hottest new neighborhoods” specifically on account of the rezoning.
On Thursday, however, Espinal’s office announced in a press release that the administration has made significant process toward providing many of the negotiated benefits. The School Construction Authority has begun planning for the 1,000-seat new public school; plans are moving forward for two 100 percent affordable housing developments; a Workforce1 center has opened and a new community center is in the works; a Commercial District Needs Assessment has been completed, which will lead to improvements for existing businesses. All of these commitments and others are being tracked in a document that can be viewed here.
We’re collecting thoughts on the 1-year anniversary of the plan. Tell us yours by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 1-844-ZONE-NYC (844-966-3692).
Here is what others are saying:
Councilmember Rafael Espinal
“The East New York Neighborhood Plan has moved from words on a paper and plans on a drawing board to a living and breathing reality. In only one year we have seen extensive progress on major commitments made by the plan that is benefiting long time residents, with zero market rate development, I should add. The de Blasio administration has made good on its promises and I have been proud to be there every step of the way advocating for our community. With ground breaking this summer on 900 units of 100 percent affordable housing, a new day has come for our us as we see the realization of long overdue investments and much needed protections for our longtime residents.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio
“One year after the City Council adopted the East New York Plan, we have seen amazing progress and significant resources devoted to job creation, affordable housing, improving community facilities, roadways, schools and playgrounds. I congratulate Council Member Espinal and commend the dedication of our many city agencies that have worked so closely with the East New York community to make this happen.”
Local homeowner Brother Paul Muhammad
“This zoning has caused such a feeding frenzy of speculators that the people here are like schools of trapped fish that are just being fed on…I’ve got people calling me…They’re very aggressive. Imagine an older person stuck in their homes and getting these kinds of calls?”
Darma Diaz, a local advocate
“While we did not win all our demands, having been a part of the process in itself is rewarding and worth celebrating. Our community was expected to have not put up a fight, therefore all our wins are a big success. Our community is stronger because of this rezoning plan. For those of house who have been advocating for years ,we welcome the community engagement that has occurred at all levels. Arlington Village being cut of the rezone plan was a big win. With the Village being taken out of the plan, I expect for speculators to have less interest in East New York.”
Michelle Neugebauer, director of the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation
“One year out, I continue to have mixed-feelings about the rezoning. I am encouraged that many elements of the Coalition for Community Advancement’s Alternative Plan were adopted. A new Workforce1 Center was opened in the community. $12 million was set aside for a basement legalization pilot and a citywide task force has been working hard to figure out the program design with the pilot to roll out in FY18. Arlington Village was removed from the rezoning area. A new 1000 seat school is in the works. Funding has been allocated for commercial revitalization efforts and discounted commercial space is being set aside in new projects. A Homeowner Help Desk has also launched. And soon ground will be broken at the former Chloe Foods site for the first 400 units of affordable housing promised as part of the East New York Plan.
Unfortunately, we’ve also seen tenant and homeowner harassment on the rise and lots of flipping of small homes. Real estate speculation is still at incredibly high levels. Displacement prevention policies need to be strengthened in the City and State. We need the Certificate of No Harassment to reduce tenant harassment in apartment buildings and we’d like to see movement on policies that could protect low and moderate income and senior citizens homeowners such as a Cease & Desist Zone in ENY, a Flip Tax and a Good Neighbor Tax Credit. We also need more planning to take place around the City’s commitment to create 4,000 new jobs in the IBZ. Lastly, we need to focus city housing subsidies on the most vulnerable residents, earning below 30% of AMI, and to build at deeper levels of affordability.
The Coalition is not giving up on its vision and advocacy efforts.”
Ralph da Costa Nunez, PhD, President and CEO of the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness:
Forcing poor families into competition for speculatively-priced real estate is a recipe for increased homelessness. While there are “plans for affordable housing,” it is still years away. Meanwhile, families who already overburdened by rent are being squeezed out of the community. Read the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness’s brief, “What Happens to Homeless Families in Redeveloped East New York?”.