With the City Council poised to approve the first of an expected 15 neighborhood rezonings envisioned by the de Blasio administration, advocates in one of the next target communities are submitting extremely detailed demands to City Hall–including a request for an unusually detailed study of the different ways changed zoning might affect residents and businesses.
Building Blocks NYC and the Bronx Coalition for a Community Vision are the most visible advocates around the potential rezoning along Jerome Avenue, which has not been formally proposed yet but is expected to take shape soon. The Coalition has already put forward a list of what its outreach indicated community members want.
Now, however, the advocates are getting more specific. In an 18-page letter to the Department of City Planning, the coalition outlines policies it wants to see embedded in the zoning changes, including tracking residential evictions building by building, enshrining a community-benefits agreement in law and creating mechanisms to retain existing businesses.
Just as interesting, the coalition wants a long and detailed list of questions answered by the environmental impact statement that the city has to produce before the rezoning can go through the city’s land-use process. Environmental review, though required by law, often seems to miss the very threats and risks it is supposed to identify. As City Limits reported in 2010:
length is just one problem. Because they apply arbitrary criteria provided by the city, some EISs seem to downplay obvious concerns. The proposal to rezone industrial areas in Williamsburg to residential, for instance, was determined to have no significant impact on business displacement in the area. Building 5,000apartments in Jamaica was deemed to represent no significant adverse impact on subway crowding. And the Yankee Stadium plan that obliterated a huge city park, to be replaced at public expense over a number of years by a collection of smaller parks, was said to have no significant adverse impact on open space.
And even if an EIS finds that a project is going to have an adverse impact, it does not mean that a developer will be compelled to fix the problem. What’s more, community critics note an inherent conflict: The firms that prepare EISs are paid either by the developers or by the city agency facilitating the project.
The Bronx advocates are trying to shape a Jerome Avenue EIS that avoids at least some of the analytical blindspots that have undermined the review process in other neighborhoods. For instance, they ask that the EIS identify the potential both for new affordable housing and the loss or preservation of existing housing, itemize several different scenarios of developers’ willingness to accept subsidies, estimate the rezoning’s impact on a series of vulnerable sub-populations, and gauge its effects on the different neighborhoods through which Jerome Avenue runs, among other things.
Read the full letter below: