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She says that the new housing on Bay Street, even though 20 to 30 percent will be rent-restricted under the city’s new mandatory inclusionary housing policy, will still result in displacement. The so-called “affordable housing” she says, “is not going to meet the needs of the neediest people.”

As City Limits reported in November, in northern Staten Island, 76 percent of households making less than $20,000 are severely rent-burdened, as compared to only 9 percent of families making between $35,000 and $50,000. The city’s mandatory inclusionary housing policy, however, is more aimed at creating housing for families in the latter bracket or who are even better off, though the city could use additional subsidies to reach lower income levels.

Even Angiuli, the Minthorne Street developer, recognizes that the housing created by mandatory inclusionary housing is not targeted at families in the lowest income brackets.

“I think you are going to have some people who are displaced and that’s always a sad and disheartening thing and as a whole, as a society, we could do better with that problem,” he says. Yet he still thinks that overall, the Bay Street rezoning will be a great thing because it will create lower middle-income housing and new economic opportunities.

“It’s a disservice to people living below the poverty-line to allow or encourage that the whole neighborhood be open … only for people making below the poverty-line,” says Leticia Remauro, former Community Board 1 chair and secretary at the Staten Island Downtown Alliance. She argues the North Shore needs more of an economic mix. “There were more churches and liquor stores in a square mile than there were fresh vegetables and grocery stores and anything else that you need.”

But Reverend Faith Togba of Bethel Worship Center on Bay Street says he is already seeing the impact of the attention generated by the rezoning: families are being gentrified out of the North Shore, he says.

“If you cannot live in the North Shore, you cannot live in Staten Island,” he says.

The best, or worst, of both worlds

Much of Bay Street’s fate lies with Councilmember Debi Rose, who will have to sign off on the proposal. The 64-year-old Staten Island native is the first Black elected official to represent Staten Island. Her comments so far have, like Digi’s, reflected a mix of excitement for investment and redevelopment, and concern about the fate of existing residents and businesses.

“Of all the issues that my constituent services team handles on a daily basis, housing-related concerns are by far the most prevalent. The proposed rezoning of the Bay Street Corridor presents us with an opportunity to expand our supply of both market rate and affordable housing, while making needed investments in our infrastructure,” she wrote in an e-mail to City Limits.

William Alatriste

Councilwoman Debi Rose represents the Bay Street rezoning area and will have the biggest say in what gets passed.

“I have thought long and hard about how best to raise the level of amenities and infrastructure while preventing displacement of long-time residents. My priority has always been for market-rate and affordable units to be well integrated—which is the goal of Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. I had asked for the Environmental Impact Statement to look at all options on public sites so that we could do a proper analysis of what would be needed to meet our housing goals and subsequent infrastructure needs,” she wrote, referring to several plots of public land that advocates like Jones want to see used to build 100 percent affordable housing.

Yet even as Rose is deliberating, a number of other rezoning initiatives are beginning to pop up. The neighborhoods of Rosebank, Ford Wadsworth, and Clifton, which are adjacent to Bay Street, are applying to the city for a zoning analysis; they are concerned about “overdevelopment, traffic congestion, school seat shortages, infrastructure incapacity,” among other issues, according to a letter from Rose in support of their application. In addition, Staten Island’s elected officials are working with the College of Staten Island to create an inventory of land parcels that are vulnerable to out-of-context development in order to inform future-land use policy. In other words, the downzoning bug is still very much at large.

There are two ways to see this. Either Staten Island is moving toward an ideal mix of quiet suburbia and thriving downtown, or it’s threatening to pursue a dangerous agenda of downzoning homes and upzoning rental housing that some researchers say triggers the most severe displacement.

In the latter version of the future, the North Shore becomes the next hub for millennial newcomers seeking hipness. As the majority of Staten Island’s housing stock is unregulated, low-income tenants are soon vulnerable to rising rents and, for those who don’t win a housing lottery apartment on Bay Street, displacement and homelessness.

Perhaps the inconvenience of a ferry commute will mitigate the dangers of rapid gentrification. The once-forgotten borough’s future is yet unclear.

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11 thoughts on “13 Years After Blocking New Development, Staten Island Hopes to Welcome Just Enough of it

  1. Interesting synopsis of development and how it is regulated on Staten Island, though I question the use of the word “welcome” in your headline. Maybe Staten Islanders are willing to tolerate just enough development.

    • S.I. current population is 474,558. There really is no practical way to accommodate large increases in population for the reasons stated in my post of 3/14/17. Why does every part of the city have to be a crowded mess? S.I. and eastern Queens are among the few areas where a middle-class New Yorker can buy a 1 or 2 family home. Approx 67% of Staten Islanders are homeowners. In the others 4 boroughs an average of 72% are renters. NYC renters put up with a lot of abuse but homeowners care more about their home community because they have the significant financial investment of their home.

  2. The downzonings had been desired by east shore and south shore SI residents for years. Staten Island as a limited road infrastructure with no true street grids as in the other boroughs. Our arterial road network is still pretty much what the Dutch and British left us. That’s one of the reasons our local bus network is so difficult to change.

    We of course don’t have a subway connection and never will. So it’s either the ferry or the express bus to Manhattan. And we can’t get the MTA to increase express bus service or add new express routes. The S.I. Expressway and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge are at or near capacity. So that express bus ride eats up more time every year.

    S.I. is served by two 60 year old water/sewer treatment plants. The related water/sewer mains were installed over the last 75 years for a much smaller S.I. Even a few new high rises on the north shore will dangerously stress that system.

    Staten Islander don’t want to hear about this ‘Fair Share’ nonsense. For 54 years we shouldered the Fresh Kills garbage dump. Today even simple things like getting a new traffic signal are blocked by the city.

    I live in one of the downzoned areas of the east shore. I don’t see that it impacted property values either way. Homes sell quickly in my area because it’s an established desirable area of mostly 1-family homes and is near the Hylan Blvd express buses and shopping centers.

  3. Go back and look at the plans Robert Moses had for Staten Island. Never came to fruition though. Those parkways would have taken traffic off the inadequate local roads.

    • True about the Richmond Parkway and Shore Front Parkway. Will never happen but the state should complete the Richmond Parkway all the way to the Staten Island Expressway. Forget about the Shore Front Parkway. Moses acquired the land for it but it never got off the drawing board.

  4. So on the one hand people want downzoning because it increases property values, yet on the other hand upzoning is bad because it increases property values. Huh?

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