Affordable housing and development were driving concerns in a great number of this year’s City Council races as well as the mayor’s race, but in the 12 neighborhoods that we cover at Zonein.org where Mayor de Blasio has proposed or is exploring a rezoning, those concerns are particularly deep.
Local councilmembers yield tremendous power during the rezoning process and have the ultimate say on whether a rezoning is passed. In some of these neighborhoods, challengers raised concerns about the incumbents’ track records on development.
Almost all of the sitting councilmembers were victorious in this year’s primary. The two most competitive races where a winner has yet to be called—District 1 (Chinatown and the Lower East Side) and District 8 (East Harlem and the South Bronx)—are both ZoneIn neighborhoods, but it again appears that the incumbent or the incumbent’s chosen successor is in the lead. The mayor won the Democratic nomination by a wide margin, even though his rezoning plans have drawn criticism from many parties.
That means discussions about the rezoning discussions in each neighborhood will likely continue in whatever way they were going before, though some of the primary winners will still face competition in November.
Here’s a run-down of primary results in rezoning neighborhoods.
The city’s proposed Jerome Avenue rezoning is currently making its way through the seven-month public review process (known as the Uniform Land Use Procedure or ULURP). Much of the rezoning area falls into District 16, where incumbent Vanessa Gibson faced no challengers.
Another significant part of the rezoning falls into District 14, where the incumbent and conservative minister Fernando Cabrera overcame challengers, winning 55 percent of the vote (all voting counts are rounded to the nearest whole number). Second-place candidate Randy Abreu ran a tough campaign against Cabrera, pointing, among other things, to the candidates’ connections to real estate. Abreu had also said he would delay ULURP until the community had its demands met. Cabrera stated at a March forum that he wasn’t interested in delaying ULURP but said he believed he could secure many of the community’s demands through the negotiation process.
A few miles east of Jerome Avenue in the 17th district, the city’s Southern Boulevard study is expected to result in a rezoning proposal, though no exact rezoning has yet been proposed. As was expected, incumbent Rafael Salamanca defeated challenger Helen Foreman-Hines, receiving 73 percent of the vote. Both candidates had made affordable housing a primary issue of their campaigns.
A winner has yet to be called in District 8, representing East Harlem and the South Bronx, but Melissa Mark-Viverito’s deputy chief of staff Diana Ayala has declared victory over Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez; she holds a 2 percent lead. The two actually have made similar statements about the rezoning proposals under consideration in East Harlem. Both are critical of the city’s current plan for the neighborhood but are supportive of the more limited rezoning plan proposed by Mark-Viverito and a team of community stakeholders in 2016. (Another challenger, Tamika Mapp, had called for scrapping the rezoning altogether.)
A small sliver of that rezoning falls into district 9, where incumbent Bill Perkins prevailed over several challengers, receiving 50 percent of the votes.
The race is also tight in Chinatown and the Lower East Side, where a winner has yet to be called. Incumbent Margaret Chin holds a two percent lead over challenger Christopher Marte, who has made Chin’s inability to convince the de Blasio administration to uptake the Chinatown Working Group rezoning plan one of his central campaign issues. The de Blasio administration has already said they’ll work with the community to pass a smaller-scale rezoning in Chinatown.
In Inwood, a rezoning proposed by the city has just entered the environmental review process, with a hearing to be held this Thursday on the draft scope of work. District 10 incumbent Ydanis Rodriguez has worked closely with the administration on the rezoning, and leading challenger Josue Perez had made concerns about the rezoning his top campaign issue. Rodriguez prevailed, however, winning 62 percent of the vote.
In the district where the de Blasio administration’s first neighborhood rezoning was passed, incumbent Democrat Rafael Espinal did not face a primary. A small sliver of that rezoning fell in the 42nd council district, where Inez Barron won a commanding primary victory.
Espinal also partnered with 34th council district incumbent Antonio Reynoso to launch a neighborhood planning exercise in Bushwick. A team of Bushwick stakeholders are currently in conversation with the Department of City Planning to develop that plan. Reynoso won the primary against district leader, public-school teacher and coach Tommy Torres, receiving 65 percent of the vote.
After participating in a community-planning effort lead by 39th district councilmember Brad Lander, Gowanus residents are now involved in a Department of City Planning-initiated rezoning study. Stephen Levin’s 33rd district overlaps with the edge of the rezoning study. Neither faced a primary challenge.
31st district Councilman Donovan Richards, who recently passed a rezoning of the Downtown Far Rockaway area, and District 26 Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who will have the final say on a controversial Long Island City rezoning study, did not face primary challengers.
Flushing Councilman Peter Koo of the 20th district, who put the kibosh on a Flushing rezoning in 2016 because he feared it would overstress the already overcrowded neighborhood and would not include sufficient affordable housing, defeated his challenger Alison Tan with 58 percent of the vote to her 42 percent. Tan, a community board member and manager at a real-estate capital advisory firm, had, on the one hand, criticized Koo for not passing the rezoning, which she pointed out prevented the establishment of a mandatory inclusionary housing district in the area, but also made the congestion on the streets and overcrowding in the schools two of her campaign’s top issues.
In the North Shore of Staten Island, the Department of City Planning is currently conducting an environmental review for a rezoning of Bay Street. Though some expected it would be a tough race, incumbent Deborah Rose won handily over her challenger Kamillah Hanks, earning 70 percent of the vote. Hanks had said she would oppose a rezoning if it did not include the proper infrastructure and has accused Rose of not fighting for community benefits. Rose argued that, to the contrary, she was strongly advocating for infrastructure and community benefits—and apparently succeeded in defending her record.