Planning Commission Sees Ways to Tweak Bay Street Rezoning Plan

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NYC CPC

Notes made by local residents and business owners at a 2015 'tabling' event held by the Planning Department in the Bay Street area.

After the City Planning Commission passed the city’s Bay Street rezoning proposal last week, the commission laid out its recommendations for the Staten Island district on mandatory inclusionary housing, infrastructure, special district designations and development on city-owned sites for the North Shore community.

The 8-3 vote by the City Planning Commission last Monday pushed the proposal on to the City Council, and triggered the last and most intense period of negotiations over the plan. The commission report, which was released later in the week, maps out areas where there seems to be room for changes to the city proposal, and where there does not.

The CPC recommendations report concurred with the city’s rezoning proposal, saying it would create the neighborhood that Staten Island has needed for a long time. The area has not seen any zoning changes since 1961.

In its report, the CPC says, “…The Commission ultimately believes that the proposed actions present an opportunity to capitalize on the existing strengths of the neighborhood by creating the potential to spur new housing development, including permanently affordable housing and housing for seniors, promote economic development by providing opportunities for commercial and community facility uses, create a more inviting and vibrant Corridor by tailoring zoning regulations that include active ground floor uses, and promote opportunities for public access along the waterfront.”

The CPC agreed with the rezoning proposal despite the Staten Island Community Board 1 rejection of the proposal “with conditions” in January. The community board listed 12 conditions in their letter to the city. Those 12 conditions included park space, a cap on building heights and the renovation of the long-awaited Cromwell Recreation Center.

Borough President James Oddo followed suit in February by also rejecting the proposal “with conditions” (with the exception of the city-owned property at 539 Jersey Street, which her approved “with conditions” related to housing.)

Community-based organizations such as the Staten Island Housing Dignity Coalition and Make The Road New York have also voiced their concerns that the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing options in the rezoning proposal did not reflect the incomes of residents from the North Shore community and needed to be more inclusive by using the deepest levels of affordability options in MIH and additional city programs for affordable housing.

In the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, there are four sets of affordability requirements. During a neighborhood rezoning, the City Council and City Planning Commission decide which options will be available within the district. However, if more than one option is presented in a particular neighborhood, it is left up to the developer to decide which option to use when building within that rezoning area.

Option #1 requires developers to set aside 25 percent of units for families making an average of 60 percent AMI, or $56,340 for a family of three. It also requires that at least 10 percent of the total units must be set aside for families making an average of 40 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) or $37,560 for a family of three. Option #2 requires developers to set aside 30 percent of units for families making an average of 80 percent AMI, or $75,120 for a family of three. For both Options #1 and Options #2, developers are allowed to use public funding to finance the projects.

The Deep Affordability Option or Option #3 requires that 20 percent of the rent-restricted units be affordable to families making 40 percent AMI, or $37,560 for a family of three . Option #4, also known as Workforce Option, requires that 30 percent of the rent-restricted units are affordable to families making 115 percent AMI or $93,900 for a family of three, with required percentages at several different income bands. Developers using the Workforce Option cannot use public funding. And Options #3 and #4 cannot be applied by themselves—they must be selected alongside one or both of the first two options.

The commission said real-estate market conditions across the five boroughs would warrant flexible use of the MIH programs. The Commission believes all four MIH options, Options 1 and 2, along with the Deep Affordability (Option 3) and Workforce (Option 4) options, would be the best options. That would give developers a wide range of choices as to the depth and breadth of affordability the rezoning will create.

In its recommendations, the CPC acknowledged the community board’s list but disagreed with restricting height to six stories and creating 20 acres of park land. On building height, the CPC said it would not serve the objective of creating more affordable housing units in the borough,

On park land, the CPC says the extensive development along the waterfront, which includes 12 acres of park land, would not warrant 20 acres of additional park land but does propose the city should improve existing park lands.

The CPC acknowledged and concurred with the community board and borough president’s requests for improvements to infrastructure, including the sewage system and roads, as well as reconstructing the Cromwell Recreation Center, a high priority for the community. It also notes the NYCEDC special waterfront district development project includes additional school projects and additional affordable housing projects for the future.

But the commission rejected Oddo’s concerns about the ability of emergency services to adequately serve the rezoned area. The commission said received written testimony from the New York City Police Department “stating support for the plan, and expressing its continued commitment to improving safety in the area.” The Fire Department “provided information to the Commission stating that the existing fire stations in the area have adequate equipment and are familiar with the standards and procedures to service the types of buildings that could be constructed under the proposed zoning,” according to the report.

Next in the ULURP process, the proposal will be voted on by the City Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises before advancing to the full Land-Use Committee and then the entire City Council. Staten Island Councilmember Debi Rose’s vote will carry the most weight when the proposal reaches the Council. She will have a chance to negotiate terms and conditions of the rezoning in her district during the process.

Rose’s office has said in past interviews with City Limits that her office is focused on getting the deepest levels of affordability for the North Shore community and improving infrastructure including recreation facilities, parks, open space, traffic improvements, school seats and the sewage system while they continue to listen to the community.

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