myrtle Avenue Bushwick

Adi Talwar

The view from the Myrtle Avenue Station on the edge of Bushwick. Transit corridors play a key role in both the local stakeholders’ vision and the city’s plan.


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City Limits is in the midst of a month-long reporting project on Bushwick. If you have a story idea or a comment about the neighborhood or our coverage, please let us know. If you want to learn more about the rezoning, text “Rezoning” to 646 916-3930.
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After years of planning in Bushwick involving hundreds of residents, a coalition of stakeholders and elected officials last year presented a plan to rezone the area. Months later, the de Blasio administration presented it own plan, which is now moving towards the public review process (called Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP.)

There are some similarities between the community and city rezoning proposals but the differences are important to Bushwick community members who say they have waited for decades for serious public investments in their neighborhood.

The rezoning study area is an approximately 300-block or 1,300-acre area of Bushwick bounded by Wyckoff Avenue and Irving Avenue to the north, Moffat and Vanderveer streets to the east, Broadway to the south, and Flushing Avenue to the west.

The existing zoning in the residential area of that footprint is mostly comprised of R6, which does not have strict height limits. For R6, height is determined by a combination of lot coverage and distance from street wall (i.e. open space ratio) and setbacks (i.e. sky exposure plane), according to DCP. In the transit and commercials corridors, there are commercial overlays that allow for commercial and residential mixed-use development. In the industrial areas, zoning permits everything from low-density commercial and industrial uses to heavy industry such as power plants, solid waste transfer facilities, recycling facilities, and fuel supply depots.

In June, the city released its draft scope for the environmental review that must be underway before the public-approval process can begin in earnest. It predicted the kind of population growth and development Bushwick could see over a 10-year period. According to the scope, the rezoning could lead to an increase of 5,613 units of housing, which includes 1,873 permanently affordable housing units. Bushwick could also see an additional 17,849 residents and 6,116 workers in the neighborhood (you can read the full analysis here).

The city has argued that unless New York builds more housing, rents will grow less and less affordable. Brooklyn Community Board 4, local groups and Councilmembers Antonio Reynoso and Rafael Espinal have said the Bushwick rezoning, if done according to community wishes, could protect people from further displacement. Other groups such as Mi Casa No Es Su Casa and Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network (BAN) do not trust the city’s process and believe any rezoning threatens to bring more gentrification and displacement.

Here is a brief look at how the Community Plan and the city proposal align and differ:

 

Local stakeholders’ “Bushwick Community Plan” De Blasio administration’s “Bushwick Neighborhood Plan”
Origins Created in 2014 by a group of community stakeholders convened by Councilmembers Reynoso and Espinal Drafted by the de Blasio administration’s Department of City Planning and now undergoing public review en route to possible implementation
Engagement After years of community engagement with over 200 members in the steering committee (as well as technical guidance from City Planning), the Bushwick Community Plan was released last year in 2018. DCP began engagement in February 2014 with the steering committee. Since 2017, they have held over a dozen meetings with the steering committee, Brooklyn Community Board 4 and other stakeholders.
Zoning: Coverage area The BC plan covers an approximately 300-block, 1,300-acre area of Bushwick in Brooklyn’s Community District 4. The area is bounded by parts of Wyckoff Avenue, Cypress and Irving avenues to the north, parts of the Evergreen cemetery, Moffat and Vanderveer streets to the east, Broadway to the south, and Flushing Avenue to the west. The city’s draft rezoning plan includes the same boundaries of Bushwick except it does not include a portion of the Evergreen cemetery.
Zoning: Major corridor1 On transit corridors, along the J, M, Z lines, Broadway, Wyckoff and Myrtle avenues, the community proposed a mixed-use (commercial and residential) special zoning district with Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. On Broadway, there would be height limits of 11 stories and hotel development would require a special permit. On Myrtle and Wyckoff avenues the proposed zoning would be for six- to eight-story apartment buildings with required commercial use on the ground floor. On transit corridors, along the J, M, Z lines, Broadway, Wyckoff and Myrtle avenues, the city proposed a mixed-use (commercial and residential) zoning with flexible design to accomodate the elevated train spaces and to trigger affordable housing. On parts of Broadway, buildings could reach between 12 and 14 stories. There is no special district designation and hotels would be restricted by a special permit.
Zoning: Major corridor2 On Knickerbocker Avenue, west of Myrtle Avenue, the proposed zoning is for a commercial-residential pairing that could generate buildings of nine stories and would trigger Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. On Knickerbocker Avenue, west of Myrtle Ave, the city proposed zoning for affordable housing, retail and community faciltiies. The proposed mixed-use zoning is for medium density, where building heights can reach up to between 9 to 13 stories (near transit) with commercial overlays.
Zoning: residential areas The Bushwick community plan focused the zoning on preservation, and would limit heights to between three and five stories. The community specified that if a majority of a residential block is at a lower-density or height, that lower restriction should prevail for the full block. The exisiting zoning of R4, covering one-and two-story homes, on Starr, Willoughby, Cypress, DeKalb and St. Nicholas would remain the same. At NYCHA’s Hope Gardens, the two-square block would be zoned so heights can reach up to 14 stories. Similarly, the city also proposed lower density zoning for residential mid-blocks capping at five stories at maximum. The city would require new development to line up with existing buildings.
Zoning: Commercial areas In the neighborhood commercial corridors (Wilson, parts of Irving and Central avenues) the plan calls for commercial overlays with some affordable housing with heights up to eight stories. Proposed zoning in these areas is for affordable housing, retail and community faciltiies, according to DCP. The mixed-use zoning is for medium density, where building heights can reach between eight to nine stories with commercial overlays.
Zoning: Industrial/Manufacturing areas The community plan wants no conversion of manufacturing space to residential zoning except on blocks that are 75 percent or more residential per pre-1961 zoning. If underutilized public sites, like the Police Service Area 3 parking lot on Central Avenue, or faith-based private sites (such as the Cathedral of Joy on Central Avenue) are developed, they must be developed for 100 percent affordable housing. The plan also calls for reducing outdated parking and loading requirements in manufacturing districts, as well as for potentially increasing density to incentivize mixed industrial-commercial development and restrict commercial uses such as retail, bars, restaurants and office space. The city plan aims to prohibit residential use, increase density, and lower parking requirements in manufacturing zones that border the industrial business zones around the Jefferson L station and on Flushing Avenue in the northwest Bushwick and Wyckoff Avenue and Moffat Street in eastern Bushwick. But the city has proposed various kinds of mixed residential and manufacturing zoning along buffer areas that border the industrial business zone such as Wyckoff Avenue, Central Ave., and Jefferson Street in western Bushwick.
Adding density? The community rezoning plan did not state exactly how many housing units it plans for the area and what kind of population the area could see in the future. But it did say that density should not increase more than would be the case with no rezoning. According to the city’s draft scope of work (a document that offers 10-year projections of population, development and density) without a rezoning Bushwick could see an additional 1,678 market rate housing units and an additional 5,336 people. The city draft plan would add density using mixed-use zoning in commercial and transit corridors and manufacturing industrial buffer zones. According to the draft scope of work, the city projects the rezoning could lead to an additional 5,613 housing units — 1,873 of them permanently affordable. Bushwick could also see an additional 17,849 residents and 6,116 workers in the neighborhood over a 10-year period.
Adding affordable housing? The community plan calls for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Options 1 and 3 to be in place (see details below). It also promotes programs for home buyers earning below 100 percent of the area median income ($91,600 for a family of three) including Councilmember Rafael Espinal proposal to increase the city’s HomeFirst Down Payment Assistance Program grant cap from $25,000 to $100,000, and for providing financial and technical support towards the development of community land trusts. The community plan also asks that all public sites be developed for 100 percent affordability and for exploring the use of the city’s Extremely Low & Low-Income Affordability (ELLA) Program for pubic sites as well. ELLA funds new construction of low income multi-family rental projects affordable to households earning a range of incomes from 30 percent to 60 percent of Area Media Income (which is between $28,830 to $57,660 for a family of three). ELLA requires that 10 percent of the apartments in a project are set aside for formerly homeless households and an additional 30 percent of the apartments are affordable to extremely low and very low-incomes between 30 percent and 50 percent of AMI (which is between $28,830 to $48,050 for a family of three). The city plan includes affordable housing units in partnership with community-based organizations at four different sites to create an estimated 177 affordable housing units and 154 affordable senior housing units. Mandatory Inclusionary Housing options would be chosen during rezoning negotiations with local elected officials. The city would also require developers receiving subsidies to create even larger MIH carve outs, meaning 35 to 45 percent of units could be designated as permanently affordable housing with 10 percent set aside for homeless families and individuals.
Other housing policy plans The community plans call for displacement prevention programs to be implemented or continued in the area, such as legal services for tenants facing evictions, long-term funding for local tenant organizations, and financial incentives for landlords who enter or extend regulatory agreements. Other programs include the Certificate of No Harrassment initiative, enforcement of quality housing, expanding the basement legalization pilot program, protecting tenants in single room occupancies and prioritizing sustainable development such as deep energy retrofits and passive house projects. The community plan also wants the city increase access to affordable housing for Bushwick residents and push to include a racial equity analysis during the environmental review process. The city draft plan aims to preserve affordable housing and protect tenants through loan and tax incentives to keep homes affordable, by bolstering rent-stabilized housing through the Neighborhood Pillars program, through tenant protection programs such as free legal assistance and the Certification of No Harrassment program. It also calls for technical assistance for property owners through the Landlord Ambassador program, continued housing enforcement measures and incentivizing landlords to extend or enter into regulatory agreements by offering energy retrofit grants and loans. The city also plans on making access to the housing lottery a priority for Bushwick residents and provide assistance with the application process.
Transit The community plan calls for traffic-calming measures, improved enforcement targeted at truck traffic and and remedying sink holes. Additionally, the community calls for improvements to dangerous intersections along Broadway at the Halsey, Myrtle, Flushing, Cooper, and Gates crossings. They also want to increase bike capacity near subway stations and explore adding additional bike lanes and a study to improve traffic on Bushwick Avenue from Flushing Avenue to Broadway Junction. The community plan also wants to see street beautification, well-lit pedestrian paths and the re-opening of closed subway entrances along the J,M,Z lines. The city’s draft plan includes projects underway since 2018, such as improvement projects under the Vision Zero program at the Broadway and Flushing avenue intersections and 3.4 miles of new bike lanes and a capital street project at the Myrtle/Wyckoff plaza slated to start in 2020. The city draft plan would look to improve ADA accessbility at subway stations along with platform improvements. The draft plan also calls for future projects focused on enhancing safety and beautoification in public spaces and pedestrian connections.
Open Space For existing open spaces, the community plan calls for preservation and improvements such as in Maria Hernandez and Irving Square parks with renovations to lighting and signage to designate age-appropiate areas. It also calls on the city to create and expand open spaces for NYCHA residents and to improve public plazas, as well as to work with the community over the design of the parks. The community plan wants to build on educational, cultural and recreational programming such as the Playground Associates program and community garden groups. The city’s draft plan incudes exisiting and future projects in the works such as the reconstruction of the Hope Ballfield, synthetic turf construction at Maria Hernandez Park, Rudd Playground’s skate and basketball court reconstuction, the Beaver Noll Park reconstruction and the recently completed $4.5 million reconstruction project of Thomas Boyland Park. Additionally, the city says it will look for opportuntiies to imrpove existing parks with public programming and recreational amenities.
Infrastructure The community plan aims to create opportunities for energy and green infrastructure such as solar roofs, rain gardens and green roofs. Also wants to consider public transit for those with special needs and disabilities . The city has not articulated plans to address infrastructure requests that the Bushwick Community Plan made.
Jobs The community plan has five objectives for the economic development in Bushwick. The BCP calls on the city to support locally-owned businesses and emerging entrepreneurs and support the creation of businesses that meet Bushwick residents’ needs. The plan also calls for support of manufacturing businesses and ensuring job growth for all ages. The city’s Small Business Services (SBS) has had a mobile outreach unit in the area since the spring of this year and it has plans to connect existing and future businesses to its Neighborhood 360 Fellowship program to help local organizations with revitalization projects. NYC Economic Development Corporation plans on creating partnerships with local groups to create tax incentives and opportunties in the tech and life sciences sectors. SBS plans on providing training opportunities through its Workforce1 program. The small business agency proposes to create customized, on-the-job training opportunities for small businesses and to engage stakeholders through the Industry Partners Initiative in order to develop new job-training models.


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The Mandatory Inclusionary Housing options

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 on a parcel. Here are the options officials can choose:

Option #1 requires developers to set aside 25 percent of units for families making an average of 60 percent of the Area Median Income, or $57,660 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 $38,440 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 $76,880 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 $38,440 for a family of three.

Option #4 or the 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.”

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