Anticipated Rezoning Approved with Changes

Affordable housing incentives, as well as height, massing and manufacturing zones, revised before approval. Over the disapproval votes of Commissioners Karen Phillips and Dolly Williams, the remaining members of the Planning Commission approved the rezoning of a two-mile area along the East River waterfront in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint and Williamsburg neighborhoods after modifications were crafted to address public officials and residents’ comments.

The six linked applications, including text, map and City map amendments to create park land, will rezone 183 diverse blocks of two Brooklyn neighborhoods that have seen significant population growth, development and numerous illegal conversions over the past decade that have increased the disparity between the existing uses and the current zoning.

The rezoning, first framed in August 2002, proposes to change the area’s primarily manufacturing zoning to residential, mixed-use and contextual commercial districts; retain lots for light industrial and manufacturing uses; and create a comprehensive land use plan for waterfront open space. The highest concentration of new development would occur along the East River waterfront where permitted tower heights would be 250 ft. and 350 ft., which then lower to 150 ft. and 65 ft. further inland. The proposal includes contextual rezoning in Greenpoint and Williamsburg’s established inland neighborhoods to match the smaller existing scale and character.

An inclusionary housing incentive within the rezoning seeks to encourage low-income housing development by allowing increases over the floor area limit for developers who commit to build permanent affordable housing on or offsite. An additional incentive allows developers to defer compliance with the requirement to build waterfront access on their lots during the period that affordable housing is being developed.

As the rezoning progressed through the ULURP process, the community repeatedly requested a mandatory requirement for the construction of affordable housing that would equal 40 percent of the new units projected from the rezoning.

Borough President Marty Markowitz, opposing the rezoning at the Commission’s January 19, 2005 hearing, urged the adoption of anti-harassment language to protect current residential and commercial tenants and a mandatory commitment of affordable housing development. When questioned by Commissioner Angela Battaglia on whether he would drop his opposition if the City committed to adding anti-harassment language by a future corrective action, Markowitz answered, “Get it right to begin with.” Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum and the Municipal Art Society were among over 40 opponents who testified.

The Partnership for New York City, the New York State Association for Affordable Housing and the Building Construction Trade Council spoke with others in support of the rezoning, testifying that the comprehensive rezoning was needed and that the affordable housing proposal, with the City’s stock of in rem properties depleted, was a watershed for the future of housing development in the city. Asked by Vice Chair Kenneth Knuckles if mandatory affordable housing was needed, Kathryn Wylde, President of the Partnership for New York City, stated that mandatory requirements could not weather certain market conditions.

Modifications to the original rezoning followed the Commission’s public hearing. Thirteen blocks retained the existing manufacturing zoning, a change suggested by Borough President Markowitz, and the Commission reduced the mass and height permitted in lots adjacent to the lower-scale buildings in the Greenpoint Historic District. To increase the potential for development of affordable housing, the Commission reduced the as-of-right floor area along the waterfront from a 4.3 to a 4 FAR and increased the floor area incentive for affordable housing to a floor area ratio of 4.7.

With the revisions, the Commission approved all six related applications on March 14, 2005, estimating that 20 percent of the housing produced by the rezoning would be affordable for a variety of income levels.

ULURP Process: The Planning Commission, as lead agency, issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on October 4, 2004 and a Final Environmental Impact Statement and a Notice of Completion on March 4, 2005.

Stating that the rezoning did not meet the “very basic goals” of the community’s §197-a plan, Community Board 1 disapproved by a vote of 37 to 0 following two hearings on the rezoning. Requests in the Community Board’s 32-page disapproval letter included a guarantee from the City that the waterfront esplanade would be constructed and that 40 percent of the housing constructed would be affordable. Anti-harassment provisions to protect current residents from displacement, the Community Board wrote, must be added as well.

Borough President Marty Markowitz disapproved, requesting among other things that 30 percent of housing be confirmed affordable and preference be given to displaced residents.

A hearing before the City Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises was held on April 4, 2005 where significant opposition remained. No vote was called for.

CPC: Greenpoint – Williamsburg Rezoning (C 040415 MMK – close portion of North 12th for Inlet Park); (C 040416 MMK – close portion of Quay Street for Inlet Park); (C 040417 MMK – close portion of North 11th for Inlet Park); (C 040418 MMK – close portion of North 9th/North 10th for Inlet Park); (C 050110(A) ZRK – text amendment); (C 050110(A) ZMK – map amendment) (March 14, 2005). CITYADMIN

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