Extensive rezoning of E.Village/LES approved

Proposed East Village/Lower East Side rezoning. Image: NYC Department of City Planning.

Council approved plan after City agreed to work with interest groups on related zoning and development issues. On November 19, 2008, the City Council approved the City’s plan to rezone 111 blocks in the East Village and Lower East Side of Manhattan. The plan calls for seven new zoning districts, including a 59-block residential area which would be rezoned to R8B, a category that limits building heights to 75ft. The area is, in general, bounded by East 13th Street, Avenue D, Delancey Street, and Third Avenue. 5 CityLand 123 (Sept. 15, 2008).

Prior to Council review, the City Planning Commission unanimously voted to approve the rezoning after a contentious public hearing. The Commission found that the height, setback, and bulk controls of the new contextual districts would help preserve the low- to mid-rise tenement and rowhouse character of the area. The Commission, contrary to the views of many who spoke in opposition, favored higher density districts along Chrystie Street, Delancey Street, and Avenue D, noting that the districts were located along wide streets well-served by public transit. The Commission dismissed the idea of including Chinatown and the east side of the Bowery in the rezoning, stating that each area had a distinctive character and, as such, each required its own planning analysis. The Commission also rejected the community’s call for anti-harassment provisions to be included in the proposed zoning text, noting that Local Law 7 of 2008 already affords tenants the protection the community had sought.

At the Council’s November 12th public hearing before its Zoning & Franchises Subcommittee, Council Member Rosie Mendez disagreed with the Planning Commission on the anti-harassment issue, and called for anti-harassment provisions to be included in the text amendment. Mendez, along with Council Member Alan J. Gerson, also called for a ten percent increase in the mandatory minimum percentage of floor area allocated to affordable housing units which developers would be required to build in order to take advantage of an inclusionary housing bonus. Gerson reasoned that since landlords can charge relatively high amounts of rent for market- rate units, developers would still “flock to the area” despite a ten percent increase in the affordability requirement from 20 to 30 percent. Representatives of the Dept. of City Planning defended the 20 percent requirement, pointing out that it was a product of a “finely calibrated formula” designed to ensure that developers would take advantage of the inclusionary housing bonus. Gerson questioned if the calibration was fine enough since the formula had been implemented borough-wide and was not specifically tailored for the Lower East Side or East Village.

When the Subcommittee reconvened a week later on November 19th, Gerson stated that an agreement had been reached with the City, and submitted a letter from Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert C. Leiber, which outlined the points of agreement. According to the letter, the Dept. of Housing Preservation & Development agreed to monitor the effectiveness of Local Law 7, and the Dept. of City Planning committed to work with Chinatown and Bowery interest groups in order to help formulate community-wide development plans. The Subcommittee voted to approve that day, as did the Land Use Committee and the full Council.

Review Process
Lead Agency: CPC, FEIS
Comm.Bd: MN 3,App’d, 40-0-0
Boro.Pres.: App’d
CPC: App’d, 12-0-0
Council: App’d, 42-0-10

Council: East Village/Lower East Side Rezoning (Nov. 19, 2008).

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