Weisbrod Highlights East New York as Test for Affordable Housing

Ross F. Moskowitz. Image Credit: Strook & Strook & Lavan, LLP.

Ross F. Moskowitz. Image Credit: Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, LLP.

At the CityLaw Breakfast on September 5, 2014, Carl Weisbrod laid out the De Blasio Administration’s housing policy. As was widely reported, the City will look to implement mandatory inclusionary housing on all City-sponsored rezonings. One of the first tests of this new policy is the privately sponsored Astoria Cove development in Queens, where an affordable component will likely be required if approved under ULURP.

Weisbrod recognized that if the City requires too much affordable housing, nothing will get built and stated that the amount of mandatory affordable housing will vary by neighborhood. In stronger neighborhoods, more affordable housing will be required than in weaker, emerging neighborhoods. Additionally, City subsidies will no longer be available to meet the minimum requirements in stronger neighborhoods. Weisbrod expects the inclusionary zoning text amendment to be certified in the spring of 2015, and therefore enacted by the fall of 2015.

To induce the supply of new housing, the City plans to upzone certain neighborhoods, starting with the area around Broadway Junction in East New York, Brooklyn. The Broadway Junction transit hub is served by five subway lines, six bus routes and the Long Island Rail Road. Although it is one of the most accessible areas in Brooklyn, much of the land surrounding the hub is currently vacant or underutilized. By rezoning the neighborhood and in investing in infrastructure, the City hopes to redevelop the area with more housing, retail and jobs. Blocks along key streets would be upzoned to accommodate more residential and commercial development, including affordable housing.

Similar initiatives are in the works for other City neighborhoods, which, The New York Times reported, include Inwood in upper Manhattan and eastern Long Island City in Queens. Like Broadway Junction, both neighborhoods are well served by transit and contain underbuilt industrially zoned land. Since these neighborhoods are, at best, emerging real estate markets, City subsidies are likely to be required to induce private development. Additionally, since rents in these neighborhoods are relatively low, it’s unclear whether affordable rents would be significantly lower than market-rate rents.

Other Planning Department initiatives are studying the Sheridan Expressway corridor along the Bronx River and potential transit-oriented development around Metro-North stations. The studies seek to identify potential sites for new housing and commercial development. If the City moves forward with these plans, City-led development efforts in these neighborhoods may follow the course set by Broadway Junction.

Although some of these studies began during the Bloomberg Administration, it is clear that the Planning Department’s agenda highlights and supports the De Blasio administration’s priority of creating opportunities to build affordable housing. In many respects, Carl Weisbrod is building on some of the ground work started by his predecessor, Amanda Burden. Still, many of the neighborhoods, particularly East New York, have significant amounts of underbuilt land and weak development markets. In spite of these challenges, if the City can succeed in creating a market to build affordable housing in East New York, it can become the poster child for success in other neighborhoods and throughout New York City.

Ross F. Moskowitz is a Partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, a New York Law School graduate from 1984 and a member of the CityLand Advisory Board.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.