Search results for ""mandatory inclusionary housing""

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Lift Me Up Before You Grow Grow

New York State Assembly to vote on lifting city’s density caps
New York State’s legislature is set to vote on a budget resolution that would lift the floor area ratio (FAR) caps in New York City for residential development, a proposition that the de Blasio administration seems to be onboard with. In a major budget bill for 2018-2019 working its way through the State Senate (S7506A), legislators have included a provision that would nullify the FAR cap installed in 1961. Floor area ratio is determined by dividing a building’s usable floor area by the overall lot’s square footage and is capped at 12 in the city’s highest density districts; therefore, indirectly influencing the height and bulk of new developments. The bill still has to pass a State Legislature vote on the clause (S6760) in two weeks before the Senate’s version can advance, though a similar proposal failed to pass in the 2015-2016 session, likely due to public backlash. The Municipal Art Society (MAS) has continually lobbied against such efforts, and this attempt is no different. MAS and the New York Landmarks Conservancy have decried the move, claiming that it would only lead to taller, bulkier glass towers that would displace existing residents. Not everyone feels the same way. Lifting the FAR cap would benefit Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing agenda, according to the city, as it would provide more space in market-rate developments for affordable housing. Building taller has been a core pillar of the mayor’s sometimes contentious Mandatory Inclusionary Housing plan, and as City Council member Rory Lancman argued in a recent op-ed, building taller is the only way out of the city’s affordable housing crisis. The Regional Plan Association (RPA) also agrees with the move, and recently put out a report highlighting how lifting the FAR cap would bolster income and increase diversity throughout the city’s lower-slung neighborhoods. Any removal of density caps would have to align with New York City's current city planning principals, which use FAR to guide development, so it's uncertain how quickly the impact of such a change would be felt. Of course, the RPA plan presumes that any changes would be accompanied by design guidelines and mechanisms to prevent real estate speculation. It remains to be seen whether the city or state government would enact such procedures if the budget manages to pass. New York residents interested in letting their voice be heard (on either side of the issue) can email or call their local Assembly Member before the vote, using the directory found here.
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Harlem Rezoned

Sweeping East Harlem rezoning greenlights a wave of new development
After rounds of contentious public hearings and protests from those on both sides of the debate, the New York City Council unanimously approved a wide-ranging rezoning for the East Harlem neighborhood on November 30th, as well as the 750,000-square foot, mixed-use Sendero Verde development. The latest rezoning plan covers a 96-block area from East 106th Street to East 138th Street and is meant to address the looming affordable housing crisis facing the neighborhood. Proponents of the move have said that East Harlem, where half of all residents are rent-burdened, or spend more than one-third of their income on rent, will lose 200 to 500 units of affordable housing per year without intervention. Officials from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development have argued that, by allowing higher density development, mandatory inclusionary housing requirements will be triggered and necessitate that 20 to 25 percent of the units in new developments will be affordable. After Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Viverito formed a neighborhood plan in 2015 that laid out what the community wanted out of a potential rezoning, neighborhood groups and Community Board 11 later pushed back after they felt their recommendations had been ignored. A new deal, struck by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio before the final vote, now caps building heights at a maximum of 325 feet along the neighborhood’s transit corridors, to limit density and address pushback from East Harlem residents. Other than the new development limits, city officials included a $222 million investment into improving the lives of current residents, including a $50 million concession for New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) East Harlem buildings and $102 million for a new public park between East 125th Street and East 132nd Street. Still, some residents feel that the new deal doesn’t hew closely enough to the Neighborhood Plan, that the city should have taken rent-stabilized buildings out of the rezoning area, and that the definition of “affordable housing” will need to be more reflective of a neighborhood with a median income of $30,000 a year. Also on the City Council’s docket was the approval of the Handel Architects-designed Sendero Verde project, a 680-unit, fully affordable mixed-use development built to passive house standards. Anticipating that the rezoning would pass, Sendero Verde will occupy an entire block, from East 111th to 112th Street, between Park and Madison avenues. Although the development will replace four existing community gardens, it also includes a DREAM charter school, grocery store, YMCA, restaurant, and Mount Sinai-run health facility. East Harlem is already changing rapidly, with several new projects from well-known studios, such as Bjarke Ingels Group’s (BIG) Gotham East 126th Residential having broken ground in recent months. The full, finalized list of changes made to the East Harlem rezoning plan can be read here.
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King of Queens

Long Island City riverside development would bring Queens one of its tallest towers
New York City’s outer borough may be getting yet another tall tower, as a recently revealed development in Long Island City, Queens, would bring thousands of residential units to an industrial corner of the neighborhood. As the New York Times reports, landlord Plaxall Realty has proposed converting its 15-acre riverside property into a mixed-use development that would include 5,000 apartments, 3.1 acres of public space, and 335,000 square feet set aside for manufacturing. The plan from New York-based WXY lays out not only retail and restaurant options for the site, but an additional 70-story tower that would become one of tallest in Queens if it were actually built. The borough has seen more of these projects lately, with the 984-foot City View Tower still on track to become Queens' first supertall tower. Anable Basin, the 1,000-foot long artificial channel that the development takes its name from, would anchor the 6-block complex. While Anable Basin was used as an industrial shipping port since its construction in 1868, Plaxall wants to modernize the inlet by ringing it with an elevated esplanade, installing flood barriers, and building docks for kayakers. Plaxall, a plastic container company who used to house factories in the area, has also called for the creation of an “innovation zone” in the development. 335,000 square feet of light manufacturing space will be set-aside in a co-working and living style arrangement, and Anable Basin residents could potentially leave their apartments and head straight down to their ground-floor studio space. Such a large project would trigger the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) requirements, and Plaxall has stated that approximately 1,250 of the proposed 4,995 units would be affordable. The details released yesterday make no mention of how affordability would be determined. Converting an area historically zoned as industrial will come with a set of caveats. Plaxall will need to have the area rezoned, and may sell the entire parcel even if they can find a development partner. If the proposal moves ahead, the Anable Basin special district would allow the public to access a section of the western Queens’ waterfront that had been closed off for centuries. Already in possession of 13 acres, Plaxall has been confident that the private landlords holding the other two will be on board with the scheme. Paula Kirby, granddaughter of Plaxall founder Louis Pfohl, told the Times that Anable Basin was “a unique opportunity to really make a skyline for Long Island City,” The New York City Department of City Planning will hold the first public comment hearing in early December. Construction is slated to begin in 2020.
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By Dattner

Here’s the first big affordable housing complex slated for East New York
Today the City Planning Commission (CPC) heard development updates from East New York, the first city neighborhood to be completely rezoned under comprehensive affordable housing rules passed in 2015. To achieve the goals of the rezoning, the East New York Neighborhood Plan was approved in April 2016, and now, a year and a half later, there are 1,000 affordable units in the pipeline, plus an 1,000-seat school, and safety-in-mind streetscape improvements along major thoroughfares like Atlantic Avenue to link new developments together. The rezoned area spans 190 square blocks and is the first to apply Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), a suite of rules that require a certain percentage of housing be designated as permanently affordable. In addition to building affordable housing, the East New York plan aims to preserve existing affordable units, while offering legal services to tenants, providing support to homeowners at risk of displacement, and transitioning families in the shelter system into local permanent housing. As far as new construction goes, the city estimates that 6,000 units of affordable housing will be built over the next 15 years. The latest—and largest—of these developments is Chestnut Commons, a 274-unit complex by Dattner Architects on a vacant city-owned site on Atlantic Avenue, near busy Conduit Boulevard. In the affordable housing world, Dattner is best known for Via Verde, an ecological housing complex in the South Bronx it completed with Grimshaw in 2012. Here, the New York City firm is kitting out a 300,000-square-foot complex, called Chestnut Commons, with solar panels, specially-glazed windows, natural lighting, and other design features from the passive house movement that improve building performance by minimizing solar heat gain and thermal bridging. In addition to shared roof terraces for tenants, amenities will include a black box theater operated by a local arts nonprofit, a kitchen incubator for jobs training, and a CUNY Kingsborough satellite campus. The ground floor of the 14-story building will sport retail spaces, and new streetscaping will connect the complex to a cleaned-up Atlantic Avenue corridor (map). The apartments will be geared towards families, though there's no word yet on the units' sizes. At the CPC meeting today, though, a representative from the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD) confirmed the development will be 100 percent affordable. Half of the units at Chestnut Commons will be available to households making 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), or $51,540 for a family of three. After that, 15 percent of the units will be open to families making 30 percent of the AMI, 20 percent of the units will go to households at 40 AMI, and 15 percent will be available to those at 50 AMI. HPD is working with MHANY Management, the Urban Builders Collaborative, and the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation (CHLDC) to develop the project. The levels of affordability were a major point of contention when the neighborhood plan was passed last year. According to a 2015 report from Comptroller Scott M. Stringer's office, more than half of the affordable units to be developed under the neighborhood plan are too pricey for current residents. (The mayor's office disputed the findings.) Last year, the city confirmed that any HPD-sponsored project in East New York will be 100 percent affordable to families earning between 30 and 90 percent of the AMI.
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DCP

With new plan, NYC seeks to revitalize Downtown Far Rockaway
In a nearly unanimous vote, on July 10th the City Planning Commission approved the rezoning and revitalization plan for Downtown Far Rockaway in Queens, as first reported by CityLand. The plan aims to re-establish Downtown Far Rockaway as the peninsula’s commercial and transportation hub through new zoning that encourages mixed-use development, new public spaces, improved pedestrian walkways, and better access to community services. It's also one of several neighborhood rezonings in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push to build more affordable housing. Downtown Far Rockaway is the historic commercial core of the peninsula: located near Rockaway Beach and Jamaica Bay, it's serviced by stops on the A train as well as the LIRR. The area has not been rezoned since the 1961 Zoning Resolution that subsequently prevented residential developments in the commercial and manufacturing zones that feature extensively in the area. Downtown Far Rockaway also has few local employment opportunities, little open space, and poor pedestrian access. Rezoning, which is the plan’s backbone, would foster new residential and mixed-use developments, especially on the area's larger streets. One part of Far Rockaway would also be designated an Urban Renewal Area, which would enable the City to purchase and transfer properties to developers. The “roadmap for action” plan also aims to incorporate the current community by improving existing commercial spaces and local businesses as well as increasing accessibility to job training, education, and community services. According to CityLand, the city is already investing $100 million in the area, with improvements including "streetscape reconstruction, sewer upgrades, park improvements, storefront improvement, and library upgrades." The plan was passed with conditions that include community-based project labor, a new school and park, and limits on up-zoning. Additionally, a 22-block area (bounded by Caffrey Avenue, Redfern Avenue, Nameoke Avenue, Beach 22nd Street, and Gateway Boulevard) would be designated for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. The final vote will be made by Major de Blasio, who has already indicated his support of local neighborhood rezoning and revitalization plans.
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As Is Air Right

At long last, City Council approves St. John’s Terminal–Pier 40 development

Yesterday the New York City Council approved a massive Manhattan air right transfer that allows the controversial St. John's Terminal–Pier 40 development to move forward.

The development of St. John's Terminal, which occupies a three-block area along the West Side Highway across from Hudson River Park, is made possible by the transfer of air rights from the park's stewards to the developers, Westbrook Partners and the Atlas Capital Group. The firms will pay the Hudson River Park Trust $100 million for 200,000 square feet of air rights; in return, they can build five buildings to replace the aging terminal. The exchange allows the Trust, which is self-funding, to repair the pier, which hosts a parking garage, much-needed playing fields, and offices. City Councilmember Corey Johnson, whose district includes the project area, has been negotiating the quid-pro-quo for three years. Despite weaker allowances for affordable housing, many elected officials, preservationists, and residents say they already see its benefits. Part of the deal included a bid to designate the Sullivan-Thompson Historic District (also called the South Village Historic District), a 40-block zone in Soho bounded by five other lower Manhattan historic districts. The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) approved the district two days before the City Council's vote. At that public hearing prior to the LPC's vote, preservationists and South Village citizens testified to the “spirit of the neighborhood”: “safe and clean,” “neighbors know each other,” and its “wonderful lifestyle and cityscape.” Besides protecting the social and cultural history of the neighborhood, the designation of the 160-building area will prevent outsize construction within its mostly low-rise boundaries. Preservation advocacy group the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) spearheaded the decade-plus campaign to landmark a downtown area that includes over 1,250 structures. The two-million-square-foot St. John's project includes 500 units (30 percent of the total) of housing that will be offered to qualifying households at a range of below-market rates, but the rates are not as low they should be under current law. Typically, projects like St. John's Terminal that benefit from upzonings must comply with the city's Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, which says at least 30 percent of a development's units must go to households making 80 percent of the area median income. This time, though, Johnson, Borough President Gale Brewer, and the community board okayed the upzoning because of the millions going to park upgrades. On Thursday, two council members voted no on the plan, with one abstention, to protest its lowered affordability requirements. Despite the size and ambition of the approved development, the community bargained for provisions that try to keep its character. The deal includes a restriction on future air rights transfers from Hudson River Park within Community Board 2, as well as a ban on big box (most stores over 10,000 square feet) and destination retail to prevent an odious amount of traffic.
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Shacked Up

Major affordable housing developments coming to East Harlem and the Bronx
New York City is set to get hundreds of new units of affordable housing in the Bronx and Manhattan. On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio's office welcomed news that the City Council had approved four developments in the Bronx and East Harlem. Lawmakers had previously rejected rezonings that would've allowed affordable developments in Sunnyside, Cobble Hill, and Inwood, three major blows to the mayor's plan to build or preserve 200,000 units for low- and middle-income households over the next decade. In the Bronx, the biggest project is the redevelopment of the Lambert Houses, a $600 million initiative that will bring two elementary schools, a renovation of a local park, and $12.3 million in transit infrastructure improvements to the West Farms neighborhood. All units at the other Bronx developments, Morrisania's Melrose Commons and West Farms's Second Farms, will be completely rent-regulated. At East Harlem's Lexington Gardens, 20 percent of the units will be let for more than median rents, Politico reports. The complex, designed by Curtis + Ginsberg Architects and developed by L+M Development Partners and Tahl Propp Equities' Lexington Gardens, is a 400-unit development bounded by Park Avenue, East 108th Street, and East 107th Street. Retail, parking, and space for nonprofits will occupy a 15-story, 411,725-square-foot structure. The building is zoned for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), which ensures that units will remain permanently affordable. 20 percent of the Lexington Gardens apartments will be available to households making one-third of the area median income (AMI), which is $24,480 for a family of three, while an additional 30 percent will be offered to those making half of the AMI, or $40,800 for a three-person household. The full-block development portends residential construction elsewhere in the neighborhood: The pending East Harlem rezoning could bring 3,500 units to the area in the coming years.  
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Micro-Scope

Are micro-apartments a revolutionary trend? Or are developers exploiting an out-of-control market?
The situation was dire: People were flocking to cities for work, but scarce land and lack of new construction were driving up rent prices. Middle-income residents couldn’t afford the high-end housing stock, nor did they want to enter cramped—sometimes illegally so—apartments. Luckily, a new housing solution appeared: In exchange for small, single-occupancy units, residents could share amenities—like a restaurant-kitchen, dining area, lounge, and cleaning services—that were possible thanks to economies of scale. Sound familiar? It should: It’s the basic premise behind Carmel Place, a micro-apartment development in Manhattan’s Kips Bay that recently started leasing. The development—whose 55 units range from 260 to 360 square feet—was the result of Mayor Bloomberg’s 2012 adAPT NYC Competition to find housing solutions for the city’s shortage of one- and two-person apartments. Back then, Carmel Place needed special legal exceptions to be built, but last March the city removed the 400-square-foot minimum on individual units. While density controls mean another all-micro-apartment building is unlikely, only building codes will provide a de facto minimum unit size (somewhere in the upper 200 square foot range). What does this deregulation mean for New York City’s always-turbulent housing market? Will New Yorkers get new, sorely needed housing options or a raw deal? In a way, this deregulation is a return to an old, widespread, and subsequently outlawed, real estate formula. In New York City at the turn of the 20th century, converting hotels into apartments, and offering single-occupancy units with communal amenities, helped alleviate a housing shortage. These “apartment hotels” were wildly successful until legal changes in 1929 largely eliminated them. Now, it seems, the pendulum of history is swinging back: Carmel Place also offers shared amenities and services through a company named ollie (a wordplay on “all inclusive”). The project’s developer, Monadnock Development, has brought in ollie to facilitate weekly house cleaning, limited butler service, and more, to the building’s 25 market rate units and eight units for veterans with Section 8 vouchers. Those units will also come with space-saving furniture; the other 22 units are affordable but not serviced by ollie. While micro-apartments haven’t yet proliferated, there is a fundamental economic formula that makes them appealing for developers. It boils down to the difference between rent per square foot and chunk rent. The former is what developers use as a metric for market demand and revenue. The latter is the monthly rent the tenant pays. “Ollie is a sustainable housing model for attainably [sic] priced, high-quality housing, and we're really exploiting that understanding that the consumer is paying on a chunk rent basis and the developer is driving their model on a dollar per square foot basis,” explained Christopher Bledsoe, ollie’s cofounder. Furthermore, because rent is less a strain on residents’ finances, they become more reliable and long-term tenants. This dynamic isn’t just conjecture. Before ollie worked on Carmel Place, it renovated and leased micro units in an old Upper West Side building to demonstrate demand for smaller apartments. (The company didn’t offer its standard suite of amenities and services, so the development wasn’t branded “ollie.”) “One of the surprises is that this [micro unit] market is far broader than Millenials,” said Bledsoe. About 30 percent of the building’s renters were over age 34; they included empty nesters, retirees, those seeking to downsize or own pied-a-terres, long distance commuters, and many young couples, not all of whom were Millennials. Units in that building ranged from 178 to 375 square feet; demand was so high rent shot up to around $2,250 for the smallest units, $3,000 for the largest. “Over 40 percent of the tenants coming in [to the Upper West Side micro units] opted for a lease longer than 12 months. That's huge,” said Bledsoe. In light of this, Carmel Place is a more mature experiment in micro-living: What combination of amenities, services, and architecture can upend the long-held real estate belief that square footage determines what people will pay? This is where ollie’s pitch comes in: “For every one square foot I can eliminate from the apartment, I can give back $50 a year to the tenant in services,” said Bledsoe. Bledsoe sells ollie as essentially doing two things for renters: First, it leverages its purchasing power to provide economies of scale to its residents. Space-savvy products from Resource Furniture, WiFi, cable, Hello Alfred butler service, housekeeping, and social club membership through Magnises, are folded into the tenant’s rent. Bledsoe argues that those expenses are frequently hidden in rents, so including them helps tenants save time and keep Carmel Place competitive with nearby comparable units. Furthermore, he added, “It's not just about services and amenities, it's about the community.” At Carmel Place, a live-in community manager helps arrange social events ranging from BBQs to lectures by guest speakers. While ollie was hired after Carmel Place was designed by New York–based nARCHITECTS, the building’s design facilitated ollie’s mission: Carmel Place features a long, open, “main street” lobby, a ground floor gym, and on the top floor, a communal kitchen, dining area, extensive terrace, and outdoor grills. The walls between the top floor’s private terraces can even be swung aside, creating one giant shared terrace. ollie’s vision for a communal, dorm-like experience also recalls WeLive, WeWork’s coliving experiment (which, unlike a true apartment, doesn’t offer leases beyond 30 days). Rent at Carmel Place isn’t cheap: At the time of writing this article, unit 6H, furnished and 265 square feet, is going for $2,720 per month. If and when less expensive micro units are built, don’t count on the same quality furniture: Carmel Place’s Resource Furniture can quickly transform a studio into a one bedroom, but it’ll dent your wallet (a standard Carmel Place Resource Furniture setup costs $13,465). If micro-apartments proliferate, isn’t there risk that some won’t be able to afford that kind of hardware? “Yeah, absolutely,” said Frank Dubinsky, vice president at Monadnock Development, who added that, “In the future what will likely happen is there needs to be more furniture out there that works in these spaces. Resource's stuff is great but it's not inexpensive.” And what about affordable housing—will the next generation of New York’s affordable units be bare, 260 square foot apartments? Thankfully, on that count, no. When it comes to the city’s new MIH (Mandatory Inclusionary Housing) program, where developers must set aside 20 percent to 30 percent of a residential building’s floor areas for affordable housing, an affordable studio can’t be less than 400 square feet and an affordable one-bedroom can’t be less than 575 square feet. Furthermore, the mix of affordable unit types (studios, one-bedrooms, etc.) must match the ratio of market rate units. Combined with density controls, it’s very unlikely a residential building would use all its floor area for micro-apartments. MIH policies are currently only in effect in the recently rezoned East New York neighborhood but, overall, the program is a major part of the de Blasio administration’s plans to build or preserve 200,000 affordable units over the next decade. There’s also the unpredictable law of supply and demand to consider. California may offer some insight: In the 1980s, in a push to increase affordable housing stock, San Diego passed a legislation to allow micro-apartments. The practice subsequently spread to L.A., San Francisco, and beyond. “To a certain extent, you have to let people vote with they wallets,” said David Baker of San Francisco–based David Baker Architects. Baker’s firm recently designed an upscale condominium development in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley; half of its 69 units are micro-apartments. “If it doesn't rent, people won't build them. If you have more competition, they'll be better and rent for less.” Monadnock and nARCHITECTS created voluminous, bright, airy interiors for Carmel Place units. “Those things are not required by the zoning code—tall ceilings and big windows—but I think they're part and parcel with this becoming a replicable typology in New York City,” said Dubinsky. Only time will tell if New Yorkers avoid less generous micro-units, a fact that isn’t heartening to those were excited to see so many innovative housing solutions—including a full-scale, Resource Furniture-equipped micro-apartment interior—at the 2013 exhibition Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers at the Museum of the City of New York. Perhaps mid-tier micro-apartments will appear, along with lower cost furniture to match. Conversely, there’s the possibility that micro-apartments will remain a niche market in select cities where housing stock is short and a few urbanites will trade “space for place.” “At present, and for the foreseeable future, micro units are such a small segment of the new multi-family housing supply that's coming online in cities that it's highly unlikely they're going to have any material impact on rent,” said Stockton Williams, executive director of the Terwilliger Center for Housing at the Washington, D.C.–based Urban Land Institute (ULI). But in terms of how micro-housing is already evolving, ollie’s next two projects, one East Coast, one West Coast, may presage what form it’ll take. The first, in Long Island City, is 42 stories. Floors two through 15 will contain 426 ollie-served micro-apartments. They’ll have the same basic suite of amenities found at Carmel Place (Resource Furniture, WiFi, Hello Alfred, etc.). However, the conventional apartments can also opt into ollie’s services. The second development, in downtown Los Angeles, involves—in a twist of historical irony—a hotel. Located on a 192,000-square-foot site, the project will feature 30,000 square feet of amenities and retail. The 300 ollie micro-apartments will have access to the hotel’s amenities: “Rooftop pool, gym, lounge spaces, food and beverage, essentially what you'd expect to find in a trendy hotel amenities program,” said Bledsoe. “We're even talking about putting recording studios in the basement, doing some fun things that are more local.” Some of the micro-units will actually be micro suites (micro-units with a shared bathroom and kitchen), a model that a 2014 ULI report identified as being even more profitable for the developer. Maybe cities will find new reasons to dislike micro-apartments—when cities emptied in the 70s, their Single Room Occupancy (SRO) developments deteriorated, became stigmatized, and were vastly cut back. But this time around, there’s growing awareness among developers that communal living is marketable and desired by tenants. “For a lot of people home is the happy place, but more home doesn't equal more happy. I think more home equals more money and more maintenance,” said Bledsoe. But the exploration of micro-apartments’ future is just beginning. As Baker explained, they’re popular among seniors, not only for being cheaper, but simply “It's a lot less to clean… and they want the bathroom to be closer.” Seniors’ micro-apartments with rooftop shuffleboard? Middle-class micro-apartments paired with a Motel 6? Who knows. But if the micro-apartment does indeed take this many forms, maybe the pendulum of history won’t know which way to swing.
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La Central

Plans for massive South Bronx affordable housing project move forward
A New York City Council committee has approved La Central, a major affordable housing development that heralds change for the South Bronx. Designed by New York–based FXFOWLE, La Central is a one-million-square-foot, 992-unit complex on city-owned vacant land in Melrose that will be built under the auspices of New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development in collaboration with private and nonprofit developers, as well as community-based social services organizations. The five-building complex, organized around a village green–type square, includes retail space, 160 units of supportive housing for homeless veterans and people with HIV/AIDS, plus a plethora of mixed-use projects: Television studios for Bronxnet, a new YMCA, and an urban farm "training garden" operated by GrowNYC. The area is alight with new development: La Central is adjacent to a Bjarke Ingels Group-designed police station, the future home of the 40th Precinct. At a September 8 meeting, the City Council Committee on Land Use approved five land use modifications to allow the development to move forward. The committee sanctioned the designation of an urban development action area for the parcels between Bergen and Brook Avenues; waived open space, yard, height, and setback requirements for the mixed-use development; allowed a C6-2 district to replace existing M1-1 and C4-4 districts; and applied Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) to the lots that will host apartments. The complex will be the largest so far to utilize MIH, which requires developers to provide a certain number of permanently affordable units and is a key part of Mayor de Blasio's plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing in the next decade. Despite ostensible support in the council, MIH has faced opposition in practice: Last month, the City Council defeated a privately developed MIH project in Inwood. Nevertheless, hopes for affordable housing development remain high at City Hall: “I believe La Central is a project that can truly help to move the South Bronx forward,” the mayor told the Daily News. The project is expected to be complete in 2017.
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Bad Omen?

NYC to rezone Jerome Avenue, signaling big changes for the Bronx
After scoring a win for his affordable housing policy with rezoning of East New York, Mayor de Blasio is setting his sights on the Bronx's Jerome Avenue. The Department of City Planning (DCP) released preliminary documents that outline plans to rezone a 73-block area of the southwest Bronx. The Special Jerome Avenue District is centered on its namesake street, the area's bustling commercial spine that teems with mom-and-pop auto body shops beneath the steel canopy of the 4 train. The rezoning would allow for large mixed-use residential buildings on the avenue, which is now zoned C8-3, M1-2, C4- 4, R7-1, R8 C-83, commercial designations that includes hotels, office space, and industrial uses like warehouses and auto shops. The entire area would be rezoned R7, R8, R9 (high-density residential); C4-4D (a medium-density commercial district with an R8A equivalent that can have 7.2 FAR in areas zoned for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH); and topped off with C2-4 commercial overlays. The rezoning would indeed apply MIH, part of the mayor's plan to guarantee affordable housing as a condition of market-rate residential development, to almost all of the new district. Near the district's southern boundary, around McClellan Avenue, towers could rise up to 145 feet, YIMBY reports. At Tremont and Burnside avenues, around the northern end of the district, new buildings could be up to 120 feet tall; near West 170th street and all along Jerome, buildings could be 80 to 100 feet in height. The height increases are tied to setbacks that should allow light and air onto Jerome, which can grow forebodingly dark at night because of the elevated train. (Perhaps the city will crib from the Design Trust for Public Space's Under the Elevated, a project to revitalize 700 miles of public space that lies beneath elevated infrastructure.) The rezoning also includes promises to enhance parks and public spaces in the neighborhoods. In all, the DCP estimates that the rezoning will allow 72,273 square feet of community space, 35,575 square feet of commercial or retail space, and 3,250 new apartments. When the rezoning was proposed back in March 2015, residents worried it would be the doomsday toll for the auto shops, which offer skilled, good-paying jobs to a largely Latino workforce. The community's concerns are justified: The DCP estimates that 47,795 square feet of industrial space and 98,002 square feet of shop space will be eliminated. As a result, over 100 jobs will be lost. New residents would be more affluent than current ones, as measured by their expected average incomes. The city promises to do another study to analyze the impending displacement of auto shops, although there's no word on whether there will be an analogous study on the possibility of residential displacement. There's plenty of time to deliberate, protest, and offer feedback on the Special Jerome Avenue District plan, though. It must pass through the lengthy public approvals process, which includes meetings with community boards, the borough president's office, the City Planning Commission, and finally the City Council. The first public meeting, where DCP officials will be on hand to answer questions from the public, is scheduled for September 29 at the (Stanford White–designed) Gould Memorial Library Auditorium at Bronx Community College.
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Sherman Plaza Defeated

In a sharp blow to Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, city council votes “no” on Inwood rezoning

In a sharp rebuke of Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, the city council voted down a zoning change that would have allowed a 15-story development on a prime corner in the northern Manhattan neighborhood of Inwood.

The council’s August 16 vote followed a decision earlier in the day from the Committee on Land Use, which voted against a proposed rezoning brought forth by Washington Square Partners, the developer of Sherman Plaza, a mixed-use structure designed by New York–based Kenneth Park Architects at 4650 Broadway.

Sherman Plaza was slated to be the first individual development zoned for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), a key provision of the mayor’s plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade. The development would have offered 20 percent of the units at 40 percent of the area median income (AMI) or 30 percent of units at 80 percent of the AMI, which in 2015 was $86,300 for a family of four. Residents believed that the development’s affordability was not deep enough for the neighborhood.

The community is now mostly zoned R7-2, a moderate density designation that encourages five- to eight-story structures with generous street setbacks. The proposed change would have established a higher density R8X and R9A district plus a C2-4 district within that R8X-R9A district at the corner of Broadway and Sherman Avenue.The City Planning Commission (CPC) approved a proposed rezoning of that site that would set a height limit of 175 feet.

Residents praise the architectural character of Inwood’s art deco apartment buildings. The neighborhood’s features, though, are conditioned by height factor zoning: The FAR is tied to the height of the building, so tower-in-the-park–style buildings have larger setbacks and a higher FAR, while shorter buildings earn a lower FAR and sit closer to the curb.

The project caught heat in the lead-up to the August meeting from residents and civic groups concerned about its impact on the neighborhood. Sherman Plaza was originally conceived as a 23-story, 375,000-square-foot development with 350 units and ground floor retail. In May, Community Board 12 quietly okayed the plans without alerting residents. The Municipal Art Society testified against the development at a City Planning Commission meeting that same month, citing its high affordability thresholds and out-of-context aesthetics. Neighbors were worried that, because of the sloping topography, Sherman Plaza would plunge adjacent Fort Tryon Park into shadow.

Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez represents the neighborhood, and didn’t take a public position on Sherman Plaza until a groundswell of community opposition forced him to come out forcefully against the development the day before the city council meeting. His office released a statement that acknowledged a lack of affordable housing in the district and outlined his position on new development: “[Developments] must be 50 percent affordable, have ample space for community cultural and nonprofit organizations and be supportive of our small businesses, and with key assurances in place that it will go forward as posed [sic].”

At the committee meeting, Rodriguez explained his position before voting down the proposed rezoning: “I was listening to the community for months. It’s important to preserve the landscape of the community.” He added that under Mayor Bloomberg, only 250 units of affordable housing were added to the neighborhood, and that many renters, his household included, receive preferential rents that could increase dramatically if Inwood’s housing market heats up.

Council members from the Committee on Land Use and the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises followed Rodriguez’s lead to vote 15-0 in opposition to the rezoning. Council members traditionally have first pass on developments in their district, and other members defer to the decision of the official from the affected district.

Community activists from an array of local groups in the room cheered the committee’s decision.

Donovan Richards Jr., chair of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, offered a thinly veiled rebuke of Rodriguez’s position. “It’s very easy to say no, it’s harder to build consensus on land-use issues,” he said.

“The committee has heard countless difficult and controversial applications,” Committee on Land Use chair David Greenfield added. “Our city’s challenge is not if, but how, we grow.Despite the enthusiasm from the chairs [assembled citizens], today is not a happy day.”

Mayor de Blasio, too, chided opponents of Sherman Plaza after the vote. At a Bronx press conference the next day, he lamented that the development could move forward with fewer units and no affordable housing. “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face,” De Blasio told MIH supporters in the council— including Rodriguez—who oppose MIH developments in their neighborhood.

The developers were predictably unhappy. Washington Square Partners issued the following statement post-vote:

“We are disappointed with the decision not to vote in favor of our application to rezone Sherman Plaza but want to thank Community Board 12, Borough President Brewer, the City Planning Commission and the Mayor for working with us over the last two years in support of the project. The project was an opportunity to develop 175 affordable apartments and we are disappointed the local council member did not agree with us.”

A spokesperson for the developer said her client was “surprised by how much attention” Sherman Plaza received, but noted that next steps for the project are under wraps. WNYC reported that Washington Square Partners may move forward with a plan that includes no affordable housing.

Inwood resident and architect Suzanna Malitz applauded the committee’s decision. While Malitz and fellow members of Uptown for Bernie in attendance opposed Sherman Plaza, she supports contextual development east of 10th Avenue along an industrial strip that fronts the Harlem River. There’s “plenty of space” there for denser developments that include affordable housing, she explained.

Rezoning this area is a top priority of the Inwood NYC Neighborhood Plan, a coalition of city agencies, nonprofits, and community groups working through the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) to envision the neighborhood’s future growth, with an eye towards developing the largely industrial areas east of 10th Avenue. Although the plan’s study area extends north from Dyckman Street and doesn’t include Sherman Plaza, if realized, its key provisions will most likely affect surrounding areas, the Bronx included.

New York–based Studio V collaborated with NYCEDC to make the vision more tangible. “Inwood is extraordinary. It has unique conditions—the grid shifts between the east and west sides, it’s bounded by two rivers, and has old growth forests in Inwood Hill Park. There’s a huge opportunity to develop the waterfront along the Harlem River and Sherman Creek, so the area goes from being an edge to being a center,” said Jay Valgora, Studio V’s founding principal. The firm’s renderings show an array of towers that could be developed on both banks of the Harlem River if the east side is upzoned. The east side can support greater density without cutting into the neighborhood’s beloved deco fabric, Valgora explained. 

Cheramie Mondesire attended NYCEDC-led meeting but was dissatisfied with the proceedings. At the second meeting she attended “it was all scripted. They couldn’t answer questions that were not on the script.” The Metropolitan Council on Housing was there to organize residents, and Mondersire, who has lived in the neighborhood for 42 years, attended their meetings to learn how MIH could be applied in Inwood. She agreed that the area east of 10th Avenue would be better suited for dense development than the middle of the neighborhood’s fabric.

Pat Courtney of Inwood Preservation added that the transportation infrastructure is not equipped to serve an influx of new residents, especially with a lack of local bus routes. “Thecommunity is beautiful, well-coordinated, and well-planned. New development should be scaled to existing buildings.”

State assemblymember Guillermo Linares opposed Sherman Plaza, noting that developments like these accelerate the process of gentrification. “You see what happened in lower Manhattan and Williamsburg. In my district, there’s a high concentration of low and middle-income families who cannot afford the housing that’s being built.” Linares cited Sherman Creek as a potential area for “100 percent affordable housing” that includes ground floor retail to enliven the streetscape.

 
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NYC City Council approves neighborhood-wide zoning changes for Brooklyn’s East New York
East New York is officially the first neighborhood under de Blasio to be totally rezoned. Yesterday, the New York City Council approved the East New York Community Plan (ENYCP) by a 45-1 margin. Because the ENYCP abides by the mayor's just-passed affordable housing and zoning initiatives, the eastern Brooklyn neighborhood is viewed by many as the first proving ground for the mayor's ambitious reforms. The primary goals of the plan are to create more affordable housing and spur economic development. The ENYCP is part of Housing New York, the mayor's initiative to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing. ENYCP covers 190 blocks and is the first plan to apply Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), a suite of new zoning rules that require a certain percentage of new housing be designated as permanently affordable. In East New York, however, affordability would go deeper than MIH minimum thresholds: NYC Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD) says that any project it backs in the neighborhood will be entirely affordable. Units will be available to families making between 30 and 90 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI): $23,350 to $69,930 for a three-person household, respectively. 1,200 apartments will be constructed over the next two years, and HPD anticipates that more than half of the approximately 7,000 units developed in the neighborhood over the next decade will be permanently affordable. Lured by new housing, the city estimates that more than 19,000 new residents could move to the neighborhood in the next 15 years. The plan that sailed through the City Planning Commission, the penultimate approval body, in late February is slightly different than the one that the council passed. The council's modifications added more protections for displacement of current residents, tenant protections from harassment, promises to secure housing for the homeless, and additional community services like job skills training. The city will also spend $267 million on infrastructure improvements, including a new park and school.