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Aides to Mayor Bill de Blasio defend affordable housing plan

Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during his third

Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during his third State of the City address Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016 at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx. His aides defended his affordable housing plan Monday Feb. 9, 2016. Credit: Craig Ruttle

Top aides to Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday defended his signature affordable housing plan against criticism that it will encourage gentrification, saying they must take advantage of the real estate boom to help guarantee low-rent options.

“In order to prevent displacement, we’ve got to take the pressure off of rents, and the way to take pressure off of rents is to build more housing,” Housing Commissioner Vicki Been told reporters at City Hall ahead of City Council hearings Tuesday and Wednesday on two key elements of de Blasio’s plan to build or preserve 200,000 below-market-rate apartments in 10 years.

Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen said developing communities such as Brooklyn’s East New York are “changing anyway.”

“The world is not static. The notion that doing something is worse than doing nothing is a ridiculous premise,” she said. “I would prefer to have us help shape the future of New York City.”

Council member David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn), chair of the land use committee, said decisions on the plan will be the “most consequential” in “recent history.”

A proposal requiring developers to include affordable apartments in new construction, called “mandatory inclusionary housing,” and a set of proposed changes to height, facade and other design standards, known as “zoning for quality and affordability,” were approved last week by the Planning Commission.

But one or both had been rejected in nonbinding votes by all five borough presidents, borough boards and most of the 59 community boards. Some council members on the borough boards also voted preliminarily against the measures. Opponents expressed disapproval of a range of issues including too-tall buildings and lack of parking, but many have said the apartments would not be affordable enough for the poorest New Yorkers.

Community activists and union members with the Real Affordability for All coalition have rallied at City Hall Monday, saying people making minimum wage couldn’t afford a unit under de Blasio’s plan. Under the blueprint, more than half of the apartments will be for people making between $42,000 and $67,000 at rents of between $1,000 and $1,700.

Glen and Been said the income and rent levels were chosen because they are financially and legally feasible.

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