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De Blasio affordable housing plan hits community resistance

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is pictured at City Hall in Manhattan on Friday, Nov. 6, 2015. Credit: Steven Sunshine

Zoning change proposals that would pave the way for Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to create 200,000 affordable housing units are meeting mounting resistance at the community level, with two of five borough boards rejecting the measures and two borough presidents voicing concerns.

The Bronx Borough Board, made up of community boards, unanimously voted down the two amendments Thursday. Their counterparts in Queens did so Monday, with 12 boards voting against and two in favor.

The Bronx borough president criticized what he said was a blanket approach. "So many different communities have different reasons to be opposed to this 'one size fits all' approach to the future development of our borough and our city," Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said in a statement, adding that the de Blasio administration hasn't discussed the necessary "social and physical infrastructure."

On the table are a set of "zoning for quality and affordability" changes that include permitting taller residential buildings and a "mandatory inclusionary housing" program requiring developers to build affordable units alongside market-rate ones.

De Blasio spokesman Wiley Norvell welcomed the feedback but described the amendments as necessary in stemming the tide of gentrification threatening to displace low- to middle-income families.

"We believe that good community process makes for better policy," Norvell said in a statement. "But make no mistake, we are in an affordable housing crisis and these policies are vital tools we need to confront it. . . . Without these policies, new rezonings could not require affordable housing, and we'd continue to see luxury-only development in many parts of the city."

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer sent a letter co-signed by 27 local, state and federal elected officials to the planning commission saying the amendments must "address the needs and desires of all of our neighborhoods."

The Queens Borough Board said that, among other fears, de Blasio's initiative may replace existing lower-rent homes with units that City Hall considers affordable but that are out of reach of residents. The Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island borough presidents have yet to issue their opinions.

The zoning change proposals are making their way for review through community boards, borough presidents and borough boards. They also will be considered by the planning commission and City Council.

The Manhattan Borough Board will vote on Nov. 30, and the Brooklyn board on Dec. 1.

Staten Island Borough President James Oddo asked his community boards to delay their votes "until I have the opportunity to continue to fully vet them and achieve a level of comfort about their exact implications," he said in a statement.

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