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De Blasio’s NYC housing plan vote delayed by protesters

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito with

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito with other council members at City Hall Tuesday, March 23, 2016. Credit: Uli Seit

Mayor Bill de Blasio notched a major political victory Tuesday when the City Council passed two rezoning bills central to his affordable housing program — but not before protesters disrupted the proceedings, saying the measures don’t go far enough to help the poor.

The legislation would mandate the inclusion of below-market-rate units in new developments and update facades, parking and other design standards to maximize density. It is considered a cornerstone of de Blasio’s administration, which has vowed to build or preserve 200,000 affordable apartments by 2024.

About two-dozen protesters from several tenants’ groups, including the Metropolitan Council on Housing, disrupted the council vote for close to 20 minutes before security personnel forcibly removed several demonstrators from the chambers.

“Don’t turn your backs on us,” one man yelled, “Don’t push us out.”

A woman in the balcony above the council chambers angrily shouted “sellouts!” down at the lawmakers. Some of the balcony protesters joined hands — stuck together with glue — to form a human chain. Security personnel struggled at first to remove the group before eventually taking them out of the meeting room.

One man required medical attention for a back injury he suffered in the melee.

The council vote on de Blasio’s bills followed weeks of revisions and months of community resistance from housing advocates who critized the mayor’s efforts as not enough to provide affordable places to live for low-income New Yorkers.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said afterward she understood the passion driving the issue and the protesters. She and other lawmakers acknowledged the plan isn’t perfect and cannot please everyone, but said it has come a long way.

Council leaders had negotiated with de Blasio’s office to lower the income threshold of families that would benefit and tailor design standards to specific neighborhoods, rejecting a one-size-fits-all approach.

The two bills each earned at least 40 votes from the 51-member council.

“They will fundamentally change how our city approaches affordable and senior housing production,” Mark-Viverito said of the measures, calling them among “the strongest affordable housing plans in the nation, if not the strongest.”

De Blasio said: “The rules of the game have been changed to really benefit the people and not just the real estate developer.”

Council Member Inez Barron voted against both bills, saying the affordability doesn’t go “broad enough or deep enough” to help her working-class East New York community in Brooklyn.

A colleague of Barron on the City Council, Jumaane Williams, also a Brooklyn Democrat, rejected the “mandatory inclusionary housing” legislation, saying developers aren’t required to choose the option helping the very low-income.

With Matthew Chayes

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