Thursday, March 26, 2015

He Helped Get Carroll Gardens Contextually Re-Zoned, But Mayor de Blasio's Proposed City-Wide Zoning Plan May Soon Undermine The Neighborhood's Character

Councilmember Rosie Mendez
Councilmember Corey Johnson
Mayor de Blasio walking past the protesters yesterday

Back on October 28, 2009,  the Carroll Gardens neighborhood received the long-awaited news that the brownstone neighborhood had finally achieved a significant measure of protection from out-of scale development.  On that day, the New York City Council had unanimously approved the Department of City Planning’s Contextual Rezoning of the neighborhood.

The purpose of the contextual zoning was to "preserve [Carroll Gardens'] neighborhood character and scale" by limiting building heights to "better reflect the existing, predominantly row house character."
It had taken months of hard work from neighborhood residents to get to that point and, deservedly, it felt like a wonderful success.

The contextual  re-zoning had been sponsored by our then- Councilmember Bill de Blasio, who called the measure a “victory" made possible by “the many community organizations and activists who demanded that the voice of their neighborhood was heard.”

That measure of protection for Carroll Gardens is now put in jeopardy by de Blasio now that he is Mayor.  In February,  he and his administration quietly released an ambitious plan to change New York City's zoning laws to purportedly increase the amount of affordable housing in the City and to "make it easier to  prevent out of scale development while still allowing for building upgrades, improvements and modest expansions." Further, the City will seek to unlock new development opportunities and lower costs by eliminating outdated regulations."
Called "Housing New York: Zoning for Quality and Affordability", the plan aims to increase height limits across the board, including in contextually rezoned neighborhoods like ours.

The De Blasio administration is pushing this through at break-neck speed. Barely a month after releasing the plan, the Department of City Planning held a public scoping meeting yesterday afternoon in Manhattan. It is the first step in the Uniform Land Use Review Process, which will culminate with a vote in the City Council.

Ahead of yesterday's scoping hearing, neighborhood organizations throughout New York City joining together for a press conference and rally on the steps of City Hall to express their concerns about the plan, "which would drastically reduce neighborhood zoning protections and raise height limits throughout the city."
Councilmembers Corey Johnson and Rosie Mendez joined protesters to express their concern.  Mendez believes that the new regulations will change the unique character of the city's neighborhoods forever and will undo the careful re-zonings of the past few years.
The general feeling amongst the protesters was that this plan represented an up zoning which was meant to benefit developers and that there was little proof that it would actually create the affordable housing that it promised.

During the protest, Mayor de Blasio walked past. He was greeted by loud 'boos'.

The sentiment of the protesters was echoed by many at the actual scoping hearing yesterday.
The Village Voice has a great write-up on the many testimonies given by representatives from many Community Boards across the city, as well as from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and 26 other Manhattan elected officials.

I urge everyone to please get familiar with this issue since it will affect our neighborhood as well as the rest of the City forever.

Below are some additional articles that are of interest.

‘Citywide Rezoning Plan Would Benefit Developers, Hurt Neighborhoods’

‘Zoning Changes Made in Haste Makes For Bad

‘Zoning Process Too Fast For CB4′


Anonymous said...

Thank god that the neighborhood has zoning protections now. Why, without those, long time businesses might be closing, and values might be going crazy! Rents would be so high that long time residents would be forced out. Young families couldn't afford to move here. The last thing we need is more space for more people to come here.

I have what I have and I don't want anyone else to have it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the summary, what's the quickest way to send a message of concern to the Mayor?

Anonymous said...

I am so tired of people reciting the nonsense that if we just build more housing costs will come down. What a financial crisis that would cause. Young families ARE moving here but they are well off. There is no right to live in a particular neighborhood.

One day we may be so crowded that we will be like Sunset Park and talking about the possibly of using eminent domain to site a school.

Anonymous said...

My understanding of the plan is that it would allow 20%-30% increase in building height. Meaning that in a renovation of a 3 story brownstone, you could add a one floor addition, and for a 4 story, a 1.5 floor addition (possibly 2 low ceilinged floors). That does not seem so horrible; there has already been a bit of that being done in areas that are not historic districts. The biggest fear is that this will encourage tear downs, but any developer who tears down a desirable 19th century home to build a new one a story higher would be an idiot. Our old buildings are in demand, not just the neighborhood.

Katia said...

I think the quickest way of voicing concern is to send our Councilman Brad lander a letter. After all, he will get to cast his vote on this at the City Council level.
His email is,
and this is the number to the Councilmember's office: 718-499-1090.
I also urge people to let Community Board 6 know about your opinion on this. Many community Boards sent representatives to testify to the scoping hearing yesterday. Why not CB6?

Anonymous said...

Hey, remember when Williamsburg rezoned and added a ton of new housing? The L train is now a total mess.

You might want to start, you know, fixing the infrastructure first so that you can actually handle all these new people you want to bring into the area.

Anonymous said...

Thank god we live in a world where the supply of housing has NO effect on its price; if we did, wow, prices would be unaffordable!

Anonymous said...

The worst part of the plan, for a neighborhood like Carroll Gardens, may be that it allows building extensions to the end of the back of the lots, obliterating backyards and what little open space exists.

Anonymous said...

The anonymous comment at 10am and again at 5pm appears to be from the same person--a certain CG6 member who holds opinions and advocates for unlimited height in Carroll Gardens and throughout the city.

To be just as flippant, why doesn’t the mayor promote his plan as a great way to solve the Middle East problems. Why not build enough housing for every single Palestinian to live in NYC—lets give them two stories on top of every building in Bay Ridge. And while we are at it, might as well add two more floors for all Israelis--problem solved with the Gaza Strip with no one left there, all with affordable apartments in NYC.

And then we should add two more floors to every building in Queens to make room for every Ukrainian so deBlasio can also solve the Russian problems too.

And hey, we don't have enough special places for all the world's billionaires so lets up zone Staten Island for 100 story buildings--imagine the views up the harbor looking to Manhattan form your living room and amazing real ocean views on the south side of those apartments in the sky.

Yes let’s make enough apartment spaces in NYC to fit the whole world, EVERYONE. Who cares that the apartment sizes will only be 275 sq.ft. Yes de Blasio and his smart city planners can whip out all those aspects of the city that make people want to be here in the first place and replace it massive cemetery-lot sized apartments for the whole world!

And isn’t this the most amazing plan to address climate change? Lets pack this coastal city, which the ocean will be overtaking, with all the worlds people. And lets put most of that new housing right at the waters edge. Could you imagine an agenda more biblical in scale that such planning?

Anonymous said...

As can be seen in Manhattan, increasing the supply of housing has no necessary connection with lowering the price of housing. In fact, building more luxury condos, which is how these variances will be used, only increases the cost of housing in the city.

Furthermore, as can be seen in Carroll Gardens, plenty of people buy historic buildings in order to tear them down and put up shoddily constructed and ugly buildings with an extra story or two. Individuals do this because they have bad taste, and developers do it because they can make that much more money from more crappy units.

DeBlasio was all in favor of the Lightstone Project, despite opposition of residents, and there is no indication that he has changed his mind about the quality of life for citizens of this city.

CG Family since before DeBalsio (or even St. Agnes) said...

If you take a look at election polls you'll see that any area that De Blasio once represented gave him the least amount of support for his run for Mayor. Now...

He's just getting even!

Anonymous said...

@2:39 Interesting. My friends in Manhattan all thought deBlasio sounded like a cool, good choice until I told them about what I knew from being one of his constituents. People outside of our community had no idea what he was really like.He protects where he lives, and leaves the rest to developers's mage-dreams. Hypocrite.