Volume 20 Issue 7 | June 29 - July 5, 2007

East Siders press city for more affordable housing

By Alyssa Giachino

Community members flooded a scoping hearing at the Department of City Planning on Monday, urging the agency to include more affordable housing and tenant protections in the rezoning plan that encapsulates more than 100 blocks of the East Village and Lower East Side.

The scoping hearing invited community input for City Planning to take into consideration in preparing the final scope of work that will define all of the details of the area’s rezoning.

City Planning staff heard from around 40 residents and representatives of community organizations, nearly all of whom belong to the Lower East Side Coalition for Accountable Zoning.

David McWater, Community Board 3’s chairperson, thanked Planning’s staff for its sensitivity to community concerns in designing the rezoning proposal, particularly on preservation issues. But he expressed alarm at Planning’s estimate that only 343 affordable units could be generated under the city’s plan.

“The mayor’s goal is 165,000 citywide,” McWater said. “C.B. 3, the East Village and the Lower East Side would be excited to put a much bigger dent in that number.”

C.B. 3 calls for 30 percent of newly developed units in inclusionary housing sites to be affordable, whereas Planning’s current version calls for 20 percent.

City Councilmember Rosie Mendez emphasized inclusionary zoning along the avenues, saying, “The mixed-income character of this community is at stake, and government intervention is critical to seeing that the heritage of the Lower East Side does not completely disappear.”

Residents also testified on the need to adopt anti-harassment and anti-demolition provisions to protect low-income tenants.

“There was a really strong community outpouring of support,” said Shoshanna Krieger of Good Old Lower East Side. “I think City Planning heard the community loud and clear.”

Councilmember Alan Gerson sent written testimony endorsing C.B. 3’s proposal, as did Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Congressmember Nydia Velazquez.

Members of the public and elected officials can submit written testimony for 10 days after the June 25 hearing. After that, an environmental impact review will be launched, which lasts at least six months and, at its conclusion, will produce a draft environmental impact statement, or E.I.S., which in turn will trigger the uniform land use review process, which could take at least another six months.

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