CB9 Votes Down Illegal Basement Resolution

BY LUIS GRONDA
Staff Writer

Community Board 9 voted against a resolution Tuesday night that would have opposed legalization of basement apartments in New York City.

During the past few meetings, board members have discussed drafting a letter to take a stance on the issue, which is one area that Mayor Bill de Blasio will focus on in the upcoming months.

During his campaign, de Blasio championed bringing more affordable housing to the City. The beginnings of that initiative has already started, with the $1.5 billion purchase of the vacant Domino sugar refinery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But he also wants to bring basement apartments into the regulated housing system.

“There are thousands of unsanctioned housing units across the city in basements and above garages — but the city doesn’t recognize them. That deprives tenants of legal protections, and prevents landlords from making the kinds of upgrades that would ensure the health and safety of families living in them,” it says on his campaign website.

CB9 members were mixed on the issue: some are on board with the plan, because it would bring more affordable housing to neighborhoods like the ones that encompass CB9; others expressed concern for several reasons, including increasing population density as well as improper ventilation in those homes and leave open more opportunity to house fires.

“This would be a slippery slope,” Sherman Kane said, reading from the resolution. “It’s difficult enough to enforce the current building codes.”

Richard David, a CB9 member, has repeatedly asked the board to bring in someone with knowledge of basement apartments so the board could see both sides of the coin before deciding to oppose or support the measure.

Although the presentation before the board never occurred, they wrote a resolution opposing it, with the caveat that a feasibility study should take place to determine if legalizing basement apartments would be beneficial to the community and the City overall.

David, while complimenting much of the resolution the board created, asked why a study would be included after the fact.

“Why would you say you want to do a feasibility study when you already have an opinion on the issue,” he said. “It just sounds very contradictory.”

The board ultimately voted 20 to 20 with four abstentions on the resolution. It failed because the abstentions count as a “no” vote, according to Mary Ann Carey, CB9 District Manager.

Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, lgronda@queenstribune.com, or @luisgronda.