BY CARL WEISBROD
Chairman, City Planning Commission
A successful and vibrant city is one that not only attracts new residents, but also retains long-time families. Growing up in Queens next to the Klein farm in Fresh Meadows made this clear to me. Many retired seniors, like the parents of friends I grew up with, hope to remain in the same communities in which they raised their families some 50 years ago. Queens is a wonderful borough to do that. My parents certainly thought so.
The de Blasio Administration does not think we should have to choose between quality and quantity. The Mayor’s Housing New York plan outlines more than 50 initiatives to support our goal of building or preserving 200,000 units of high-quality affordable housing to meet the needs of more than 500,000
New Yorkers, in a way that neighborhoods can embrace.
Zoning – the rules that establish limits on the use, size, and shape of buildings and the surrounding environment – can be carefully crafted so neighborhoods are both beautiful and inclusive. To achieve those key quality-of-life goals, City Planning is proposing two important zoning text amendments, in addition to working with communities on bottom-up neighborhood planning studies across the City. These zoning amendments, the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA), would enhance housing opportunities in limited areas of Queens and be compatible with cherished neighborhood character, in a way that ought to be welcomed by Queens’ residents. The amendments will undergo a full public land use review process, which is expected to start later this month and will allow ample opportunity for continued public engagement.
MIH aims to promote economic inclusion and diversity in neighborhoods where we expect growth. As we work with Queens communities to carefully plan for expansion in certain neighborhoods, as we are currently doing with the Flushing West and the Long Island City Core area studies, we have designed MIH to ensure that a significant amount of any new housing in these areas would be permanently affordable to households with three members whose annual incomes range between $31,000 and $93,000. The same requirements would apply to individual applicants, private or public, in other Queens neighborhoods proposing substantial new housing.
ZQA is intended to add flexibility to our zoning rules. We have seen that existing zoning sometimes has unintended effects, such as driving up costs for well-intentioned affordable housing developers or resulting in flat, dull buildings that detract from the neighborhood mosaic. The “Zoning for Quality” component would encourage better architecture and site design in a way that neighborhoods have traditionally favored. And the “Zoning for Affordability” element would more effectively target taxpayer dollars and investments that go into affordable housing and senior housing under Housing New York.
One area of concern we have heard is that ZQA would make off-street parking spaces optional, rather than required, for new affordable and affordable senior housing developments.
We are not trying to change thIn areas with greater car ownership and further from multiple public transit options – like Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, Laurelton, Cambria Heights – parking would still be required for all housing. This proposal would not touch the most widely used forms of parking, such as municipal lots, commercial parking lots, or public parking lots. In denser, more transit accessible neighborhoods where low-income and senior housing residents own fewer cars, off-street parking spaces that typically cost taxpayers up to $40,000 per space to build would be optional for these limited types of housing. This would allow space and construction resources to go towards housing a low-income senior resident who wants to reside near family and friends and daily services.