City Council Votes 45 to 1 to Approve De Blasio’s Major East New York Rezoning Plan

Broadway Junction in East New York. Photo by Edrei Rodriguez

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The City Council has approved Mayor de Blasio’s controversial plan to rezone East New York, casting the definitive vote and bringing the agenda’s months-long Uniform Land Use Review Procedure to a close.

In a nearly unanimous vote, every council member — other than a single dissenter — voted to approve the plan, meaning the city can now move forward with enacting the sweeping zoning changes and development much discussed over the past year.

“This is literally the best affordable housing plan that any community has had in the history of this city,” said City Council member David Greenfield, according to NY Yimby.

Councilwoman Inez Barron cast the single vote against the rezoning. Barron, along with her husband, activist and State Assembly member Charles Barron, has long spoken out against de Blasio’s proposal, and was even accused of using delay tactics to stall the process in March of 2015.

“Twenty percent of my community earns less than $15,000 and will not be reached by this plan,” Barron told the Council. “There is no guarantee that developers will build affordable housing if they don’t want those subsidies.”

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Homes in East New York. Photo by Edrei Rodriguez

Remind me. What’s the East New York rezoning plan?

This is Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to upzone East New York, giving developers permission to build taller (and therefore bigger) in the neighborhood. Called the East New York Community Plan, this initiative is intended to stimulate economic development in the area, according to the administration, and also help create more affordable housing — one of the mayor’s favorite things.

What does this mean?

The controversial proposal is a key feature of Mayor de Blasio’s larger goal to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade. Under the plan, East New York, Cypress Hills and Ocean Hill would be rezoned and “strengthened” to increase economic growth in the area without displacing longtime tenants, according to the city.

The East New York Community Plan promises to bring 6,970 new apartments to the area over the next 15 years, significantly increasing the area’s residential density.

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Mayor de Blasio speaks about affordable housing at East New York’s Saint Rita’s Catholic Church in October. Photo via the New York City Mayoral Photography Office

Getting the plan approved wasn’t easy

The process kicked off on September 21, starting at the community board level, where it was overwhelmingly rejected by board leaders. It then moved to the borough president, who also rejected the plan, and from there to City Planning, which approved the plan and praised the increased density it called for. The City Council’s vote on Wednesday marked the last step in the formal approval process.

Brooklynites took an active interest in the rezoning proposal, jamming Brooklyn Borough Hall during public hearings and loudly voicing their opinions — which were largely negative — in other forums. Local East New Yorkers especially were skeptical of the plan, fearing it would displace current residents.

A number of Brooklynites argued that the affordable housing component of the rezoning plan is not affordable enough to stave off gentrification.

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A line formed around the block for entrance to a public hearing in January. Photo by Hannah Frishberg

What happens next?

Now that City Council has approved this nabe-changing proposal, developers looking to build in the area must abide by new regulations. Any new residential development in the neighborhood is required to set aside at least 20 percent of its apartments as permanently affordable units for families making $30,000 per year.

The city will also infuse the area with developer subsidies and infrastructure improvements to the tune of $257 million, according to DNAinfo. Borough President Eric Adams has also proposed that city move six of its offices to a 300,000-square-foot space near the Broadway Junction station.

But an army of cranes and wrecking balls probably won’t descend on the neighborhood just yet. As developer David Kramer told Brownstoner, the housing economics in East New York don’t quite make it profitable enough for large-scale market-rate developments. But the de Blasio administration is betting that a new wave of development will hit East New York in the next 15 years. And property values in the area have already seen a bump.

Photo of Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church at 400 Glenmore Avenue by Zulmilena Then

Photo of Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church at 400 Glenmore Avenue by Zulmilena Then

What’ll happen to the neighborhood’s historic buildings?

In addition to planned changes, the proposal also sparked an effort to landmark the area after locals became concerned development would result in the destruction of some of the nabe’s historic structures.

Indeed, the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church at 400 Glenmore Avenue — a domed church built in 1935 in the traditional Russian Orthodox style — could have shadows from new, taller buildings darken its sunlight-sensitive stained glass windows for extended periods following the construction of certain rezoning-related buildings. The Empire State Dairy Building at 2840 Atlantic Avenue — a Medieval German-inspired factory building completed in 1915 — could be “demolished or substantially altered” if the structure is not soon designated as a landmark due to the rezoning.

Luckily for fans of the dairy, the Landmarks Preservation Commission calendared it for a public hearing in March, meaning it may yet be landmarked and saved.

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The Empire State Dairy Building. Photo by Edrei Rodriguez

[h/t: Crain’s | NYY]

Related Stories
City Council Voted Yes on Mayor’s Major Rezoning: Here’s What It Means for Brooklyn
East New York: To Rezone or Not Rezone?
Borough Hall Packed to the Gills for Hearing on Mayor’s East New York Rezoning Plan

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