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Eyes on the City: East New York

Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious Housing New York plan calls for rezoning several neighborhoods across the city. One of the first, East New York, “sits at the crossroads of the administration’s plan to transform blocks of rowhouses, auto body shops and vacant lots into a community filled with new classrooms, bike lanes, trees and, above all, lower-cost housing.” (NY Times). Tonight, Brooklyn Community Board 5 will host a public hearing on the rezoning proposal. Karyn Williams, MAS’s Project Manager for Community Engagement, will testify:
MAS’s Testimony to Community Board 5 re: East New York Rezoning
Good evening. I’m Karyn Williams and I am here representing the Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS), a 122-year-old civic advocacy group dedicated to strengthening New York’s public realm through innovative planning and intelligent policy. MAS supports the City’s Housing New York proposal to add and preserve affordable housing, but the details of the proposal must be right for the neighborhood. This rezoning will have tremendous impacts on the affected neighborhoods of East New York, Cypress Hills and Ocean Hill, and as the first in a series of rezonings proposed by the de Blasio administration aimed at increasing the city’s stock of affordable housing. It will be looked to as a precedent for other neighborhoods around the city so it’s vital that we get it right. We would like to share with you a few suggestions we have tonight: Honoring City Commitments Too often, neighborhoods are promised new community resources in exchange for higher density and more development, only that have those promised resources never materialize. As part of this proposal, the City has promised the community will get transit improvements, traffic safety improvements, a new school, new open space, new job opportunities, and protections against displacement. These amenities will mean the difference between planning just for housing and planning for holistic neighborhoods. To ensure these proposals are actually completed, there needs to be specific mechanism for guaranteeing that commitments made by the City during the rezoning process are delivered. Deep Affordability MAS applauds the city for pursing mandatory inclusionary zoning, but echoes concerns addressed by other organizations that the affordability levels of the proposed new housing don’t adequately match the needs of the community. Cultural and Historic Resources The neighborhoods impacted by the rezoning are home to numerous important cultural and historic resources including three individual New York City landmarks, four sites listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places, as well as 24 eligible properties and one eligible historic district. These assets should be preserved and enhanced as the community changes and new buildings are constructed. MAS has a long history of engagement and working with communities on this subject, and are eager to partner with the community to put together a plan for protecting these important resources. Community Resources MAS is currently working with local partners to offer trainings through our Livable Neighborhoods Program to give local residents the tools they need to adequately navigate the rezoning process. MAS will continue to work will local partners to ensure there is adequate support for those impacted by the proposal. Thank you for your time.
Download the full testimony (PDF)