|A rendering of the new project, handed out at last night's meeting to show proposed heights
in exchange for hundreds of new affordable housing units (dark coloring are the potential rezoned additions)
We all knew it was just a matter of time. Large site, near the Park and Garden, right next to the Q, B and Shuttle trains. Into town in 20 minutes, easy.
The Q advocated, hard, for a neighborhood planning study and rezoning that would have likely allowed for higher buildings along transit hubs in exchange for protections and downzonings for historic inner blocks. That effort failed, in large part (gotta hand it to her; she won) Alicia Boyd and MTOPP, which is basically her and a couple acolytes. Since then, her efforts to prevent any and ALL rezonings in southern Crown Heights and Lefferts Gardens have brought about the firing of the old district manager, preventing the hiring of the new district manager, the resignations of many Board members, and the resignations of not one, not two, but three Board chairs. Incidentally, that's a position that's often held for years if not decades. Turmoil is Boyd's middle name, and even as she loses her lawsuits, the drag on the process takes its toll. Again, hats off. A worthy foe indeed.
Since then, the Crown Heights Tenants Union and now even the East Harlem's anti-rezoning activists have joined the fight, as the City's activist networks take on the developers and City Planners to stop building high in order to subsidize "affordable housing," which, as they argue, is not really affordable to the actually poor and homeless. I suppose they're right in this regard. Even $1000, or $1500, or $2000, despite the fact that they're being built to stay stabilized, is too much money for a lot of people. Though I must say that any tenant still paying less than $1,000 for an apartment is under extreme pressure, both legal and illegal, to leave their homes, as landlords recognize the potential profits from these older stabilized apartments. That fact remains, regardless of any new buildings.
In a certain sense, this is a battle of the Left vs. the Super Left, in that many of the Mayor's "Mandatory Inclusionary Housing" plans have been lauded as a step in the right direction towards creating more long-term, stabilized below-market-rate housing. You can't fight a housing crisis without building, and in NYC, that means building tall, so goes the argument.
What's a good liberal to do?
Last night, one thing became perfectly clear. The Community, as represented by the subset of that community who are on the ULURP Committee and Community Board, want nothing to do with rezonings, no matter the trade-off offered by developers or City. They don't trust that folks in the neighborhood will benefit. They believe that any and all tall buildings will lead to greater displacement than is offset by the new units of affordable housing. (And frankly, I would argue that's not even the point. The point of all this new building is for the future of the City, not just for those currently facing eviction.)
Professor Tom Angotti of Hunter College has become the intellectual of choice for the anti crowd. His book Zoned Out is their bible. CHTU leads the reasonable wing of the movement, in that they represent real tenants, real rent battles, and are co-led by the endlessly impressive and intelligent Esteban Giron, who often holds court at meetings because, frankly, he's the most knowledgeable and coherent anti-displacement advocate you'll find. He lives on Franklin near Carroll, and he and husband are under pressure to move out too. He'll tell you heartbreaking stories and win you over with reasoned arguments and a warmth that I find lacking from most of the hard-left activists. I have the utmost respect for Esteban, and in many ways, my own views have been shaped by my following his analysis.
Tom Angotti, on the other hand, seems to me a bit too smug and sure of himself as an ex-City Planner for me to drink his Kool-Aid. When his book is mentioned he smiles like a gloating David having slingshot his rock at Goliath. Like last night, he often tells tales that are patently false - like how Windsor Terrace fought back gentrification by fighting rezoning, and that Park Slope has therefore gentrified much faster as a result of their own rezonings on 4th Avenue. Say what, now? That doesn't jibe with my own experiences and even with the facts of rental and home increases. The neighborhood is, and long has been, all white, and has become terribly unaffordable to longtime residents there, many of them of Italian and Irish heritage (ever been to Farrell's?) One of my best pals is being forced out of his $2200 one-bedroom right now in WT. Angotti claimed prices have jumped 10 times in Park Slope while just 2 1/2 in the Terrace. Say what? Clearly he doesn't read the Zillow much.
The final analysis of the Committee might be a head-scratcher to those not familiar with the lines of argument. NO, says CB9. No rezoning. Make the developer stick with what he gets under current rules - supposedly up to 7 stories, ALL market rate, which around there is probably closing in on $3,000 if not more. Bring it on, says the ULURP committee. But you don't get an inch of extra height, and you can take your supposedly affordable units and shove 'em, we don't need 'em, because your longterm goal Mr. D (developer, devil?) is to get all the poor and POC's out to make way for your dream of a less colorful (in more ways than one) neighborhood.
Where do you stand?