Community Asks Who Benefits from Staten Island Rezoning
Yesterday afternoon, members of Staten Island’s Housing Dignity Coalition (HDC) rallied on the steps of City Hall to demand deeper affordability for the proposed rezoning of Bay Street on the North Shore. Local residents and faith leaders explained why this rezoning will not serve the pressing needs of the community and called for a more inclusive plan that truly matches the incomes of families and households currently living in the area.
The proposed rezoning, which was unveiled in the spring of 2016, calls for converting a 14-block stretch of Bay Street from manufacturing to residential zoning, at a range of permitted densities and heights spanning 6 to 16 stories. The City estimates this will create close to 1,600 new apartments along Bay Street, 25% of which would be affordable for households making an average of 60% AMI, or $51,540 for a family of three under Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) Option 1.
But as Coalition members pointed out, close to half of households in Staten Island Community District 1 make below $50,000 and one third make below $35,000. These community members will not benefit from the affordable housing this rezoning would provide. Or as HDC Leader Pastor Janet Jones said, “We don’t need a 75/25 deal on the North Shore. We need deep affordability that considers a single mom with two kids that earns low wages.”
While the lowest income households will be excluded from the housing created under this rezoning plan, its negative impacts likely won’t pass them by. Coalition members spoke to the displacement concerns that this rezoning could help unleash – noting that new investments and development have the potential to change the housing market and drive lower-income and at-risk households out of the neighborhood – unless they are paired with strong tenant protections and the creation of deeply affordable units.
This call for greater protections and affordability is especially relevant in a rezoning like Bay Street, where the City wants to convert manufacturing land to residential. By allowing the creation of a substantial amount of new housing where it currently isn’t permitted at all, the City would create windfall profits for developers and landowners – all the more reason to ensure this rezoning does more to create deeper affordability and true benefit for the majority of the community. As several speakers noted, public land is one place to start. Right now, the rezoning proposes to give away four public sites to private developers, only two of which would see residential development, and neither of which would be 100% affordable. When it comes to what happens on these public sites, speakers at the rally asked, who decides and who benefits? The HDC wants a guarantee that they will be used for the greatest public good – not given away to private interests.
At the end of the rally, members of the HDC Executive Committee entered City Hall to deliver 600 petitions calling on Mayor de Blasio to change the rezoning proposal to ensure deeper affordability. This call from Staten Island echoes demands from rezoning neighborhoods throughout the city – from East New York to East Harlem to Jerome Avenue. They are being made for a simple reason: residents of these neighborhoods need more affordable housing and they understand that these rezonings, as proposed, are not the best way of getting it. This is why they will continue pushing their demands until the City listens. As the Coalition noted, “If the goal for Staten Island is a waterfront that looks pretty, then the City’s proposal will suffice. If the goal is a waterfront that looks pretty and that our families can afford, then we must push the City to do more.”
Christopher Walters, ANHD’s Rezoning Technical Assistance Coordinator