News De Blasio housing plans face broad grassroots opposition Workers, tenants, homeowners, small-business owners, community organizations and supporters from across the city gather in front of Gracie Mansion to protest Mayor de Blasio's zoning plans on Dec. 16. Photo Credit: John Roca By Emily Ngo email@example.com @epngo December 20, 2015 8:27 PM Print Share fbShare Tweet gShare Email This time, it’s not powerful forces in Albany fighting Mayor Bill de Blasio’s housing agenda. It’s voices from communities throughout the city. For the first time in his two-year-old mayoralty, de Blasio is facing broad-based grassroots resistance, which has coalesced against major components of his plans for creating 200,000 affordable housing units in 10 years. Disappointment and anger from people who voted for the mayor were on display in protests at City Hall and Gracie Mansion last week and at a City Planning Commission hearing Wednesday that lasted 13 hours. “This is not going according to what he said in his campaign,” said Pearl Barkley, 61, of East Harlem and the group Community Voices Heard, after she testified new construction would displace longtime residents. “He talked about the ‘Tale of Two Cities,’ but whose side . . . is he taking?” In recent weeks, all five of the city’s borough boards, all of its borough presidents and a large majority of its 59 community boards have voted to reject one or both zoning change proposals that de Blasio’s team says are needed to create homes for low- to middle-income families. Many City Council members and community groups have also joined in the dissent. At issue are two amendments: “mandatory inclusionary housing,” which requires developers to build lower-cost units with market-rate ones, and “zoning for quality and affordability,” which includes changes to height, facade and other design standards. Though virtually all stakeholders support the general goal of affordable housing, their concerns are over the specifics. Some opponents want “real affordability,” saying the units are still too costly for working-class New Yorkers. Others criticize what they say will be too-tall buildings, a scarcity of parking for seniors and a one-size-fits-all approach to the city’s varied and diverse neighborhoods. The administration has countered with endorsements from groups including 32BJ SEIU, the United Federation of Teachers, the AARP and the pro-business Partnership for New York City, whose president Kathryn Wylde takes issue with some details, but believes the “only solution to the affordability crisis” is “more housing.” Christina Greer, a Fordham University associate professor of political science, said it “spells trouble down the road” for de Blasio if his voting base feels shut out. “He campaigned on a platform of, essentially, community organizing for racial equity, for economic equity, for groups that felt ignored for 20 years.” Greer said. “ . . . If they feel betrayed, it’s a steeper fall.” De Blasio’s last housing fight led him in June to angrily accuse Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of carrying out a “vendetta” when whey clashed on the mayor’s efforts to amend a real estate tax abatement program and win stronger rent control laws. In the end, the mayor claimed partial victory on both fronts. Now, his opponents include Manhattanites who want the Sliver Law preserved so skyscrapers don’t rise on narrow lots amid lower-rise neighboring buildings. “If we need to start over, we need to start over,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “The rushed pace of the rollout has gone against the “spirit of progressive, inclusionary and transparent government,” he said. De Blasio is defending his vision and reminding critics at neighborhood and borough levels that they don’t have the final say. He said the City Council and the Planning Commission will make binding decisions early next year and that the community and borough votes are solely advisory. He told reporters last month that local representatives “don’t have a perfect vantage point on their communities.” Then, on WNYC earlier this month, he said, “They’re not the ultimate decision-makers, but they have valuable input.” Andrew Berman of the nonprofit Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation said such comments are “making him look out of touch with the average residents of New York City, especially when virtually every community board in the city votes against this and he just sort of waves that off as inconsequential.” Sarah Anh of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side said de Blasio’s stance will hurt him at the ballot box. “If he doesn’t come out and protect these communities, we’re going to displace him,” she said. Asked on WNYC about the opposition, Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been said, “It’s easy to forget that this is part of a broader, multipronged strategy.” Neighborhoods that are being studied for the first wave of larger-scale rezoning and affordable housing development under de Blasio’s plan: East New York, Brooklyn East Harlem, Manhattan Inwood, Manhattan Jerome Avenue corridor, Bronx Downtown Flushing, Queens Long Island City, Queens Bay Street corridor, Staten Island Neighborhoods that are being studied for the first wave of larger-scale rezoning and affordable housing development under de Blasio’s plan: East New York, Brooklyn East Harlem, Manhattan Inwood, Manhattan Jerome Avenue corridor, Bronx Downtown Flushing, Queens Long Island City, Queens Bay Street corridor, Staten Island By Emily Ngo firstname.lastname@example.org @epngo Emily Ngo covers the White House and national politics for Newsday, having followed President Donald Trump to Washington, D.C., after following him on the campaign trail. 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