January 10, By Christian Murray
The Department of City Planning, in its quest to upzone the Queens Plaza/Court Square district to make way for affordable housing, is likely to be unveiling its “core study” of the area within the next month.
Public meetings are likely to start being planned by the end of the month as City Planning looks to introduce its “Long Island City Core Neighborhood Planning Study” to the wider community, according to Penny Lee, who works for City Planning and spoke at Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee meeting at the end of December.
The level of detail that the public will see when the LIC Core study is released is unclear. However, what is known is that the core study will eventually morph into the rezoning document that is used by City Planning to kick off the rezoning process. The primary goal of the study is to convince the public that there is a need for an upzoning so the mayor can add affordable housing.
“We are going to first remind people what the study is about … and then we need to get a lot of input to make sure we are doing the right thing and then start talking about possible recommendations,” Lee said at the meeting.
City Planning announced that it was conducting the study in February 2015 and despite many requests at the Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee meetings little information has surfaced since.
At the December meeting, Lee said that City Planning was at the beginning of the process and it would not be releasing a big body of research. She said the research that the stakeholders–such as the property owners–received in February 2015 will be essentially what the public will see next month.
“We have identified a study area, identified existing conditions and goals and objectives and needs and we need to get buy-in on that,” Lee said.
Lisa Deller, chair of CB2’s Land Use Committee, sought greater clarification.
“I always thought you had done all this work and you were going to share it and then we would have an opportunity for input and then there would be recommendations. That is how I saw it?” Deller said.
Deller, reflecting on past Land Use Committee meetings, added: “You were always saying that [DCP] was still doing analysis,” she said, referring to past inquiries of the status of the study.
“We have done a lot of analysis of the existing conditions,” Lee said. “We have a proposed study area, which is both a zoning study area and a broader context study area for infrastructure purposes,” Lee responded.
The study area was outlined two years ago (see map below). The area consists mainly of the district that underwent a significant upzoning in 2001—particularly by the subways. However, there are still small segments—particularly toward Queensbridge Houses– where there is room for additional development, City Planning has said.
City Planning has said that it aims to incorporate an affordable housing requirement as part of the study/rezoning.
“It has to be an upzoning if we are to establish an affordable housing requirement,” Lee said.
City Planning also aims to encourage office use and other mixed-use development in the core study area.
Lee claims that City Planning is still at the beginning of the process.
“We are getting buy in on the study itself, since we have never talked to the public about it before.”