Sept. 28, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge
Developers who construct new buildings in the Court Square/Queens Plaza section of Long Island City will most likely be required to make sure one-quarter of the units are affordable, if a proposal from the Department of City Planning goes through as written.
DCP is proposing two major amendments to the City’s Zoning Resolution, which the agency believes will promote affordable housing and higher quality buildings City-wide.
One of these proposed amendments, called Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, would require that new developments of 10 units or more include 25 or 30 percent permanently affordable housing when a district is rezoned to increase housing capacity.
MIH is particularly relevant for Long Island City.
The City is planning to upzone Court Square/Queens Plaza – a study for this purpose was launched this winter – which means MIH will be incorporated into the neighborhood’s building rules when that upzoning occurs, a DCP spokesperson said.
Outside the Court Square/Queens Plaza area, private developers who seek a zoning change for a specific multi-unit project would also have to comply with MIH.
“I support building more affordable housing in our district, absolutely,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said.
“What I will say is what I say to the Mayor – we can’t have any more large scale development in my district without transportation infrastructure improvements, schools and parks.”
For his part, Community Board 2 chairman Pat O’Brien said it could be “problematic” to encourage additional density in an already overburdened region.
“In CB 2 [Sunnyside, Woodside and LIC], we’re already overdeveloped,” he said. “[There is] the notion that even the people that are intended to benefit from these new developments would not benefit, because they would suffer from the same lack of infrastructure.”
DCP’s other proposed zoning amendment, called Zoning for Quality and Affordability, involves a slew of modifications to current zoning regulations that DCP considers outdated and restrictive.
In essence, DCP proposes to reconfigure rules within existing zoning districts, to allow builders more flexibility and encourage more engaging architecture. In Long Island City, this will manifest in part as changes to maximum building heights and rules for community facilities within the neighborhood’s special zoned districts, per DCP documents.
DCP did not respond to requests for clarification on these rules as of press time.
Many of the Zoning for Quality and Affordability changes are especially pertinent to CB 2 neighborhoods such as Sunnyside and Woodside, and are covered on the Sunnyside Post here.
The community board has 60 days to review Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability.
O’Brien said that DCP will present its proposals to CB 2’s Land Use Committee in October, and it will be considered by the Board throughout the public review period, which he called “very short” considering the issue’s complexity.
He will discuss the zoning text amendment’s before the full board at its October 1 meeting, per the CB 2 agenda.
“Our [job] is to make sure our district is getting City services and the right stuff,” he said.