Jan. 29, 2015 By Christian Murray
The Department of City Planning is likely to make it mandatory for developers to build affordable housing in the Court Square and Queens Plaza areas should it rezone the district.
The department is currently studying the area to determine whether it should upzone the district as a means to promote affordable housing as well as commercial activity—such as light manufacturing.
The agency is currently reviewing about 100 streets that include Queens Plaza (from Queensbridge Houses to Northern Boulevard) and parts of Court Square. It is also reviewing neighboring sections of Jackson Ave. and Northern Boulevard.
The concept of implementing a mandate requiring developers to include affordable units would be unique– since no other New York City neighborhood has done so, said John Young, the director of the Queens Office of City Planning. The idea is a departure from standard policy where developers are provided with “incentives” to build affordable units–such as allowing them to build slightly bigger buildings.
Therefore, while the Queens Plaza/Court Square proposal is likely make way for larger buildings, the change would also guarantee more affordable units.
“It would be a requirement that a portion [of the building] would have to be affordable,” said John Young, the director of the Queens office of City Planning, who is reviewing the concept.
Young said that the department will be having meetings with stakeholders this winter to discuss the concept–as well as other issues. Such stakeholders include members of community board 2, civic associations, cultural groups and the Long Island City Partnership, he said.
Young said that by late spring the department is likely to come up with the results of its analysis and would then present a preliminary proposal to stakeholders in summer.
He said by fall a proposal would must likely go out for public discussion.
Young said the study comes on the heels of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York proposal, which aims to create or preserve some 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next 10 years.
Furthermore, the study was prompted by a letter sent out by Community Board 2 last year that claimed that sections of Long Island City had turned into the Gold Coast and that there was greater need for affordable housing.
When the area was rezoned in 2001 the planning department had hoped to create a significant business district as well as housing. However, the business area has not grown to a level that it had hoped—while pricey buildings have gone up at a fast clip.
Therefore, the department is looking for ways to promote retail, office and light manufacturing.
Any rezoning would have to go through a lengthy process—including several public meetings—and various government bodies. It would ultimately need to be approved by the city council.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said that he is open to a rezoning. However, he said, that he would want to make sure that the infrastructure—such as schools—could handle a larger population.