East NY Plan Moves Forward…Slowly

The 7-month Uniform Land Use Review Process for Mayor de Blasio’s signature East New York rezoning will likely begin in September. The Mayor is supposed to make an announcement today, but Purnima Kapur, executive director of the City Planning Commission told the audience at BuildingsNY, Wednesday, that it would begin after the summer. Kapur said the full planning and review process for a neighborhood rezoning typically takes two years from start to finish, and de Blasio targeted East New York in May 2014.  Most of the other five neighborhoods targeted for higher density housing so far were not named until this winter and Spring, so we are probably looking at Spring 2017 before developers fully know their options. In the meantime, Kapur said past rezonings in Jamaica and the South Bronx offered as-of-right development opportunities that had not yet been fully tapped.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. emphasized the same untapped Bronx potential during the keynote panel at BuildingsNY, Tuesday. He said the major obstacle to building in the Bronx today was the lingering image of the Bronx of 20 years ago in bankers’ and builders’ minds. Still, Diaz and Queens BP Melinda Katz both warned that the Mayor could not adopt a one size fits all approach to any rezoning for new housing citywide. Diaz, for example wants affordable housing in some areas for much higher incomes than current programs allow, and Katz said housing in Long Island City should be aimed at students and future graduates of the Cornell-Tech research facility on Roosevelt Island.

Meanwhile, 2014 was a boom year for construction spending, with the Building Congress reporting a record $11.9 billion spent on residential building and renovation. Most of that went into Manhattan luxury buildings, however, and it produced only about 20,000 new units, as opposed to the 30,000 units produced annually from 2005 to 2008  for about half the cost.

With all the focus on building housing, the Mayor’s hand-picked Rent Guidelines Board appears intent on making operating it unprofitable. The Board this week proposed a range of stabilized renewal guidelines from 0 to 2 percent for one year leases and .5 to 3.5 percent for two year leases. Public hearings start June 8th and continue until a final vote June 24th.

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