URGENT ALERT: Mayor Announces Plans To Change Zoning + Development Rules in Neighborhoods

Yesterday Mayor Adams announced a three-part plan to change the way zoning and development are regulated in New York City. While short on particulars, the goal as he stated is to allow businesses to expand more easily (including in residential neighborhoods) and to facilitate denser housing development in city neighborhoods.

While not all the vaguely outlined goals and means of getting there sound bad (some we could even get behind), there were some that had deeply troubling implications. “Denser housing” and “more housing opportunities” have typically meant seeking to upzone residential neighborhoods to allow bigger and larger development — often mostly or exclusively market-rate, with vague (at best) promises of inclusion of a fraction of much-needed affordable housing. And even 100% affordable housing developments don’t need to be supersized monstrosities that violate the scale and character of neighborhoods (though this is rare; such oversized developments are almost always market-rate or largely market-rate). They can also be built in ways that integrate seamlessly into the fabric of neighborhoods, and without huge developer giveaways, which are often the price the public is asked to pay.

What is especially concerning is that the Mayor’s announcement comes with ringing endorsements from the Real Estate Board of New York, the Regional Plan Association, the Partnership for NYC, and Open New York — groups that advocate for a pro–Big Real Estate, pro-overdevelopment agenda. The plan is touted by the administration via its chief housing officer Jessica Katz — a pro-upzoning zealot who consistently spread lies about Village Preservation and other community organizations during the SoHo/NoHo/Chinatown Upzoning fight, and who tried to falsely smear opponents of the upzoning plan as racists, because we pointed out that the plan as designed would create little or no affordable housing, destroy existing affordable housing and displace lower-income residents and residents of color, and make these neighborhoods less socio-economically and racially diverse.

While the Mayor’s plans are still being formulated, it’s critical that we let him, the City Council (which must approve such changes), and all city officials know that while zero carbon, less unnecessary red tape for small businesses, and more much-needed affordable housing are good and important goals, zoning changes that destroy the character of neighborhoods are NOT the way to achieve it.

June 2, 2022