City Planning has issued its statement of final intent for rezoning the East Village and Lower East Side ("Final Scope of Work").
The good news is: it's not final. They will continue to consider alternatives as they study the area for their final rezoning proposal. So it is possible to influence the final plan, though time is short.
Also good news:
1. the study will cover a quarter mile around the rezoning area, so all of the Bowery to Pell Street and a large part of Chinatown will be studied
2. the rezoning will end most hotel development south of Houston between Essex and Allen
3. EV sidestreets will remain, in effect, unchanged
4. the end of the Community Facility bonus will protect larger sites like Mary Help of Christians and P.S. 64 from being developed into towering dormitories. Both sites will be limited to eight stories, though Mary's, on the avenue, will be allowed greater bulk
5. underbuilt tenements on 4th-7th Streets between A&B will be protected.
There's bad news too.
Developers will be allowed to build larger buildings on 1st and 2nd Avenues and Avenue A if they develop or recycle affordable housing anywhere in the district or within a half mile of the district.
So the three, four and five story townhouses and tenements from the 1840's through the Civil War which line 1st Avenue and Avenue A, filled with long-term tenants paying truly affordable rents, will be vulnerable to demolition and redevelopment into seven- or eight-story buildings. To get the bonus size, the developer has merely to promise to rent some apartments somewhere at stabilized rates forever.
There appears to be no meaningful oversight for this permanent off-site stabilization, so, in effect, anything goes. And affordable housing bonuses are bought and sold -- according to HPD it's quite a market -- so developers will be getting their height bonus for free and without contributing any affordable housing to our community.
This sad excuse for an affordable housing program is called "Inclusionary Zoning," widely known as "yet another scam."
Since many stabilized rents have already risen to market rate, developers will feel no pain. However, this plan will add to the pressure to evict tenants and warehouse empty apartments. Currently, large buildings can be developed only on multiple lots. This seems to have protected the avenues from development in recent years. Under the rezoning, larger buildings could be built as-of-right on single lots, facilitating the spread of development at every level, even among smaller owners.
The rezoning plan will protect the Lower East Side from Allen to Essex from new hotel development, but it will allow large developments on Houston, Chrystie, Delancey, Pitt (forming a wall surrounding the LES south of Houston) and on Avenue D. This wall of market-rate luxury development will exacerbate the up-scaling of the LES as a nightlife and tourist destination and the decline of its day-time, residential and arts community.
Upzoning D will threaten the projects, bringing up-scale development and gentrification, adding to the pressure to move the projects out of subsidy and into the market.
The rezoning itself does not include the Bowery or Chinatown, so we can expect that hotel developers, prevented by the rezoning from developing in the LES, will turn all their attention to the Bowery and Chinatown.
In addition, City Planning is changing the zoning text so that residential storefronts in all the planned residential zones can be reverted to commercial use, no matter how long they have been out of commercial use. In plain English: more bars encouraged.
For the intrepid, here are the technical details:
The sidestreets of the EV: FAR 4 (about the size of a six story tenement) -- R7A
The large avenues of the EV (2nd,1st,A): IZ bonus to FAR 4.6 (seven stories) -- R8B
The LES south of Houston: FAR 4 (six stories) -- C4-4A&R7A
Houston, Delancey, Chrystie, D and parts of Pitt: IZ bonus to FAR 7.2 (with required setbacks this maxes out at 12 stories) -- C6-2A
City Planning is considering an alternative which would allow IZ up to FAR 8.5 (maxing out at 15 stories). So far this alternative is only being considered for Chrystie Street, but their language is vague and evasively non specific.
The plan downzones 7th - 4th Streets between A&B from FAR 3.44 to 3.
Finally, the city will add R8B zones to those zones in which commercial storefronts are deemed perpetually available for commercial use, no matter how long they have been used as residences.
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