Sunday, April 13, 2008

A plan for Chinatown

It is the irony of the current administration of affordable housing -- four units of luxury housing for every unit of "affordable" housing -- that the programs for new affordable housing spread gentrification and displacement resulting in a net loss of affordable housing in low-income communities where tenants are vulnerable to harassment and eviction. The problem will not be resolved until the City commits to protecting communities by regulating the location and direction of development.

Contextual zoning -- zoning that prohibits taller buildings -- for Chinatown and the Bowery would protect existing buildings from redevelopment. But protected buildings are themselves vulnerable to gentrifying pressures: when a zoning prevents redevelopment, the only means of profit maximization on a property is evicting low-income tenants, replacing them with upscale tenants.

Designating sites for light manufacturing and 100% affordable housing, the market-rate IZ bonus of which could be transferred to distant, already gentrified neighborhoods that are not harmed by luxury development, would help prevent gentrification of protected buildings in busy, thriving low-income neighborhoods.

These two measures together -- (1) contextual zoning and (2) identifying sites for luxury housing distinct and far distant from light manufacturing and affordable housing -- could protect the Bowery and Chinatown from residential and commercial displacement, while contributing to the vitality of existing communities.

CB3's zoning task force meets this Wednesday, April 16, 6:30, 100 Hester St. (btwn Eldridge & Forsyth). Come ask them for contextual zoning in Chinatown and the Bowery, and no upzoning on Chrystie Street.

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