Saturday, May 18, 2013

Reviewing the 2008 rezoning

Irrational opposition to NO711 takes me back to the EV/LES rezoning. The supporters of the rezoning were as outraged at me back then as I am towards the one person who maintains polemical objections to NO711 -- not because of his polemic, which is at least interesting, sound or not, but because he lied, then supressed the truth and followed with a string of manipulations and distortions. So I wonder if, in pushing my opposition to the rezoning, I was similarly manipulative. What I said about the rezoning back then was: 

1. The rezoning is an overall upzoning. The EIS bore me out -- 53% more development under the rezoning than under the previous zoning. (Harvey Epstein fortunately managed to mitigate the upzoning plan with an IZ application over the avenues.) 

2. The upzoning of sidestreets will turn townhouses overnight into candidates for demolition and luxury redevelopment. That was an accurate prediction.

3. Developers would often choose not to take the Inclusionary Housing bonus. Also an accurate prediction, although the jury remains out with the largest developments upcoming on Mary Help of Christians and the former theater/deli on A between 6th & 7th. 

4. The height caps were too high, which allows for air rights sales, undermining the inclusionary bonus incentive. We're seeing this at play on Norfolk Street, and there will be more. 

5. The LES downzoning would drive hotel development onto the Bowery and into Chinatown. Hotel development has gone crazy on the Bowery and in Chinatown since the rezoning, although it had already begun before 2008. Hotel development would probably have continued regardless of the rezoning, so it's hard to tell how much the rezoning increased it. 

6. If the EV rezoning is implemented, there would be little political will within CB3 to protect Chinatown and the Bowery. I think I was wrong about this. CB3 eventually came around to support the Bower Alliance of Neighbors zoning plan (although CB3 still features on its website its old Bowery study that BAN rejected), and CB3 has shown support for the Chinatown Working Group's zoning efforts despite its amibitious scope. It's taken time, but it's happening. 

7. CB3 did not push hard enough to protect the Bowery. Here I was completely wrong. The city was and is intransigent on the Bowery. When CB3 members told me this, I simply didn't believe them. I wrongly assumed that they were sacrificing the Bowery for the sake of the rest of the EV. Whether they could have tried harder is irrelevant: they saw (and I did not understand at the time) that the city wouldn't budge, so pushing would get nothing but push back and trouble. So, considering the possibilities, I now think that CB3 cannot be faulted at all for the Bowery and its lack of protection, and I was wrong to fault them then. 

(In my defense, the Task Force leadership undermined its credibility by insisting that everyone had to accept the plan immediately and without change otherwise DCP would walk away from the plan. I responded, btw, that DCP had no intention of walking out. I was right about that as well: CB3 never fully approved the plan, insisting on Harvey's and Paul's 11-points of contention to the end, and yet DCP never walked. It was DCP's plan as much as the Task Force's and DCP wanted it at least as much as the Task Force leadership wanted it.) 

8. Under the previous zoning, most development in the EV was contextual; out-of-scale development was mostly south of Houston. That was true. After NY Law School and TNC, there was a lot of redevelopment in the EV, but only two rose above seven stories, one on 12th & C and one on 13th & B, both about 9 stories, one story taller than would be allowed under the rezoning. Just about everything else capped at 6 stories. 

So was I full of manipulations, distortions and absurd arguments? I'd genuinely like the rezoning supporters to explain. I'm sure I see all this still from my own perspective, so I have to rely on them for a more complete assessment.

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