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About Us > Press Releases Printer Friendly Version

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 28, 2014

CONTACTS:
Rachaele Raynoff: (212) 720-3471

CITY PLANNING CHAIRMAN CARL WEISBROD DELIVERS KEYNOTE SPEECH AT THE MUNICIPAL ART SOCIETY’s “IDEAS FOR NEW YORK’S NEW LEADERSHIP”

May 28, 2014 -- MAS has always been at the forefront of convening diverse interests and experts from across the city to confront and develop solutions to the challenges New York City faces. From preserving Grand Central Terminal to assuring the liveliness of Times Square to preventing a terrible mistake at Columbus Circle, MAS has been the conscience of the City and its physical environment. Now, with this collection of essays and ideas, you are helping the city create a road map for future action, rather than simply reacting to a potential municipal misstep.

For me, it is a delight to be back in my old Hudson Square neighborhood where I spent several years overseeing Trinity Church’s substantial real estate holdings, including this building where Rafael Vinoly is among Trinity’s most distinguished tenants.

Hudson Square also is an excellent example of how city neighborhoods are constantly changing – this one from farmland 300 years ago, to a suburb of Lower Manhattan, to a thriving waterfront district, to the 20th Century’s premiere printing district which I helped reaffirm thirty years ago as a “super M zone forever” called the Graphic Arts Center to today’s creative, media center and, thanks to a unique rezoning in 2012 to tomorrow’s mixed-use manufacturing, live-work community.

The themes in Ideas for New Leadership link closely to the approach the de Blasio administration and the Department of City Planning are taking.

Integrated Planning Strategies for the City

Integrated planning strategies are a focus of Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York plan. As you all know by now, the de Blasio administration is committed to providing 200,000 affordable apartments over the next ten years through preservation and new development.

The 115-page plan, which was created through coordination among 13 agencies and with input from more than 200 individual stakeholders, outlines 50 plus initiatives that accelerate affordable housing construction, protect tenants and deliver more value from affordable housing investments in a manner that distributes development more equitably throughout the five boroughs.  It is the most ambitious housing program ever undertaken by this or any other city or state.

We envision that the total cost of the plan over the next 10 years will exceed $40 billion, with the city providing $8.2 billion and the remainder coming mostly from private sector investment, as well as from the federal and state governments.  

40% of these 200,000 affordable units will be new construction, which means we have to produce an average of 8,000 units of affordable housing per year over the life of the plan.  This is a 60% increase over the average annual new construction of affordable housing produced during Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, so you can see that we are being very ambitious.

We are expanding the number of units for extremely low income households by 200%, as well as increasing the number of moderate income units by 50%. The plan is also promoting more units for homeless families and for seniors, as well as supportive and accessible housing for those in need.

We recognize that for developers and businesses time is money.  The city – particularly City Planning and HPD - are committed to making the permitting and approval process more efficient.  We are also reviewing zoning and building code regulations – such as reducing parking requirements for affordable housing in transit oriented areas, where car ownership is low, alleviating building envelope constraints and reducing minimum sizes of units for seniors – that could lower the cost of construction.

We will also implement a Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning requirement as part of all future rezonings that substantially increase potential housing capacity in medium and high density areas.
This will require that a portion of the new housing developed in these rezoned areas be permanently affordable to low- or moderate-income households in order to ensure more diverse and inclusive communities, and to cushion the impact of gentrification. Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning will be implemented in rezoned neighborhood by rezoned neighborhood.  It will not necessarily be exactly the same everywhere, but within each neighborhood, once enacted, it will be predictable, it will be as of right, and it will be required. 

Neighborhood Assets, investments for the 21st Century

The key theme that runs through the plan is our commitment to expand the capacity for housing in all five boroughs by fostering diverse and livable neighborhoods.

To fulfill this ambitious goal, the Department of City Planning, working with local elected officials, businesses and community organizations, and residents, will commence planning studies in fifteen neighborhoods throughout all five boroughs, where we believe the potential exists to greatly expand housing capacity. 

We recognize that this effort must be undertaken through ground-up community planning that coordinates new development and density with appropriate infrastructure, other public investments and necessary city services.  City Planning, working with other city agencies including HPD and EDC, will play an enhanced role in the city’s Capital Budget planning process in order to better mesh the level and timing of the city’s capital investments in neighborhoods with new residential development. 

I understand neighborhoods are frequently wary of increased density and, indeed, wary of change of any kind.  City government has not always delivered on its promises. In fact, sometimes it has not bothered even to promise the investments that must accompany neighborhood change.  However, I believe if we can appropriately coordinate capital budget planning with rezoning, neighborhoods will welcome the benefits that increased density can provide – particularly better retail opportunities, a livelier, healthy street environment and affordable housing that will allow long-term residents to stay in their communities.
Let me provide a template for how this can work:

For the past two years, our Brooklyn office has been engaged in a planning process with the community in East New York -- a vibrant multicultural neighborhood that has been left behind even as many other parts of Brooklyn have thrived. This transit rich area offers an easy 30-minute commute to Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn, and east to JFK and Long Island. Our planners have been out in the community meeting with all stakeholders and listening to their hopes and vision for their neighborhood. In close partnership with elected officials, community members, business leaders and the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, we have developed a framework for growth and revitalization that can create the opportunity for thousands of units of new affordable housing, much needed retail and amenities, jobs and services, and that also addresses the physical infrastructure needs of the area. We have been engaged with our sister city agencies to ensure that our planning work comprehensively addresses infrastructure and service needs, access to jobs and training, and ensures that the people in the community can continue to be partners in the revitalization of their neighborhood.  We believe East New York now welcomes increased density because it understands the benefits that it can bring.  But we understand the city’s obligation to produce the timely infrastructure and services increased density requires.

We will similarly engage with communities throughout the five boroughs to identify other opportunities for growth and redevelopment. We will work towards shared goals of providing new housing options, essential services, neighborhood amenities and economic development opportunities throughout the City.

Supporting Diversity through Arts and Culture

Vibrant mixed use communities in which people, live work, and play are essential to the continued ability of New York City to attract and retain residents. The 2013 MAS Survey on Livability is a strong indication that we need to integrate arts and culture into neighborhoods outside Manhattan. Community based planning that takes into account neighborhood views as to where cultural activities can be incorporated into new developments, how to attract and retain a creative workforce and plan for art and cultural equity must be essential components of our efforts.

The tech and the creative sectors, and – increasingly – the  traditional manufacturing sector are closely linked industries that the city is committed to reinforcing through the Mayor’s focus on attracting, increasing and strengthening jobs for all New Yorkers and our continued support for investments in endeavors like the Brooklyn Navy Yard where manufacturing, office and creative industries are closely linked to nearby residential neighborhoods like Fort Greene, DUMBO and Williamsburg.  Indeed, that was exactly the goal of the rezoning of this Hudson Square neighborhood.

All the boroughs need space where engineers, designers, entrepreneurs, production and educational institutions can thrive together in mixed use neighborhoods alongside families, young professionals and elderly residents.

I also believe that for too long – indeed, for the past 70 years since the end of World War II – the city’s manufacturing policy, has been defensive. It has been one of attempting to slow the rate of manufacturing decline.

It is time to go on the offense.  I know that Kyle Kimball and EDC are doing so and recognize the dynamic changes taking place among many  manufacturing businesses – ones that have discovered the locational advantage in staying in New York City.  It is time to create the physical and business environment that will allow these businesses to achieve their full potential to grow and thrive. In order to accommodate this growth, the public and the private sector must join forces to find appropriate geographic areas for these businesses and to revise our land-use policies accordingly. 

In my view, some manufacturing, high tech businesses are not incompatible with workforce housing.  Indeed, manufacturing and workforce housing in some circumstances can be mutually reinforcing.  Co-location can reduce stress on our infrastructure requirements by providing opportunities for workers to live near their jobs, and create the kind of physical environment, including enhanced arts, culture, public realm and retail, that will make manufacturing areas more appealing to those who work there.

The challenge is not compatibility of uses. We can figure that out. The challenge is as Adam Friedman points out in his fine essay, “Innovating Jobs” – disparities in land values – what different uses can afford to pay. 

Building a More Resilient City

And finally, let me say a word about resiliency. Superstorm Sandy hit New York City hard. Many communities suffered extensive damage, and many residents and businesses continue to struggle to rebuild and recover. Others were largely unaffected by flooding in this storm, but remain at risk from future storms. In addition, for many communities around the city, newly issued Federal flood maps with a substantially larger flood zone and increases to National flood insurance premiums present new economic challenges.

We are now working with ten Superstorm Sandy affected communities in the five boroughs to help them plan for their future.  Working closely with communities, the Department will develop locally specific strategies to address recovery needs, increase resilience and build on public input already generated through other initiatives, such as New York State’s Community Reconstruction Program, the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild by Design.

In conjunction with Bill Goldstein, the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency and the Housing Recovery Office, we will be working closely with community members to develop a consensus vision for the area’s resilient future, over the short and long term. This framework will include recommendations for neighborhood zoning and land-use changes, that will then be implemented through ULURP, as well as identify opportunities for how future infrastructure investments can support the community’s vision.

For example, in Rockaway Beach and Rockaway Park in Queens, our study will look to revitalize commercial corridors, including 116th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard, that experienced storm damage and face challenges based on new FEMA flood elevations.

On the East Shore of Staten Island, which was devastated by Sandy, our study will identify a range of options for appropriate flood-resilient building types that can be constructed on the small lots that prevail in much of the area.  We will also be identifying opportunities for coordinated improvements to infrastructure such as storm sewers and streets where they can support the long-term health of the neighborhood.

We want to not only have homes and businesses that can withstand future storms, but also want to assure that we preserve and collectively plan with all stakeholders wholesome neighborhoods that continue to be able to serve the needs of their residents.

Conclusion

Moving forward, City Planning will continue to engage communities, especially those that have been left behind in the last decade, in re-imagining and strengthening their neighborhoods based on a shared vision of opportunity.  We will meet with neighborhood residents, civic and business leaders, as well as elected officials in making sure that our plans for future growth are based upon the real needs and aspirations of the people that live there.
Finally, let me say a word about partnerships. I have spent most of my adult life transforming neighborhoods from inside and outside of government.
Counter-intuitively, perhaps it is sometimes easier to lead it from the outside.

But at the very least these endeavors require committed institutions and leaders on both sides of the aisle.

Our city is complex. We are mostly receptive to change, but we all want natural and constructive change.

That can only be achieved by working together. I look forward to working closely with MAS and with all in this room to see our city achieve its full potential.

I applaud MAS for convening today’s event and want to welcome everyone here from the real estate development community, not for profits, architects and designers, civic leaders and neighborhood activists to be our partners in realizing the shared goal of a strong and vibrant city that continues to welcome newcomers while keeping what makes this city strong and desirable- its people and its diverse and beautiful neighborhoods.


Department of City Planning
The Department of City Planning (DCP) promotes strategic growth, transit-oriented development, and sustainable communities in the City, in part by initiating comprehensive, consensus-based planning and zoning changes for individual neighborhoods and business districts, as well as establishing policies and zoning regulations applicable citywide. It supports the City Planning Commission and each year reviews more than 500 land use applications for actions such as zoning changes and disposition of City property. The Department assists both government agencies and the public by providing policy analysis and technical assistance relating to housing, transportation, community facilities, demography, waterfront and public space.

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