Press Releases

For Immediate Release
February 24, 2016

Rachaele Raynoff - (212) 720-3471

City Planning Commission (CPC) Chairman Carl Weisbrod Made The Following Remarks At Today's CPC Vote To Approve the City’s East New York Community Plan

February 24, 2016 – Today, the City Planning Commission is voting on the East New York Community Plan, the first neighborhood plan developed as part of Housing New York, the City’s ambitious and comprehensive plan to preserve and create 200,000 units of affordable housing to serve New Yorkers at a broad range of incomes.

East New York represents a change in our approach to neighborhood planning, involving extensive community engagement in a ground-up and holistic fashion. It recognizes that zoning is but one tool in helping neighborhoods grow, in recognizing the needs of existing residents as well as new ones, and enhancing the quality of life for all.

Not only are we aiming to promote affordable housing development through changes to zoning, but we are fostering more livable, thriving neighborhoods by making coordinated investments, working to spur economic development and improving community resources. To do this, our staff here at City Planning has worked in close collaboration with other city agencies, including HPD, SBS, EDC, DOT, SCA and the Dept. of Parks and Recreation as well as OMB.

The City has established a dedicated $1-billion Neighborhood Development Fund to enable the City to support growth with public investments in parks, transportation, street and sidewalk beautification and other improvements.  The Neighborhood Development Fund, an entirely new concept in capital budgeting for the city, is designed to guarantee that commitments regarding public investments will be kept by budgeting the funds for them now.

The East New York Community Plan is based on the extensive work by DCP with the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation that was funded by Sustainable Communities East New York, a federal Department of Housing and Urban Development grant, as well as by a NYS Department of State Brownfield Opportunities Area grant.  Hundreds of East New York, Cypress Hills and Ocean Hill residents shared their insights and feedback in dozens of public meetings during this process, to shape the future of their neighborhood. And, I also want to recognize the thoughtful comments throughout this process by the Coalition for Community Advancement.

That work identified key goals to: Create new housing, including housing affordable to families who currently live in the community; Protect low-income tenants in the neighborhood; Foster job opportunities and more diverse commercial options; Support business growth along key corridors and in the IBZ; Promote safer and more active streets, especially on Atlantic Avenue; and provide more recreational opportunities.

Based on these objectives, our staff, together with our colleagues in many other agencies, developed a plan to facilitate these goals through new zoning, expanded programs and services and capital investments. These strategies, while separate from the proposed land use actions before us today, are essential for achieving this comprehensive vision of a thriving and sustainable neighborhood.

Over the next 15 years, it is estimated that the Plan will facilitate more than 6,000 new apartments, over half of which will be affordable.

East New York will also be the first application of the City’s proposed Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) program now before the City Council for approval, which would require that a minimum amount of new housing created must be permanently affordable – a bulwark against future potential increases in housing costs and a vehicle to ensuring neighborhood economic diversity.

We know that many households in East New York have incomes that are even lower than the affordability levels we can require through zoning. Accordingly, our partner in this endeavor – HPD – has committed to finance 1,200 units of affordable housing in the first two years after the plan is adopted.  A significant portion of these will reach families with very low and extremely low household incomes.  And, HPD has pledged that any project it subsidizes in East New York will be 100% affordable.

We are well aware of the displacement pressures residents of the greater East New York community currently face.  Today’s action, I believe, will help ease that pressure over time by providing more affordable housing.

But aware of the broader pressures that neighborhood growth can bring, the City is providing free legal services to any low-income tenant experiencing illegal harassment or eviction and also assisting low income homeowners faced with foreclosure.

In addition, HPD is continuing to work to preserve existing affordable housing and provide assistance to local homeowners through new and expanded financing programs.

Today’s actions will also create economic opportunity. We project a net increase of an estimated 3,700 jobs and more than 885,000 square feet of additional commercial space in the area, much of it for new retail and services long requested by the community.

To ensure that East New York residents benefit, the City’s newly expanded HireNYC program requires that any city contract over $1 million and any project receiving $2 million or more in HPD subsidy post open positions with the Workforce1 system, making local career opportunities available to residents.
SBS is going to open a new Workforce1 Career Center in East New York/Brownsville which will better connect residents to these and other career opportunities.

Additionally, SBS has launched an East New York focused training course and will pursue other initiatives to help local owners strategically grow their businesses and adapt to changes in the market.

NYC EDC is strengthening the capacity of the IBZ by conducting a study to identify opportunities to make the IBZ a better connected and more thriving center for jobs. EDC will improve a City-owned industrial building to allow it to better meet the needs of current and future commercial tenants, and bring high-speed broadband to the area, a critical piece of infrastructure to support business growth.

We are locking in infrastructure commitments up front, to help meet neighborhood needs today and in the future through the mechanism of the new Neighborhood Development Fund, but also by creating a new 1,000 seat school in District 19. The new school is expected to be on a portion of the Dinsmore-Chestnut Urban Renewal Site, which will also contain new affordable housing with commercial and community facilities.

DOT will redevelop Atlantic Avenue, the central spine of the neighborhood, with a raised, planted median, safer crosswalks, and new sidewalks complete with benches, bike racks and more than 100 new street trees. This project will advance Vision Zero for pedestrian safety – a genuine issue on this corridor.  Atlantic Avenue has also been an unforgiving barrier between the north and south sides of East New York, so the improvements along Atlantic Avenue will also help knit the neighborhood more closely together.

The Parks Department will not only enhance existing open space to create new recreational opportunities, but will transform a one-acre underused asphalt area at City Line Park into a new green space.

The Department of Cultural Affairs is working with local cultural organizations in East New York to enhance their capacity to better serve the community.

To achieve the goals of the East New York Community Plan, we are mapping residential and commercial zoning districts that will promote mixed-use development along key corridors such as Atlantic Avenue. Permanent affordable housing will be required for new development in these districts. Retail or community facility uses would be required at the ground-floor along key corridors to create active streetscapes and strengthen the retail environment.

The existing lower-density character along side streets, typified by rowhouses and duplexes, will be maintained and enhanced with contextual residential zoning districts.

Industrial as well as residential and commercial uses will be allowed in areas that are currently home to such a mix of uses including Liberty Avenue as well as parts of Ocean Hill and Atlantic Avenue.

The sum of these actions, commitments and public investments will support a more vibrant, inclusive neighborhood with a wide variety of housing options for current and future residents, local and regional commercial uses, job opportunities, attractive streets, and high-quality schools, parks and other community resources.

And, I know, as this application goes to the City Council, the elected representatives from the East New York community will continue their strong advocacy for additional measures that would further complement the actions before us today.

Before we vote, I want to thank a number of people without whose tireless work we would not be at this important milestone today:

  • First and foremost, I want to acknowledge Koren Manning, the project manager, along with Kerensa Wood and Jonathan Keller for their work on this groundbreaking plan.
  • Winston Von Engel, Director of the Brooklyn Office who led the SCENY study and has been a key part of our neighborhood planning in East New York, and an advocate for the neighborhood, over the course of his more than 25-year career at City Planning
  • Our amazing Executive Director, Purnima Kapur, under whose direction and former life as head of the Brooklyn Office began engaging with ENY residents to identify challenges and opportunities as part of the SCENY study
  • Robert Dobruskin and Diane McCarthy, who managed the complex environmental review of these actions, and many others in EARD
  • Danny Fuchs and Capital Planning who have worked with agencies to develop a capital strategy that responds to the needs of the neighborhood
  • Howard Slatkin, who helped lead the citywide Sustainable Communities studies which provided a foundation for this Plan, and provided policy guidance on a host of matters
  • Tawkiyah Jordan who coordinates our neighborhood studies across all five boroughs and Danielle DeCerbo, our secret weapon and our Director of Intergovernmental Relations
  • The executive office and DCP staff who have been instrumental in the high level of intra and inter-agency coordination
  • Zoning, HEIP, Urban Design, Counsel and other divisions helped shape many of the strategies included in the plan
  • LUR and TRD who helped manage technical aspects of the application and public review process
  • It should be noted that nearly every member and recent alumni of the Brooklyn office has played a role in the development of this project contributing in countless ways.
  • And finally, I want to recognize and thank our colleagues in the City – SCA, Parks, DOT, SBS, EDC, OMB – and especially our core working partner HPD and its awesome Commissioner, Vicki Been.

I vote AYE.