NEWS AND ISSUES


TESTIMONY BY STATE SENATOR DUANE BEFORE THE NEW YORK CITY PLANNING COMMISSION REGARDING THE EAST VILLAGE/LOWER EAST SIDE REZONING

August 13, 2008

My name is Thomas K. Duane and I represent New York State's 29th Senate District, which includes a section of the East Village that the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) has included in the East Village/Lower East Side rezoning plan being discussed today. I applaud DCP for working closely with Manhattan Community Board 3 (CB3) to prepare this plan to protect two of our most vulnerable neighborhoods from rampant and inappropriate overdevelopment. I particularly appreciate DCP's willingness to incorporate many elements of Manhattan Community Board 3's (CB3) 11 Point Plan for preservation in the current proposal, and I thank the New York City Planning Commission for giving me this opportunity to testify in support of the plan.

As you know, the rezoning plan covers approximately 111 blocks generally bounded by East 13th Street to the north, Grand Street to the south, Avenue D to the east and Second Avenue to the west, and is located within CB3. The area's current R7-2 and C6-1 zoning districts place no height restrictions on new buildings, which has allowed for the increasing development of high-rises that tower over the average four- to seven-story low-rise buildings that have historically comprised the area. DCP has proposed to rezone sections of this area to R7A, R7B, R8A, R8B, C4-4A and C6-2A contextual zoning districts, and to amend the New York City Zoning Resolution to extend the City's Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) provisions to some of the districtfs widest avenues. All these designations along with the IZ provisions would limit maximum building heights and collectively foster the creation of more affordable housing. I am particularly grateful that DCP recently agreed to CB3's request that it extend the IZ provisions to all of the wide avenues north of Houston Street and to Chrystie Street. It is estimated that this extension will encourage the creation of approximately 108 additional units of permanent affordable housing not allowed for in the original plan.

While this proposed rezoning plan contains many elements of the 11 Point Plan for preservation that CB3 adopted in December 2006, I continue to urge DCP to incorporate the remaining points. For example, DCP should take this opportunity to promote the creation of even more affordable housing by increasing the percentage of low income housing required in areas covered by the IZ bonus to at least 30% instead of 20%. DCP should also amend the zoning text to establish special oversight and enforcement protections to prevent harassment and displacement of tenants in IZ developments and prevent demolition of sound residential buildings throughout the rezoning area. The area has already experienced a loss of thousands of rent regulated units in the past decade due to the harassment of rent regulated tenants and the demolition of sound buildings. The Anti-Harassment and Anti-Demolition Provisions that currently govern the Clinton Special District (96-108 and 96-23 of the Clinton Special Zoning District text) provide a model that should be replicated. Finally, in order to enforce these provisions and prevent illegal evictions, DCP should require the City to establish and allocate resources to a legal service fund.

As we move forward, I encourage DCP to continue working closely with CB3 to review the zoning of contiguous areas that are not included in this plan, including the Bowery. This historic and culturally diverse street, which is an integral part of the East Village and Lower East Side as well as NoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown, is being systematically eradicated by unprecedented development. DCP should also initiate a dedicated rezoning process with the wide range of stakeholders in Chinatown to protect that unique community from rampant gentrification and out-of-context development.

Again, thank you for allowing me to testify today and for your consideration of my recommendations.


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