Residents of East New York continue to mobilize against a city-sponsored rezoning plan for their neighborhood focused on whether the result will be the displacement of they and their neighbors.
The de Blasio Administration has failed to win a single endorsement from any community groups. The growing opposition was on display Wednesday night at a community hearing in a high school auditorium on the northern edge of the to-be-rezoned area. This was the second such meeting since the city’s Department of Planning released the tentative plan last month.
“There are so many issues, healthy food choices, transportation,” said Jamel Burgess, life long East New York resident and director of a local after-school program, “But the biggest thing on the radar now is displacement.”
The concern was brought up time and again by both residents and elected officials during the meeting. Most vocally—not surprisingly—by bombastic New York State Assemblyman Charles Baron who warned the crowd that jargon in the city’s plan such as “diversity in income,” was code for gentrification and displacement.
The community voiced fear of displacement stemming from several sources: first, that the requirements for affordable housing construction are not enough to protect current residents. Under the plan 25 percent of the new units are required to be permanently “affordable.” Affordable is defined as $46,620 for a family of three, or about $10,000 higher than the median income for the neighborhood.
Another, very salient, source of fear came from the fact that no developers had been chosen to build the proposed housing. Until the city knows who they will be working with, any talk about guaranteeing affordable housing beyond the requirements of mandatory inclusionary zoning is empty, residents and elected officials pointed out.
“Has the city identified developers?” Burgess asked, rhetorically, to the two representatives from the Department of City Planning.
Tom Waters, a housing policy analyst at the Community Service Society of New York, echoed this concern in a telephone interview. Getting developers to sign on to such a large scale project and ensure that the units will be affordable, and be permanently affordable, will require some serious collaboration from the city. “If you want to make development that is affordable to fifty percent AMI, where are operating funds going to come from?” he said, referring to the long-term maintenance of the buildings.
In East New York, towering public housing projects now in severe disrepair, are a visible reminder to both residents and developers of how much work is needed to keep affordable housing livable.