Council Member Elizabeth Crowley penned an op-ed entitled – “Why I Voted ‘Yes’ On MIH/ZQA” – for local newspapers shortly after her affirmative votes on Mayor de Blasio’s Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) proposals. But the reasons she gave for voting yes are disingenuous, to say the least. The full text of the letter may be found here:

CROWLEY: “It is important to understand that this housing and rezoning plan will not affect much of my Queens district, which is comprised mainly of one- to two-family homes.”

JPCA: False. Her district may be mainly comprised of 1 and 2-family homes, but what is currently built does not necessarily reflect what the zoning allows. Unfortunately, large sections of Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale are zoned R4 and R5 and are not contextually zoned. These two zoning classifications are subject to ZQA’s increased height limits for senior housing and nursing homes, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see half of a block bought up by a developer and demolished in order to build a megastructure combining both.

CROWLEY: “R4: The permitted height increase is 5 feet (from 35 feet to 40 feet), the equivalent of one story.”

JPCA: Have you ever seen a 5-foot story of a building? That ceiling height wouldn’t even provide clearance for most short people! This was included as a gift to developers looking to increase their Floor Area Ratio (FAR).

CROWLEY: “R5: A height increase from 40 feet to 55 feet is permitted only if certain conditions are satisfied. A height increase to 55’ cannot be on a block that is made up of more than 50 percent one – and two-family homes and the lot size cannot be smaller than 1.5 acres.”

JPCA: Once again, in order to reach 1.5 acres, developers will seek out and target blocks of low density housing for purchase and demolition, to be replaced by a relatively gigantic “senior housing” facility.

CROWLEY: “Incorporating parking spaces into the development plans of a building, especially if the spaces are below ground level, adds substantial costs to a project and does not serve to add to the shortage in affordable housing stock. I believe that in such areas, where public transportation is available, that the City’s funds are more properly spent subsidizing living space and not parking space.

JPCA: Just about all of Ridgewood falls within the transit zone, and the majority of rent regulated units in her Council District are located there. Have you ever needed to find a parking spot in Ridgewood? It’s not a picnic. Recent surveys show that a large percentage of Queens residents drive to work and that the majority of Queens households own at least one car – a pattern that has not changed for decades. The Council should have required more onsite parking in the outer boroughs, not less. This was another gift to their developer donors.

CROWLEY: “For areas outside of the Transit Zone, ZQA would reduce the requirement for affordable senior housing to one parking spot for every 10 apartments.”

JPCA: This applies to Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale, which are not in the transit zone. Does this sound like anywhere near enough parking? Are seniors expected to take the bus everywhere, even if it means multiple transfers and hours-long rides?

CROWLEY: “The Council has significantly deepened the affordability provided in MIH by adding a new option that would require an affordable housing set-aside of 20% of the building provided for families making an average of 40% Area Median Income (AMI), and a new set-aside to require 10% of the building for families at 40% AMI within the original 60% AMI option. The Council also modified the workforce option by lowering the overall average AMI requirements for affordable units to 115% AMI and adding two new set-asides at 90% and 70% AMI.”

JPCA: Note that these criteria only apply to new projects that require zoning changes. The vast majority of new housing built in NYC is done as-of-right. We are talking about a miniscule amount of new “affordable” housing that will come along with greater amounts of market rate housing. And the Area Median Income referred to applies to the entire greater NYC region and is not tailored by district. So, tenants in developments on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and in Brownsville, Brooklyn – two communities that couldn’t fall any further away from each other on the economic spectrum – are both subject to the same income requirements.
Since the news broke that the de Blasio campaign, his now defunct slush fund, and its developer and lobbyist donors are under federal investigation, our hope is that by following the money, the truth will be revealed as to why this plan that will actually only serve to create a larger deficit in affordable housing than was conceived and enacted.

We’re also waiting with bated breath to hear about the great things that Council Member Elizabeth Crowley got for her district in return for her harmful “yes” vote. But it’s more likely that she just did what she was told to do by the administration and her union and developer donors, which for her is politics as usual.