The rezoning of 175 blocks in residential Greenpoint and Williamsburg neighborhoods East of Union Avenue and North of Scholes and Grand streets, is the fulfillment of an agreement between CB1 and DCP regarding the upzoning of the Williamsburg waterfront.
Not specifically a downzoning, the contextual rezoning will specifically limit heights by changing what is primarily an R6 zone into separate R6-A and R6-B zones, creating much more specific building sizes that reflect the already existing homes in the neighborhood. The proposal would also recognize existing commercial districts with overlays and upzone certain blocks in the interest of creating affordable housing.
“It’s part of the balance between the rezoning of western Williamsburg,” said Councilman David Yassky. “This new rezoning will protect areas that are the right size and that we want to stay that way.”
The proposal was presented to members of the community at two separate meetings last week, one in Williamsburg and one in Greenpoint. The meetings were well attended, because, as Councilwoman Diana Reyna explained, they made a point of informing every single resident of the affected blocks.
“We know that people were upset about the Grand Street rezoning, not because of what it changed so much, but because of the lack of notice,” she said. “We wanted to make sure than no one felt disenfranchised by this process. We want to get maximum input from the community.”
The majority of the community’s concerns have to do with a very small part of the rezoning. The proposal includes small upzonings near the bigger intersections that are designed to create affordable apartments and condos as part of the city’s inclusionary housing program.
Buildings at on Bushwick Avenue, Metropolitan Avenue, McGuinness Boulevard, and the northern portion of Manhattan Avenue will have larger allowable building heights and floor area ratios, and their size will be allowed to increase even larger as an incentive to make up to 20 percent of the building’s units affordable.
Though these buildings have the potential to be larger, they will not be any bigger than eight stories, and the affordable units will be reserved for families making less than $61,000, which is 80 percent of the area’s median income.
Those that attended the meeting had a negative reaction to these upzonings, though these reactions bounced from one extreme to the other. Some residents, notably homeowners who lived near the potential upzonings, expressed concern that the affordable housing options would become slums, and that the increase in building size would stress the already over-taxed parking, sewer, and transit infrastructures.
Other residents criticized the upzoning incentive plan for not doing enough to encourage affordable housing. One resident said that the rezoning of the waterfront failed to create enough affordable housing to meet the demand, and that the FAR bonus for providing affordable units under the proposed zoning plan was not enough of a boost from the standard FAR to create a true incentive.
A large number of those who attended the meeting feared that the proposed zoning would create an influx of new residents in a neighborhood that could not handle the increased population.
“This rezoning will bring in very little new population,” assured Steve Leonard of DCP, who assured the crowd that the rezoning would neither expand nor reduce what was allowed under the existing zoning, and only sought to enforce the existing scale.
The meeting ended with the DCP and Community Board 1 encouraging the community to get involved with the rezoning process by attending hearings and making their opinions heard. The Uniform Land Use Review Procedures process (ULURP), which will include several hearings held by the community board, the borough president’s office, DCP, and the City Council, is expected to begin in December.