Tonight, Manhattan Community Board 3 holds a public hearing on the proposed East Village/Lower East Side Rezoning, which was certified by the Department of City Planning on May 5, beginning the official public review process.

Time: 6:30 (Those interested in speaking should arrive by 6 to sign up)

Where: Public School 20 @ 166 Essex Street (Btwn. Houston and Stanton Streets)

After the jump is much more information from Manhattan Community Board 3 about the creation of this plan and its current status.

Quick Facts about Rezoning in Community Board 3
CB3 Zoning Taskforce
Community Board 3 Public Hearing, May 12, 2008

What’s Happening?
The Department of City Planning (DCP) is considering how to rezone a large section of the Lower East Side within Community Board 3 (CB3). This area will become a new zoning district with new zoning codes. Zoning codes are tools that the city has used for the last century to shape the way land is used. What’s being proposed for this part of CB3 is called “contextual zoning” because it regulates height, bulk, and other features to produce buildings that are consistent with the existing context — look and feel — of the area.

How Did This Come About?
In 2005, the Board convened a Zoning Taskforce, building on earlier efforts by the Board to rezone. Rezoning seemed like the best way to respond to community concerns about the construction of very tall buildings and the loss of affordable apartments. Believing that speed was essential, the Board and its Zoning Taskforce asked DCP to create a new contextual zoning plan covering the largest possible area of CB3. The purpose was to allow for population growth and development, yet keep the Lower East Side a place where people of different income levels can find housing and where huge buildings don’t tower over the landscape. Over the years, DCP staff met with Board and Zoning Taskforce members and heard public testimony. In 2006, the agency came back with its zoning proposal. DCP has spent approximately 2 million dollars in preparing this zoning. The work has included preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

At 111 blocks, this is one of the largest rezonings in the city. DCP, not the Board, defined the area to be rezoned:
North: northern side of E. 13th St.
South: Grand St. east to Ludlow St.,
then Delancey St. east to Pitt St.
West: about 100 ft. east of Bowery/Third Ave.
East: Ave. D from 13th St. to Houston St.,
then Pitt St. south to Delancey St.
What is the Decision-making Process Now?
Thanks to many decades of citizen advocacy, decision-making about land use in NYC follows a fairly predictable process. Community boards have a guaranteed role in the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP). This provides the structure for community input, but our powers are advisory only. To be most effective, we need to stay informed, ask good questions, and keep our ultimate goals in mind. In April 2008, DCP released its final Scope of Work for the DEIS. On May 5th, DCP certified that the ULURP decision-making can go forward. On May 12th, CB3 is holding a mandated public hearing to give residents and stakeholders a chance for input as part of this process.

ULURP steps:
Step 1: CB3 has a 60-day period to conduct public hearings and make advisory recommendations to the City Planning Commission and the Borough President.
Step 2: After this 60-day period, the Borough President has a 30-day period to review the project and CB3’s recommendation, and to make an advisory recommendation to the City Planning Commission. The BP can hold public hearings.
Step 3: The City Planning Commission has a 60-day period to conduct a public hearing, and approve, modify, or disapprove an application.
Step 4: The City Council has a 50-day period to hold a public hearing and approve, modify, or disapprove the decision of the Planning Commission.
Step 5: The Mayor has a 5-day opportunity to veto the Council’s decision, and the Council has 10 days to override that veto by a two-thirds vote.

What Did CB3 Ask For?
CB3 voted on 11 points and principles that it wanted the DCP to incorporate in any new plan for the new zoning district. (See Board minutes of Dec. 2006, Some of our wishes have been met in the city’s plan; others have not been. We recognize that rezoning is an important but imperfect tool for controlling the future of our area. CB3 needs to continue to push for the best arrangements we can achieve, and also work on many other fronts, now and in the future.

Currently, there are NO height caps of any kind for new buildings in CB3, so the best news about the DCP plan is the restriction on heights.
• Most new buildings will be capped at 75-80 ft. (6-8 stories).
• The tallest new buildings will rise no more than 120 ft. (12 stories). This will be possible only on some of the district’s widest avenues and only if developers make 20% of the residential floor space permanently affordable to low- and moderate-income residents. (“Inclusionary zoning,” or its shorthand, “IZ,” is the name for zoning that provides bonus space to developers in exchange for requiring affordable units.) We expect that affordable units will be included on-site. There are tax incentives as well as practical problems with the off-site option that make it extremely likely that developers who take the IZ bonus will build on-site.
• The height caps that come with rezoning will also prevent developers from using what is known as a “community facility bonus” to build super-sized structures.

The DEIS proposed an alternative possibility of using inclusionary zoning on all of the wide avenues in the zoning district north of Houston St.

DCP expanded its survey of “historic resources” — buildings and places that are considered historically important and may need protection. We have asked DCP to hire a well-qualified person to conduct the survey.

What we still need to push for (which may involve actions in addition to zoning):

A. Affordable housing protections and incentives
• Special oversight and enforcement protections against tenant harassment and demolition of sound residential buildings, especially on wide streets such as Houston, Delancey, Chrystie, Ave. D, and Pitt.
• Creation of a legal services fund to protect low-income tenants at risk of landlord harassment.
• A commitment by the city to make sure that at least 30% of new residential development is permanently
affordable. This will mean creating affordable housing on publicly owned sites.
• Affordable inclusionary zoning on all of the wide avenues north and south of Houston.

B. Other issues
• CB3 asked DCP to study commercial and retail activity south of Houston St. to show why this part of the new zoning district should continue to promote commercial rather than residential uses. Will keeping the
current commercial zoning protect and attract daytime retail and light manufacturing, or will it add to the glut of nightlife establishments and hotels? (The particular area of concern extends from Houston to Delancey, and the east side of Chrystie to the west side of Allen.)
• CB3 asked DCP to amend the zoning code to stop the growth of eating and drinking establishments in the parts of the district zoned for residential use, and in rear yards of buildings where residential zoning is combined with a “commercial overlay.”
• Use of space along St. Marks Pl. should not be changed to allow commercial uses on the ground floor (called a “commercial overlay”).

Future Plans

Residents and stakeholders of CB3 have organized to conduct our own rezoning plan for 3rd /4th Ave. and the Bowery — areas that are not included in the DCP plan. A subcommittee of the Zoning Taskforce is now meeting about that topic. Dates and locations of CB3 committee and full board meetings are announced on the website. All meetings are held in public, and comments or questions from the public are invited at designated times of the meeting.

How You Can Learn More

Log onto the Dept. of City Planning website and select “Zoning.” To see the proposal for CB3, scroll down to “DCP Proposals & Studies.” DCP also publishes a useful Zoning Handbook.

Prepared by the Zoning Taskforce of Community Board 3