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East New York rezoning plan sails through City Council vote

A controversial rezoning plan for Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood has just been approved by the New York City Council’s Committee on Land Use.

The proposal, which sailed through with a vote of 18-1, generated glowing reviews from council members. “I’ve never seen affordability this low,” said council member Antonio Reynoso, who represents the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Bushwick. The plan makes at least half of all affordable apartments available to people making less than the area median income of $45,000 to $60,0000.

Meanwhile, CM David Greenfield, the chairman of the Committee on Land Use, called the proposal a “unicorn deal,” especially touting the conversion of three homeless shelters into affordable housing units.

Rafael Espinal, who represents most of the areas covered by the rezoning initiative, promised that the proposal will “bring unprecedented levels of investment into a community that has been neglected for decades.” CM Inez Barron, who represents part of East New York, voted against the plan, saying that the AMI set under the proposal is not affordable to most area residents.

The neighborhood is the first to be targeted under the de Blasio administration’s mandatory inclusionary housing thrust. If the plan is approved, it would create 6,492 new apartments in the neighborhood, about half of which are affordable units. The city also plans to build a new school capable of handling about 1,000 students along with more than one million square feet of retail and community spaces.

The plan has inspired some pushback from East New York residents. Yesterday, ten people were arrested during a protest outside of Espinal’s office. The protesters, who belonged to a group called New York Communities for Change, blocked part of Atlantic Avenue before being handcuffed by police officers. They wanted a ‘no’ vote from Espinal and urged him to return campaign donations from landlords and developers.

East New York is one of 15 low-income neighborhoods facing rezoning. Other areas include East Harlem and Inwood in Upper Manhattan.

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