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Report: East New York rezoning may push out 50,000 residents

The East New York rezoning plan, which is part of the de Blasio administration’s effort to create or preserve 200,000 affordable housing units, may push out thousands of residents in one of the poorest areas in Brooklyn.

According to an analysis from New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, the affordable housing units created by the plan would be too expensive for 55 percent of neighborhood residents. The research also claims that new market rate units would be too expensive for 84 percent of current residents.

“For generations, East New York has been overlooked and under-resourced by the City in schools, parks, public transit, and affordable housing,” Stringer said in a press release. “However, instead of strengthening the affordability of this community, the proposed rezoning would instead serve as an engine for displacement. The plan’s so-called ‘affordable’ apartments would be too expensive for more than half of current residents, and the introduction of a large number of market rate units could push even more people out of the neighborhood.”

The Area Median Income (AMI) in East New York is $32,815. This means that thousands of residents may be rent-burdened due to the new affordable housing units. For rent to be considered affordable, it must only amount to about 30 percent of income. Under the city’s plan, a family of three must earn at least 46,620 per year to pay for the new affordable units. According to Stringer’s analysis, the rezoning plan would put 21,788 affordable (but  not rent-regulated) apartments in jeopardy. The units currently house 49,266 residents.

The projected price increase is sharper when it comes to market-rate apartments. For a family of three to move into a market-rate unit in a new building, a household income of $83,484 is necessary. That figure is more than twice the area’s current AMI.

Wiley Norvell, a deputy press secretary from the Mayor’s Office, disputed Stringer’s analysis, saying that the report contains errors.

“The comptroller has it completely backwards. These are families that are in danger today, because the market is already putting pressure on their rents. It’ll take enormous preservation and new affordable housing efforts to turn that tide, which is precisely what the City is working for,” he said.

Norvell said that the city’s Housing Preservation and Development department will require 100 percent affordability in all new housing projects built with public subsidies. He added that rent in the units will range from less than 30 percent of AMI (for a three-person household earning $23,350) to 90 percent of AMI (for a three-person household earning $69,930). According to the proposal, at least 40 percent of the units will be affordable for families with the lowest incomes- ranging from $23,350 to $38,850 for three-person households.

Norvell also questioned the AMI figures in Stringer’s report. He said that the numbers do not take into account HPD’s affordability package, which will finance the construction of affordable apartments for households with an annual income of $20,000 to $25,000.

Nonetheless, Stringer’s report said that the number of affordable housing units under the rezoning proposal would not be enough to house the displaced. According to city estimates, the plan would produce 3,447 affordable units, with half of the total going to current residents in accordance with city policy. However, Stringer claims that the total may actually drop to 948 units if HPD fails to convince developers to build affordable units.

Stringer’s recommendations include introducing amendments to the proposal that prohibit harassment of existing tenants. He also called on the city to focus on development sites that have been identified in advance by both the HPD and developers. Rules that require landlords to build affordable housing as penalty for harassing tenants are already in place in neighborhoods such as Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Hell’s Kitchen.

The proposal is currently in the second month of a seven-month review process. Yesterday, the Brooklyn Borough Board rejected the rezoning plan, following a Brooklyn Community Board 5 vote that yielded the same result. Borough President Eric Adams, Brooklyn’s community boards and the City Planning Commission will provide recommendations before the City Council votes on the proposal.

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