2015-11-13 / Community

City Unveils Low Income Housing Plans

By Patricia Hannan

Dozens of critical issues and new resources were presented at the monthly Community Board 14 meeting on Nov. 10, but the most extensive one was opposed by what seemed like everyone in attendance. A citywide housing proposal was introduced and met with a room full of local residents in strong opposition.

For the first time, CB14 opened their meeting by allowing residents to stand and speak freely for exactly two minutes on any matter of their choice. Bruce Jacobs raised a simple reminder to all, "We need buses and trains in Far Rockaway." Ronnie Murchinson, who has been working tirelessly to bring a volunteer ambulance to Rockaway for years, stood and announced that he has submitted final applications to the city and state for RVAC. Both applications are currently pending and, according to Murchinson, he will hear back in "30 to 45 days." Yet another resident spoke on behalf of many when expressing her hope that Phase 6 plans for the Belle Harbor boardwalk would be "put on hold" and that the "ADA compliant beach ramps take up too much beach space."

Sub-par conditions of both public transportation and recreational areas were briefly mentioned, as well. Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder kept his words short to appease the crowd and mentioned the need to improve Rockaway's infrastructure, specifically for the community to come together and "fight for improvements for the A [train]."

The tennis courts located on the Beach Channel High School campus grounds were mentioned and questioned as well. One resident stood to say, "Millions of dollars have gone into that school and the football field. But what about the tennis courts? Where did this money go?"

Raven was the youngest public speaker and represented new minority youth services offered in honor of the late Darius Vinson. She announced the creation of an organization that provides tutoring, a scholarship program, mentoring, charity events, and community service, among other resources on behalf of the Darius Vinson Foundation. Vinson was a top scholar who passed away at 26 years old. From now until Nov. 20, the foundation is holding a Thanksgiving Food Drive for the local needy. Arrangements can be made for non-perishable food donations to be picked up throughout Rockaway.

"Thank you, but no thank you" was the precise reaction of most to the city's new affordable housing proposal, in the words of one resident.

"Nothing is set in stone" were the opening comments of New York City Planner Brendan Pillar regarding his presentation on Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH). Those were the exact same words used by other city representatives during recent meetings regarding the upcoming Rockaway Ferry. Still, not a single person in attendance showed the slightest sign of approval and others called the plan "outrageous."

On behalf of the Department of City Planning, Pillar explained details of "Housing NY," the city's plan to make 200,000 permanently affordable housing units across the five boroughs within the next 10 years. Under Mayor de Blasio, zoning would be used to require these units "to meet the needs of a range of low-and-moderate income New Yorkers." It would also be applicable to developments, enlargements, or conversions under 10 units.

Pillar claimed one of several goals of MIH would be to "promote vibrant, diverse neighborhoods" but Rockaway residents claimed that our community at large knows our needs better than Mayor de Blasio and therefore began rejecting the plan before all details were presented.

The crisis of housing affordability is the culprit due to economic inequality and the gap between New Yorkers' rent costs compared to their income.

According to Pillar, "over the past decade, average rents rose by more than 10 percent while wages stagnated, 55 percent of renter households are 'rent-burdened.' and 30 percent are 'extremely rent-burdened.'"

Proposed rezoning requirement options include either 25 percent of housing at an average of 60 percent Average Median Income (AMI) or 30 percent of housing at an average of 80 percent AMI. When broken down into comparable occupations, a security guard whose income is $31,080 would pay $775 per month for a 2-bedroom apartment. A teacher who makes $77,700 per year would pay $1,950 for the 2-bedroom apartment. A firefighter who brings in $93,240 per year would pay $2,350 for that same 2-bedroom unit.

Under this MIH program with rezoning, subsidies would be available for those with incomes as low as 30 percent AMI.

For more information about Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, visit nyc.gov/housing.

For more information about the Darius Vinson Foundation, email denise.greig@divfoundation.org or call 347-343-2933.

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