The city has launched a charm offensive to sell a controversial plan to ease height and parking requirements on new construction, but after grilling agency reps, Sheepshead Bay leaders were just offended.
Representatives from the Department of City Planning met with Community Board 15 members on May 26 to explain the upzoning proposal, which would allow developers in some neighborhoods to build higher and include fewer parking spaces than current rules allow if the new construction incudes senior or below-market-rate housing. But the explanation left some board members cold.
“If you’re old, according to them, you don’t have a car,” said Maurice Kolodin, a CB15 member who opposes the plan.
The city claims the plan will eliminate outdated zoning and parking regulations that prevent the creation of much-needed affordable housing, specifically for the city’s growing senior population. A representative from the Department of City Planning said the reduced parking requirements are simply intended only to reflect car ownership data from the Department of Motor Vehicles, not to deprive seniors of transportation.
“We did verify our data,” said Laura Smith, who has worked extensively on the proposal. “We see very low rates of car ownership among the types of households for which this proposal will apply.”
Smith also insisted that the plan would not drastically alter the character of a neighborhood — a concern shared by many board members.
“The fundamental shape, type, size, envelope, look and feel of a neighborhood we would not expect to change as a result of this proposal,” said Smith.
But so far the plan does not contain an exact definition of “character of a neighborhood,” fueling anxiety that the proposal could allow more dramatic changes than the department claims.
“The concept of this plan is a lot of hypotheses with no verifications,” said Kolodin. “There are definitions lacking.”
The chairwoman of CB15 is reserving judgment until the plan is formalized into detailed zoning text.
“I want to see the text,” said Theresa Scavo. “This is a proposal. The zoning text is not even written yet.”
The text, projected to surface at the end of the summer, must undergo the city’s universal land use review processes, entailing public hearings where community boards can offer recommendations. At that point, Scavo said, Community Board 15 will invite the Department of City Planning to return and discuss the text in full.