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Long Island City rezoning proposal is imminent, dividing community

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The Department of City Planning wants to issue a rezoning proposal for the area by June

Long Island City
Curbed Flickr Pool/NYConstructionPhoto

Just about one year after it was first raised by Mayor De Blasio, a proposed rezoning of Long Island City is on the table yet again. A portion of the Queens neighborhood north of Northern Boulevard between Sunnyside Yard and Queensbridge Houses is being looked towards as one of 15 citywide locations that may be rezoned to help Mayor de Blasio achieve his ambitious affordable housing agenda, Politico reports.

The Department of City Planning has begun the process of soliciting neighborhood feedback as a part of the Long Island City Neighborhood Planning Study. DCP wants to put out a rezoning proposal for the area by June, which would lead to the city’s land-use approvals process (ULURP). The proposal would need to be approved by a number of officials, including the City Planning Commission and City Council.

It’s not exactly surprising that neighborhood residents are less than thrilled with the proposal. A 2001 rezoning of 34 blocks of Long Island City allowed for the area’s current development boom, which some longtime neighborhood residents say has instilled in them an uncertainty about their long-term ability to afford the neighborhood.

“We are scared to death, because how much can you charge a kid for a ballet class?” neighborhood resident Zoe Morsette asked in a public City Planning meeting on Tuesday night. “We’re afraid to lose all of it. And my apartment building is in this zone and I’m wondering, are they going to tear down this building?”

Officials at the City Planning meeting on Tuesday admitted that the neighborhood’s 2001 rezoning wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. “We recognize that not every time we do a zoning change it’s perfect," DCP’s Long Island City planner Peggy Lee said. "We have tried to strike a balance. We have tried to strike compromises—with the city’s goals and community objectives."

The neighborhood’s 2001 rezoning fell short of its objectives to bring more affordable housing to the neighborhood. Of the 13,000 housing units that have been built or are under construction following the rezoning, only about 650 are affordable. Under the city’s mandatory inclusionary housing policy, 20 to 30 percent of apartments in new buildings constructed following the proposed rezoning would have to be earmarked as affordable.