Sunday, March 17, 2013

A wave of development looms in downtown Bklyn | Crain's New York Business

A few weeks back I was walking to Borough Hall to pick up the 4/5 (that brisk mile walk gets the blood going) when I ran into a planning professional I know.  We were discussing the latest crop of towers sprouting downtown, and he reminded me that the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning was really suppose to generate office development. So this quote below is a bit rich:
"When the rezoning was done, people complained it did not do enough for affordable housing, but this shows that's not the case," Mr. Reed said. "The rezoning worked."
The rezoning was one of the first major undertakings of the Bloomberg-era Department of City Planning, led by Commissioner Amanda Burden. The city has now rezoned more than one-third of the city's landmass, and the downtown Brooklyn one served as a model for many, pushing inclusionary housing as a means to foster affordable housing development.
Some complained that housing for low- and middle-income families should have been mandatory in all new developments, but the administration prefers a market-driven approach that uses government incentives and tax breaks to promote the private development of affordable housing.
That said, two points. 
One, the Downtown Brooklyn upzoning as a general matter was a good decision. Excellent transportation options in downtown are the attraction:  easy access to jobs, entertainment, parks, etc. when you have such an abundance of subway access are a real draw (a point Norman Oder made in a much more comprehensive post on this topic). And these upzonings are a perfect complement to contextual zonings in well established, moderately scaled neighborhoods. A vibrant city should have a range of densities that support walkability (there is a minimum level of density required to support transit and neighborhood amenities aka businesses).

Two, the Bloomberg administration has failed miserably when it comes to demanding concessions for the unlocked value of up-zoned property, and also on the broader matter of housing policy.  I'm hoping that the next Mayor will do a better job in these areas. 

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