City Council Approves Staten Island Rezoning

The City Council voted June 26 to approve a massive rezoning of the Staten Island waterfront, a proposal that promises to bring 1,300 “affordable” apartments to the neighborhood but has also sparked fears of displacement.

Staten Island’s Tompkinsville neighborhood, the latest area rezoned under the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, was the scene of multiple protests after the police killing of Eric Garner in 2014.
Staten Island’s Tompkinsville neighborhood, the latest area rezoned under the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, was the scene of multiple protests after the police killing of Eric Garner in 2014.

The plan will rezone a 14-block strip of Bay Street, beginning at Tompkinsville Park about half a mile south of the St. George ferry terminal, to allow buildings up to 14 stories tall, with lower-rise buildings on a nearby stretch of Canal Street. The city projects that about 1,750 new apartments will be built in the area under the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, 1,300 market-rate and 450 at lower rents, probably around $1,440 a month for a family of three.

Another 850 apartments, all “affordable,” will be constructed on two city-owned sites, one on the waterfront and one further inland. About 20 to 30 percent of those will be earmarked for households at or below 50 percent of the metropolitan area median income, or about $48,000 for a family of three. Ninety units at the inland site, now a Sanitation Department garage, will be reserved for elderly tenants.

However, the Department of City Planning has estimated that the increased development will displace about 1,750 low-income renters in the immediate area. More than 80 percent of the rental apartments in the neighborhood are in buildings too small to be covered by rent stabilization, local housing activists say.

“That’s the biggest fear a lot of folks have, because of these unregulated units,” says Ivan García, neighborhood rezoning coordinator for Staten Island at Make the Road NY. The city has promised 100 rent vouchers to people displaced, he added, but unregulated tenants would be much better protected if the state legislature had passed the bill banning evictions except for good cause