Bill de Blasio: Community Boards Opposing My Housing Plan Are ‘Doubting Thomases’

Mayor Bill de Blasio's ambitious 10-year affordable housing plan depends heavily on the success of mandatory inclusionary zoning (Photo: Getty Images).

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambitious 10-year affordable housing plan depends heavily on the success of mandatory inclusionary zoning (Photo: John Moore for Getty Images).

Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized today the community boards that have voted down his ambitious plan to construct 60,000 new below-market apartments citywide, calling those opposed to his agenda “doubting Thomases.”

The mayor seemed to accuse the neighborhood advisory panels of being “not-in-my-backyard” types at an unrelated press conference in Manhattan. A slew of community boards in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn have voted against the rezonings needed to build taller in their neighborhoods so as to accommodate greater private development and more low-cost housing, most arguing that the plan does not guarantee sufficient units or jobs for the poorest New Yorkers, and thus may accelerate gentrification.

“Those advisory votes are meaningful but they aren’t the final word. And look, we also know that community boards are often negatively, you know, when it comes to anything that might be new development in the community, often negatively disposed. That’s not a newsflash, we know that,” Mr. de Blasio said.

A community board’s vote is merely a recommendation, though it may reflect the beliefs of the local council members and borough president, since they jointly pick who sits on the panel in each area. The boards represent the earliest part of the city’s lengthy Uniform Land Use Review Procedure for rezoning, with the next step being a vote of the borough board, composed of the borough president, local council members and the chairs of the community boards.

The borough boards of the Bronx and Manhattan have already voted against the de Blasio plan.

ULURP concludes with a Council vote—though the Council normally defers to the wishes of the local council member.

Especially embarrassing for Mr. de Blasio was the decision of the community board for the East New York section of Brooklyn to reject his plans to spur middle-income development in the area. The historically impoverished area would be among the first to see extensive rezonings and new construction should the de Blasio proposals come to fruition.

Mr. de Blasio pointed out his plan includes an unprecedented requirement that all builders set aside some part of their new construction for affordable housing, and said he understood that many people would be unfamiliar with the model and have “tough questions.”

“We’re talking about demanding much more from developers, creating much more affordable housing than has ever been created before,” he said. “It’s a whole new approach, and of course there will be doubting Thomases at first. But I think over time we’ll be able to show people it works.”

The comments in some ways echoed remarks by Vicki Been, the mayor’s commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, who told a critic of the plan earlier this month that you “don’t stop development.”

Bill de Blasio: Community Boards Opposing My Housing Plan Are ‘Doubting Thomases’