On Friday, Dec. 11, 2015, Borough President Brewer issued her formal recommendations on these two zoning amendments. These recommendations, and a letter describing commitments agreed to by the de Blasio administration, can be viewed here:



Mayor de Blasio has proposed two zoning code amendments – Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) – that would change the way affordable housing is built in New York City.

To hear the views and concerns of Manhattan residents, the Manhattan Borough President’s Office held a public hearing on November 16. Watch the Public Hearing on YouTube.

After the hearing, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer and a group of 28 elected officials sent a letter to City Planning Commission Chair Carl Weisbrod, outlining major concerns with the de Blasio administration’s zoning plans.

On November 30, the Manhattan Borough Board conveined for a special vote on the two proposals, and formally voted to deny its approval unless a range of outstanding major concerns are addressed. The Borough Board, made up of Manhattan’s Community Board chairs and City Council members, recommended disapproval of both plans by votes of 12-0, with four abstentions.

A list of the changes necessary to make the MIH and ZQA plans acceptable is detailed in the descriptions below. You can also read final copies of the Manhattan Borough Board ZQA resolution and the Manhattan Borough Board MIH resolution, and watch the meeting.

Zoning for Quality and Affordability

This proposal would alter how senior housing is classified and constructed, reduce parking requirements for the construction of affordable housing, and change the allowable shape of buildings (including height) that contain affordable or senior housing.

In Spring 2015, Borough President Brewer coordinated a response to the ZQA proposal by virtually all Manhattan elected officials in a letter, and the Administration responded with modifications; Read the letters.

Manhattan Borough President’s Office Recommendations

The MBPO appreciates this amendment’s goals but has concerns with specific provisions, especially the height allowances for buildings with senior or affordable housing. A developer can currently build affordable housing under two voluntary programs:

  • the older R10 program, which allows affordable housing in return for a generous density bonus in our densest residential districts, and
  • a voluntary inclusionary housing program, which gives a bonus to developers in medium- to high-density residential districts specifically mapped for this program in return for providing affordable housing.

Under ZQA, these height increases would in most cases result in increases of up to 25 feet, but in some cases could be up to 50 feet. In return for this additional height, the voluntary inclusionary housing program should be corrected so that we know it is providing the best possible opportunities for affordable housing. That means prohibiting poor doors, requiring more affordable housing in our trendiest neighborhoods, and preventing double-dipping with the 421-a program.

Manhattan Borough Board ZQA Resolution

The Borough Board’s ZQA Resolution cited the following measures among those necessary to make the plan acceptable:

  • Narrow vs. wide streets – maintenance of zoning distinctions between wide and narrow streets.
  • Preserving the “Sliver Law” – preservation of the Sliver Law’s ban on midblock construction that rises above neighboring buildings.
  • Height limits – smaller increases to height limits than those contained in the current plan.
  • Senior housing – ensure that additional bulk allowed for newly-constructed senior housing does not become market rate space for general use later on.
  • Fix existing opt-in affordable housing programs – a commitment to fix the city’s flawed Voluntary Inclusionary Housing and R10 programs.

Mandatory Inclusionary Housing

This proposal would apply to specific future developments needing “special permits” or to neighborhood-wide rezonings—such as those that may result from the discussions ongoing in East Harlem and Inwood—allowing for significant new residential development. This program would require developers to provide either 25% or 30% affordable housing depending on the degree of affordability or target area median income levels.

Manhattan Borough President’s Office Recommendations

The MBPO supports mandatory inclusionary housing and would like to see all new significant residential developments requiring some affordable housing. We especially support provisions allowing the program to apply to special permits so that the city can decide that developers converting buildings to residential use have to build affordable housing or contribute to a fund.

Cabout the proposal’s implementation include when the provisions requiring affordable housing in the case of special permits are triggered, protections against harassment for rent-stabilized tenants, and transparency and assurances that money in the fund from Manhattan projects gets spent in the same Manhattan communities.

Moreover, the MBPO has heard from many of our Community Boards that the affordable housing income bands are inadequate and should allow for more housing at both the lowest and more moderate income levels.

Manhattan Borough Board MIH Resolution

The Borough Board’s MIH Resolution cited the following measures among those necessary to make the plan acceptable:

  • Guarantees on how the affordable housing fund will operate – a written framework for governance, strategy, transparency, and accountability with respect to the funds raised through “payments-in-lieu” (PIL) from developers, including specific timelines governing how and where the funds can be used and opportunity for Community Board review and input on the use of PIL funds in their districts. This will ensure PIL funds have a full opportunity to generate affordable housing in the communities where development is occurring.
  • Increase options for income levels of affordable units – wider options for Area Median Income (AMI) bands for affordable units to cater to community preferences, acknowledging that one size does not fit all communities. These options should include both a workforce housing option and an extremely low AMI option.
  • Preventing harassment of residents – strong anti-harassment provisions to prevent the displacement of existing rent-regulated tenants in neighborhoods where new construction will be incentivized through rezoning.
  • Preventing “poor floors” – increasing the required level of distribution of affordable units throughout buildings from the current proposed level of 50 percent to 75 percent to prevent the creation of “poor floors” within buildings.
  • Closing the “BSA loophole” – tightening the program’s hardship criteria, so developers’ hardship applications with the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) will only be accepted in situations of true hardship and not as a path of least resistance for developers simply wishing to avoid the program’s requirements.

Next Steps

Borough President Brewer will issue her office’s formal recommendation on the ZQA and MIH zoning proposals by Dec. 11. The City Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing on the proposals on Dec. 16.