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Builders Need to Follow a New Land Use, Development Framework in District 35

Developers are now required to go through a new check-list process.
District 35 Councilmember Crystal Hudson. Photo: Supplied/Office of Council Member Crystal Hudson

Council Member Crystal Hudson released a new framework on Friday to ensure transparent and equitable decisions are made around land use and development in District 35, covering Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Crown Heights. 

The nonprofit Hester Street developed a community-led framework that Hudson will use to evaluate proposed projects going through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), according to a news release. 

The framework can be used by community members as an accountability mechanism to ensure their priorities are considered in the early phases of development; by the Council Member’s office as a checklist to ensure that community needs are integrated into new development; and by developers as a guide to understand the types of development that residents demand. 

“It’s no secret that the land use and development process in our city is flawed," said Hudson. "The status quo has yielded a massive discrepancy between what our communities need and what is actually produced."

To create the framework, Hester Street developed and drove an engagement process that incorporated public meetings, focus groups on specific land use-related topics and a community-wide survey that received over 1,000 responses. Read the full survey findings and framework here.

“For too long, our city has failed to implement citywide planning efforts that are comprehensive, community-led, and anchored in the public good," said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. "By advancing this districtwide development framework, I’m excited to see Council Member Hudson take matters into her own hands on behalf of the residents of Council District 35. This framework is driven by data and supported by community input, and I look forward to seeing the Council Member put it to use as we seek to address our city's deep housing crisis."

Key findings include: 

  • Housing: Across the District, 41% of survey respondents want more affordable and/or supportive housing; followed by 24% of respondents requesting more green and open spaces for residents; 59% of district-wide respondents say it's ‘very challenging to find affordable housing; 78% of respondents pay 30% or more of their gross income on rent. Residents also shared the need for more affordable housing for families (3+ bedrooms), stating that affordable units are normally smaller 1-bedroom or studio units. 

  • Public Space & Infrastructure: For those older than 65, inaccessible transit and lack of ramps and elevators in buildings ranked as the highest accessibility need to be able to age in the district (56% of respondents). From 2000 to 2020 the population that is 65+ in District 35 has increased by over 6,000 people. Across the district, residents requested more accessible infrastructure.

  • Small Businesses: There is a high need for rent stabilized, long term leases for businesses and non-profit organizations. The survey revealed that 44% of respondents said that commercial rent prices are the biggest challenge for small businesses. Across the district, residents shared the need for affordable grocery stores, notably in Crown Heights. 

Any developer seeking a rezoning through the ULURP process in District 35 will need to first meet the criteria outlined in the community-informed framework to secure the Council Member’s potential support. Developers will have an opportunity to clarify questions about the framework early in the pre-development process if needed. 

Hudson said the development process has been "guided by those with the deepest pockets and has meant the proliferation of luxury high rises where rents far exceed what the average New Yorker can afford."

To address the crisis of affordability plaguing the city, there is a need to build housing with families, with low-income and moderate income tenants, with older adults, and with the generations of long-standing New Yorkers threatened by displacement in mind, she said. 

Projects will then have to meet additional criteria related to open space amenities, housing upgrades and non-residential uses. In order to incentivize deep affordability, projects that pursue a deep affordability option for rentals or homeownership will have to meet fewer of the additional criteria than projects that are higher on the affordability range.

The full framework and checklist can be found here.