De Blasio Pushes NYC Rezoning to Bolster Affordable Housing

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio kicked off his second year in office with a new residential zoning plan requiring developers to include affordable housing, and a package of subsidies and laws to protect people at risk of losing their homes.

In his State of the City speech, which centered on his goal to build or save 200,000 units of affordable housing by 2025, de Blasio focused on struggling neighborhoods such as Manhattan’s East Harlem and Brooklyn’s East New York. He also proposed five-borough ferry service that would connect Wall Street in Manhattan to beach communities in Coney Island, Brooklyn and the Rockaways in Queens.

The 53-year-old mayor, a self-described progressive Democrat, outlined a program that promoted the themes of economic opportunity and fairness. Those are issues he’s pushed since he campaigned for the job in 2013, becoming the first Democrat to control City Hall in 20 years.

“If we do not act -- and act boldly -- New York risks taking on the qualities of a gated community,” de Blasio said in the speech at Baruch College. “We cannot let that happen.”

Aside from rezoning, de Blasio proposed sprucing up the southwest Bronx and the old industrial neighborhood of Sunnyside Yards, Queens, with new parks and schools as a way to attract development.

He also proposed laws and subsidies that would help homeless veterans, artists, seniors and tenants find or keep affordable housing.

The mayor, who intends to present a preliminary budget next week, said he would commit $55 million in capital funds and about $20 million in operating expenses to the new ferry system, which would begin operations in 2017, priced the same as a MetroCard subway or bus ride.

The ferries are intended to spur development in areas currently populated by about 460,000 people who have little or no access to mass transit, 44 percent of whom have low or moderate income, said Marti Adams, a mayoral spokeswoman.

The mayor also proposed offering the Metropolitan Transportation Authority an additional $295 million in operating expenses to expand rapid bus service in areas of Queens that don’t have subway service.

“For years, the conventional wisdom has been that certain neighborhoods are doomed to isolation because of their geography; we’re going to change that,” de Blasio said. “Residents of the Rockaways and Red Hook and Soundview will now be closer to the opportunities they need.”

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