BUILDING A STRONGER NORTH SHORE
I have two priorities in this process: ensuring housing for all, and investing in our infrastructure.
New: My statement in support of the Bay Street Corridor Rezoning
Zoning Subcommittee June 6, 2019
Thank you, Chair Moya.
I am very excited to announce my support for this rezoning of the Bay Street Corridor in my district. The road was long, but with the guidance and the input from my constituents and many stakeholders, I have secured the necessary funding and commitments for the next chapter of the story of the North Shore.
For too long, planning on Staten Island has been haphazard or nonexistent. Today, we have before us a blueprint for a well-planned future. Through many negotiations over nearly four years, I am pleased to be delivering several critical community investments that respond to the needs of the existing community, while also providing a sustainable path for the future of the North Shore.
First and foremost, I have secured a commitment to fully-affordable housing on publicly-owned property as a part of this project. The North Shore is not a gated community, and I have maintained a commitment to ensure that no one feels shut out of their own neighborhood. The two phases of the Homeport site on the new Stapleton Waterfront will include approximately 600 affordable housing units, with 30% of the units in first phase of development for residents making up to 50% AMI, guaranteeing that a broad spectrum of residents will be able to access new affordable housing in a desirable waterfront location. We have also secured commitments to build 100% affordable housing at 539 Jersey Street, which will have a minimum of 25% of the affordable housing on the site to serve households making less than 50% of AMI—and 90 units of senior housing.
Not only have we secured 100% affordable housing on the waterfront, but the School Construction Authority will build a brand new approximately 600 seat P.S or P.S. / I.S. school on the site as well. I have fought hard to make sure that the much-needed school seats in our district are actually built. Along with the new waterfront school, SCA has committed to another new elementary school at the old Hungerford School Site, and to build a new annex for PS13 to provide additional seats. That’s two brand new schools, in addition to the one we are currently building on Targee Street.
To ensure that residents have access to adequate open space, we have secured the funding for 12 acres of a continuous waterfront esplanade that will include open space amenities such as: playground, basketball court, dog run, picnic area, pickle ball, and comfort stations.
A key connection, the proposed Tompkinsville Esplanade, between this new waterfront development and the ferry terminal has been long discussed, but is now finally funded, with $75 Million and a completion date expected in 2023. This will give residents in the corridor and beyond new options for commuting and recreation. No longer will pedestrians and bicyclists need to compete for space on limited roadways. The Tompkinsville esplanade will provide a safe pedestrian-oriented space that will close the existing gaps in the North Shore waterfront and will include resiliency measures for a safe and sustainable future – a key piece in my long-term vision for a continuous North Shore esplanade that makes the waterfront publicly accessible and not just for those who can pay for it.
The Administration has committed to 100 vouchers for North Shore families to move out of shelters into affordable housing in the North Shore. Several agencies have also committed to dedicated legal services for residents of the North Shore who may face displacement as development occurs.
We have also secured $15 million in necessary sewer infrastructure work along Bay Street to ensure new development does not create flooding or drainage issues. This funding is separate from the $45 Million in new sewers, the realignment of Front Street, and utilities at the Stapleton Waterfront.
Growth in the North Shore should open up economic opportunities for our residents, which is why we have reserved 55 Stuyvesant Place for a mix of job-generating uses, and guaranteed prevailing wages for all building service workers in new buildings or buildings that receive $1M or more in public financial assistance.
And finally, finally, finally, the long-delayed rebuilding of the Cromwell Recreation Center at the Lyons Pool, which was damaged beyond repair in 2010 is fully-funded. The $92 Million in new funds will ensure that the Cromwell center will be built on the Lyons Pool site with an anticipated opening of the community center in 2025. This neighborhood anchor will provide a variety of recreational activities identified in the previous community engagement process, and we have guaranteed that the City will work with the community on the design and programming of the new Center as plans are finalized.
We have a series of other commitments that I don’t have time to list here, but I believe my constituents will be pleased with the $250 Million package we delivered for the North Shore. All of these commitments include many strategies to ensure that the North Shore is better equipped to deal with the new housing and population growth accompanying this development. I fought for the City to make good on their prior commitments, fought for the best for the North Shore, and fought to respond to the stakeholders who voiced their concerns. With local stakeholder support, I believe we have reached a plan that will meet the needs of our neighborhoods, but more importantly will be a roadmap to a new investment in Staten Island, and create vital opportunities for the future of our borough.
Finally, I want to thank the City Council Land Use Team – Raju Mann, Amy Levitan, John Douglas, Arthur Huh, Kevin Corte and Kelly Rosa. Without their expertise and dedication to this project, we would not be here this morning. Thank you also to my Chief of Staff Christine Johnson for her dedication to this project as well.
I urge my colleagues to vote yes on this application, and I want to thank you Chair Moya for your support during this process.
A comprehensive plan for the future of the Bay Street Corridor
The North Shore Renaissance that we have talked about for years continues to move forward. We are opening new schools, renovating and opening parks, and strengthening our small-business corridors. A potential next step in this renaissance is a rezoning of our Bay Street Corridor, which would allow industrial land connecting the centers of Tompkinsville and Stapleton along the Staten Island Railroad to be developed for commercial and residential use. Our goal is to ensure that our neighborhoods remain vibrant, walkable, well-planned and affordable for those who want to continue to live here, with all the infrastructure needed to make our neighborhoods a great place to live.
After nearly three years of community input, the Department of City Planning has released its draft Environmental Impact Statement, beginning a seven-month period of public review culminating in a vote at the City Council. My position with the administration over the last three years has been clear: We will not undertake this rezoning without public investments in appropriate infrastructure to support a future increase in density.
For far too long, zoning on Staten Island has been altered parcel by parcel, with little regard for the greater picture. Now, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity for comprehensive waterfront planning and significant investment in infrastructure, including school seats, an enhanced sewer system, open space, and a brand new, state-of-the-art Cromwell Center in Tompkinsville.
As we enter the formal public review process (ULURP), we must all ask ourselves how we want the North Shore to look and function decades from now. Do we want to move forward as we have for decades on a piecemeal basis, with developers approaching the city for a small rezonings of one parcel after the next, with little regard to how they fit together? Or do we want to take a comprehensive look at Tompkinsville and Stapleton, and work together on a rezoning that includes long-term planning, enhanced public waterfront access and capital investments in our infrastructure?
Since this rezoning was first proposed three years ago, I have spent a lot of time listening to constituents’ concerns, in formal meetings, informal conversations, a Stapleton town hall and a Local Advisory Board of community residents. Besides our infrastructure needs, the most pressing concern I hear in these conversations is the need for housing for all ages and income levels, especially for longtime residents of the North Shore who fear being squeezed out by the high cost of living.
A rezoning would allow for the private development—on lots currently zoned for industrial uses—of residential buildings where the majority of units would rent at market rate, and a portion of units would be set aside for low- and middle-income individuals and families, similar to the residents who currently live in these neighborhoods. Our borough’s rich manufacturing history will continue to thrive in the western portion of the island, while this section along Bay Street and the underutilized Staten Island railway will better meet our commercial and residential needs.
The right mix of market rate and affordable housing will provide space for seniors, families, young professionals and more, preserving the culture, fabric and opportunity of our North Shore neighborhoods. When Mayor de Blasio proposed this and other rezonings in his 2015 State of the City address, he reminded us that New York City is not a gated community, that our city can only remain great if families can thrive in the neighborhoods they have called home. And we can reach that goal with a viable neighborhood plan.
We do so with a special commitment to those who currently live here. The mayor has allocated $36 million for provide free legal representation in housing court for all tenants in rezoned neighborhoods facing harassment, building neglect or eviction proceedings.
If this rezoning moves forward, we will not see development overnight. Rather, we would lay a responsible blueprint for property owners to follow when they do decide to develop. This blueprint would respect waterfront view corridors and enhance public access to our waterfront. While infrastructure improvements would move forward as soon as possible, the rezoning blueprint we create will not be fully realized for decades.
The decisions we make in this public process will shape the future of our North Shore. My priority in these discussions will be creating a vibrant neighborhood and boosting quality of life – with the hope that the North Shore of tomorrow will continue to provide the same life-giving opportunities for our grandchildren as it did for our grandparents.