Zoning for Quality and Affordability

In May 2014, Mayor de Blasio released his plan ‘Housing New York,’ a five-borough ten-year plan to preserve and expand affordable housing. Key components of this plan include protecting current housing stock, preserving 120,000 units of existing housing, investing in strong neighborhoods by planning with communities, and creating 80,000 new affordable housing units. To achieve these goals, the Department of City Planning (DCP) proposed three initiatives: Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA), Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Neighborhood Studies.

The ZQA text amendment has four main goals: modernize rules that shape buildings, encourage better quality buildings, promote affordable senior housing, and reduce parking requirements for affordable housing.


ZQA is a wide reaching proposal that will affect all boroughs of New York City. In response, CIVITAS is retaining BFJ Planning, a consulting firm that focuses on planning, urban design, environmental analysis, real estate and transportation, to help evaluate the ZQA proposal and draft recommendations. This CIVITAS initiative is partially supported by our ZQA coalition members: East Sixties Neighborhood Association (ESNA) and East 86th Street Merchants/Residents Association.


After a detailed examination of the ZQA/MIH proposal and a review of the potential impacts on Community Districts 8 and 11, CIVITAS looks forward to working with the community, elected officials and City Planning to ensure the community’s concerns are heard.



1. Increased FAR or height should be bonusable in exchange for creation of affordable housing, except for minor changes (5’ to 10’) for technical purposes related to Citizen’s Housing and Planning Council (CHPC) building envelope constraints;

2. Proposed “Zoning for Quality and Affordability” and bulk changes should not apply to historic districts;

3. Proposed “Zoning for Quality and Affordability” and bulk changes must maintain the building height difference and proportion between wide and narrow streets. Buildings on narrow streets that are the same height as those on the avenues negatively affect light and air to the sidewalk and surrounding buildings.

4. Encroachment in the rear yards should not be allowed, as it would negatively affect enjoyment of the remaining open space amenity; and CD8’s community facilities FAR should be brought in parity with the rest of the city;

5. Unlimited as-of-right FAR zoning lot mergers and zoning districts that do not currently have height limits should have a height limit mechanism. One example would be to create a maximum height limit of 400 feet (in areas with no current height limit). Another would be to change the C1-9 zone on the avenues to a contextual C1-9X that would require a tower on a base;

6. Development of 197-a and 197-c Plans for both Boards 8 and 11 should be accompanied by an urban design element to provide a 3-dimensional urban design context to any proposed zoning changes. Zoning changes should be based upon these plans;

7. Current Sliver Rule regulations, which restricts the construction of narrow and tall buildings on zoning lots, should be retained; and

8. DCP’s proposed reduction in off-street parking requirements in East Harlem should be applied to all affordable housing in the CD11 Transit Zone, and to market rate housing within 1,200 feet of subway stations.



1. Affordability should be measured by the Area Median Income (AMI) for the borough, neighborhood or census blocks; the AMI for the larger New York Metropolitan Area should not be used;

2. Allow Area Median Income (AMI) options for affordable housing to be sensitive to local community income levels. There should be flexibility to increase or decrease the percent of AMI utilized depending on the strength of the housing market in each neighborhood;

3. Keep affordability for senior housing, assisted care and nursing homes in perpetuity as it is for affordable housing;

4. Codify in the Zoning Resolution anti-harassment and anti-displacement regulations consistent with the Special Clinton District;

5. Affordable units must be architecturally integrated within the buildings. No “poor” door and no “poor” floor should be allowed. There is recognition that many affordable units could be clustered on lower floors;

6. The Board of Standards and Appeal (BSA) Provision “73-624” should include “Neighborhood Character” and “Environmental Impacts”; and

7. Department of City Planning (DCP) Provision “74-32”should be under the jurisdiction of the BSA, and stricter language and criteria for this special permit need to be included. The public infrastructure projects that exempt a developer from the affordable housing provisions should be of equal value to the affordable housing that will be lost.


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