From the Queens Chronicle:
Mayor de Blasio’s multifaceted approach to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade is ambitious and, many agree, noble.
But one of the ways he plans to attain that goal has Queens civic leaders up in arms.
In a Jan. 22 New York Times article, de Blasio is reported as favoring legalizing some illegal basement and cellar apartments. On the housing page of his campaign website, it is said that de Blasio “will end the practice of pretending these homes and their families don’t exist.
“As mayor, he will bring them into the regulated housing system, ensure they meet legal standards for safety, and work to bring them under rent-regulation,” the page says.
Queens Civic Congress President Richard Hellenbrecht believes such a plan is simply “inconceivable.”
“There’s a reason for zoning. Our neighborhoods are designed to be lived in by a certain occupancy,” Hellenbrecht said. “If [de Blasio] said, all of a sudden, you can develop basement apartments and it started happening in Bellerose, I’m gone. I’ll move out tomorrow if that happened.”
Hellenbrecht believes that legalizing a number of illegal basement apartments would add another level of stress on many already overcrowded school districts and the public transportation and sewer systems.
“It would just decimate neighborhoods. It would really destroy a lot of neighborhoods and bring down property values,” he said. “I really haven’t heard of anyone else really supporting this. No way in hell.”
Forest Hills Civic Association President Barbara Stuchinski also didn’t shy away from expressing her dislike of such a plan, calling it “absolute bull.”
“I am totally opposed. The answer to affordable housing is not sticking people in basements. I wouldn’t want to keep my dog in the basement,” Stuchinski said. “Who wants to raise a child in a basement? I would be out there picketing if I knew children were being raised in basements.
“The possibilities for extremely hazardous conditions are endless. Potential for loss of life is endless. A fire? Boom, you’re dead,” she continued. “Your boiler and hot water heaters are down there, and every time it rains, basements flood.”
Stuchinski also expressed worries that any influx of people living in such dwellings would strain infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and sewer pipes that are already stretched to the limit.
The Mayor’s Office did not respond to requests for comment on the issue.
A long, long time ago, my ancestors came here with nothing but the clothes on their back. They worked at unskilled trades, yet were able to afford apartments that were not subterranean. Yet, the more development we allow, the less affordable apartments seem to become.