As the mayor‘s recently proposed, and in many cases fiercely opposed, zoning text amendments have fanned the flames of New Yorkers‘ ever-simmering fear of gentrification, one type of at-risk tenant has gone unmentioned: small business owners.
Whether it is the famous Arepa Lady of Queens who cooks up corn pancakes with mozzarella, the baby Jesus doll boutique showcased in Frederick Wiseman‘s recent film “In Jackson Heights,” or the local bodega still selling expired $1 honey-buns, locally-owned and servicing mom-and-pop boutiques provide much of the diverse commercial life that has long characterized New York City.
As the de Blasio administration looks to change zoning requirements throughout the city, including to allow more and better retail space, and wants to see significant real estate development to increase affordable housing, there is a great deal at stake for small business owners - both current and prospective.
Our endorsement of the city’s plan for East New York would require that it take into account historical inequities and the long-term impact on the approximately 200 rezoned blocks as well as the surrounding area. We propose:
- Greater resources to preserve existing affordable housing, including supporting regular intake for anti-displacement advocates and legal practitioners as well as assistance for the residents of government-funded housing where affordability requirements are expiring;
- An increased supply of very-low and low-income housing through new opportunities, such as the development of unstudied city lots and faith-based properties with air rights, to support hundreds of residents at risk for potential displacement;
- A commitment of 50% preference in new housing for local residents, including former residents who were displaced;
- Additional land-use measures that would encourage developers to include deeper and more flexible bands of affordability in new housing;
- A codification of a minimum threshold of family-sized units in all new affordable developments, protecting against developers’ tendency to build studio and one-bedroom apartments;
- A restriction of big-box retail stores, and increased financial incentives to prevent commercial displacement of local small businesses.