Espinal seeks jobs plan in East New York rezoning

Espinal seeks jobs plan in East New York rezoning

Espinal seeks jobs plan in East New York rezoning
February 23, 2016

With the New York City Planning Commission slated to vote on an East New York rezoning proposal Wednesday and likely send it to the City Council for final approval, the lawmaker representing most of the area in question said he is still waiting on the city for a jobs plan to accompany the rezoning.

The de Blasio administration conducted a study of the existing East New York Industrial Business Zone at City Councilman Rafael Espinal Jr.’s request, according to the Brooklyn councilman. Espinal said he wants to discuss the findings, including how the city can spur further business development there. He noted about 4,000 people work in the zone – about 40 percent of whom live nearby – and earn a median salary of $50,000, which exceeds the median earnings in East New York at large.

“This can’t only be a housing plan – it also has to be a jobs plan,” Espinal told City & State. “I told them how important this is to the overall plan, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable voting on a rezoning plan unless we have something in place to create more jobs in the industrial area. … I feel that it’s prime for creating a space that would be attractive to new business to create local jobs for community residents. There is some city-owned land within the zone, so maybe using that land to create affordable space so that businesses can move in, or creating more commercial space to bring in new business.”

The councilman said the industrial business zone would remain the same size under the rezoning proposal, but that it could allow residential development on industrial sites outside of the zone. Espinal said he would be reviewing what was sensible when it comes to protecting those manufacturing spaces.

Overall, Espinal said a lot of progress has been made on refining the plan, such as the administration’s commitments to open a Workforce1 center in the district, which would help connect residents to jobs. The city also committed to add at least 1,000 school seats in the district and to improve parks and other infrastructure.

Additionally, Espinal praised the administration’s pledge to ensure half of the projected 6,500 apartments generated by allowing larger buildings would be set aside as affordable housing. An agreement has already been made to build 1,200 units of affordable housing on the city-owned Dinsmore-Chestnut site, according to Espinal.

Currently, the city plans to reserve those units for families earning between 30 percent and 60 percent of the area median income, a measure of metro-area earnings set by the federal government. Espinal said his constituents feel affordable homes should target those on the lower end of that AMI scale and have also expressed concerns about the need for long-term infrastructure investments to serve the growing population.

“A lot of progress has been made from the start of the planning process, but we’re not quite there yet,” he said. “As of tomorrow’s vote by the City Planning Commission, it’s finally time for us, the Council, to weigh in and me, as the local Council member of the district, to start making sure the goals we’re trying to accomplish as a community are met by the time we vote.”

City Councilwoman Inez Barron represents another part of the East New York area up for rezoning, but she could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sarina Trangle