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No $3,000-a-Month ‘Affordable’ Apartments for Staten Island, Lawmaker Vows

The city is planning to rezone a stretch of Bay Street in Staten Island near the St. George Ferry Terminal.
The city is planning to rezone a stretch of Bay Street in Staten Island near the St. George Ferry Terminal. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

A bid to build $3,000-a month “affordable” apartments in Staten Island as part of a City Hall rezoning proposal is dead on arrival, says the North Shore’s City Council member.

The Council will hold a hearing Tuesday in preparation for an upcoming make-or-break vote on the long-in-the-works overhaul of the Bay Street area.

But Councilmember Debi Rose told THE CITY she’ll refuse to approve any plan that counts high-rent apartments — dubbed “workforce housing” by city planners — toward Mayor de Blasio’s goal of building or preserving 300,000 affordable units.

“The workforce option is not an option I’m considering,” said Rose, a Democrat representing the North Shore.

She said that families who earn enough to qualify for the high-rent apartments are well served in the open market.

Under City Council convention, all members usually vote in solidarity with a project’s local representative. That means that City Hall must either remove the workforce option, while requiring developers to provide affordable housing for lower-income tenants — or brace for defeat.

Staten Island Councilmember Debi Rose
Staten Island Councilmember Debi Rose Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Rose’s stand strikes a blow at Borough President Jimmy Oddo, who prevailed on the City Planning Commission to allow developers to fulfill affordable housing mandates by renting to households earning as much as $127,000 a year for a family of three.

“Are they going to install signs that say ‘No working-class people need apply?’” Oddo asked. “I can’t believe I live in a world that people striving to get to the middle class are demonized. What world do we live in that we’re saying to one specific group of folks: ‘You’re not welcome.’ How do they not choke on their own hypocrisy?”

The City Planning Commission decided to retain the high-rent option when it approved the Bay Street rezoning last month by an 8 to 3 vote.

The Bay Street corridor — a stretch of 14 blocks in Tompkinsville and Stapleton on the North Shore — is among a half dozen areas de Blasio selected nearly five years ago as engines of his affordable housing plan.

The Department of City Planning projects 1,800 apartments, housing some 6,500 people, will emerge from the revamp of Bay Street, a quiet commercial strip. Up to 30% of new residential space would be set aside for households whose incomes qualify.

Affordable housing advocates were relieved to learn of Rose’s decision.

“Folks are saying that the workforce option is not something that they’ll be able to afford,” said Ivan Garcia, a Staten Island-based organizer with the Housing Dignity Coalition. “So it’s actually something that we’re very happy to hear.”

Rec Center Rebuilding Dreams

Rose, meanwhile, has secured a pledge for $31 million for public space improvements at the Tompkinsville train station as part of her zoning negotiations with the city. But she’s struggled to gain funding to rebuild the George Cromwell Recreation Center, which was demolished in 2013 after a section collapsed.

She blames the impasse on City Hall, which was without a deputy mayor for housing for two months before Vicki Been arrived this week.

A City Hall spokesperson said to stay tuned.

“The Bay Street Corridor Neighborhood Plan will bring greater affordability and economic opportunity to Staten Island,” the spokesperson, Jane Meyer, said in a statement. “Throughout this process, City Planning and City Hall staff have held many meetings with the Councilmember and local stakeholders, at which we have discussed their requests for the area at length. We look forward to continued dialogue with them and the community.”

Rose said dialogue is not enough. “I am a little annoyed with the administration that at this point in our conversations that we have not reached any definite takeaways or deliverables,” she said. “We are still talking.”

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