Mayor’s Stand on Community Boards and Housing Should Apply to Streets Too

With community boards across the city voting against City Hall’s affordable housing initiative, Mayor de Blasio is taking a stand.

The role of community boards, de Blasio points out, is to offer opinions on city policy, not to dictate what the city does. Here’s the mayor as quoted by DNAinfo:

“They don’t have a perfect vantage point on their communities. No one has a perfect vantage point on the whole of a community, but they bring a lot of valuable insight,” de Blasio said.

“Community Boards are appointed to give input. They give input,” the mayor continued. “The folks that are elected by all the people, the council members and the mayor, have to make the final decision.”

The mayor was unfazed when asked about the rejections Monday, saying “there’s often a divergence between the community boards and the council and the mayor” that is “healthy” and “part of democracy.”

The mayor’s position, as well as his enlistment of allies like 32BJ and AARP, is a good sign for politically difficult reforms like the reduction of parking minimums for subsidized housing near transit.

Why stop at housing and zoning policy though? De Blasio’s message about the role of community boards also applies to streets and transportation, but his DOT has been extraordinarily timid when faced with a few stubborn community board members. The agency allows community boards near complete control over street design projects that are integral to the mayor’s Vision Zero initiative.

Case in point: Riverside Drive, where DOT preemptively excluded bike lanes from its road diet plan, then further watered down the project in the face of opposition from Manhattan Community Board 9. Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg has deferred to community board objections even when City Council members want a street to be redesigned.

If de Blasio can assert his authority on housing, his DOT can do the same when it comes to protecting people from traffic violence.

  • ZB

    Pretty sure it’s widely understood BDB only pays lip service to #VizionZero(TM). While a great marketing and political campaign, it’s not something he’s actually going to fight for. He’s more afraid of community boards and the NYPD than he is of his own constituents.

  • rao

    I know you are making a rhetorical point, but isn’t it obvious? The real estate industry is pushing hard for the housing plan, so he’s willing to piss off community boards for that. But bike lanes and pedestrian safety still have no powerful constituency and aren’t worth making enemies over.

  • qrt145

    But what about the All-Powerful Bike Lobby? 🙂

  • iSkyscraper

    It’s funny that this conspiracy theory won’t die. The real estate industry hates the housing plan because even 25% to 30% of permanent affordable housing is too bitter a pill for many finance spreadsheets. It will be an uphill climb just to get anything built under the plan.

    What is pushing hard for the plan is BDB’s desire to be re-elected. He has staked his mayoralty on getting more affordable housing built, and if he doesn’t he is in trouble. It’s just simple politics.

  • rao

    What conspiracy theory? Are you denying that real estate is a powerful force in this town (and every other town)? That’s been pretty well established by at least 40 years of academic research. While I’m sure they aren’t thrilled about having to build affordable housing–which, by the way, won’t do any good even if it is built because of the perverse incentives built into this plan–they have got to be happy about the upzoning that goes along with it, which is what the community boards are squawking about.

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