GL Analysis: The City Needs a "Moratorium" Law to Put an End to "Beat the Downzone"
Yesterday's rally to call for a downzoning of Carroll Gardens was an uplifting thing. There has been little doubt that the neighborhood would be rezoned at some point. Yet, the key issue remains the point at which it will happen. Getting the zoning changes enacted will take time, and a game of what we call "Beat the Downzone" is likely to ensue among developers intent on taking advantage of the old zoning. In this sense, it is imperative that local representatives and citizen groups work behind the scenes to try to speed up the timetable.
There are limits imposed on what is possible by the city's land use process and timetables that must be followed. Studies must be conducted. Public sessions must be held and votes must be taken. This will all take time. It is why everyone needs to work to find a mechanism that would allow for big zoning-busting developments to be stopped while the downzoning process goes on. Currently, even if a moratorium could be enacted, it would have to follow a similar process to zoning and would, in and of itself, take 12-24 months.That's why there needs to be a legal mechanism that will stop the clock at the beginning of a zoning study--a legal "moratorium" mechanism, if you will.
This is not just an issue for Carroll Gardens. It is one of the most critical land use issues in all of New York City. In this sense, City Council Member Bill de Blasio or any other leader who can develop a workable, effective solution and get it through the City Council would be making a critical contribution to every neighborhood in New York City that is under development pressure and awaiting a downzoning that will take two years to happen. Without it, developers will rush to complete buildings, working around-the-clock and violating city laws with impunity to make it happen. Yesterday, we ran an item about an ongoing Beat the Downzone Match on Grand Street in Williamsburg in advance of a rezoning that would chop a planned 14-story building to five. Ironically, these are the worst developments in the city in terms of adding insult to injury by assaulting neighborhood quality of life with work at all hours. With an interim moratorium, neighborhoods would be protected. Rallies are uplifting and great for community spirit, but someone needs to take the lead and make sure a measure is enacted. Who ever does so would earn a great deal of political capital in neighborhoods where it will make a positive difference.