There’s a lot of history shared in this space each week, not because our heads are stuck in the past, but instead because what’s happened before continues to happen again and again. And again.
Our journey this week, however, is a short one — To just two years ago when our editorial team put together an investigative piece talking about zoning, from the perspective of Kingsbridge Heights.
For those wondering exactly where this neighborhood is, think more in the Webb Avenue area just south of the Jerome Park Reservoir, between West 195th and West 197th streets.
Within our March 2018 story, we reported that Community Board 8 had just recently renewed its focus on this part of Kingsbridge Heights, where it would solicit input from those who lived and worked there, hold meetings there, and then bring all of that to city planners, with the hope of taking a hard look at zoning in this part of the Bronx.
Sadly, we have to make a correction on that story. Because our words on paper were essentially the last ones publicly said about Kingsbridge Heights, and this specific effort to look at downzoning. No meetings were ever held in Kingsbridge Heights. No surveys or interviews with residents there were conducted that we are aware of. And all the zoning that was in place in 2018 in that neighborhood still exists today.
Granted, fighting a zoning plan developed before many of us were even born might be a lost cause. But that doesn’t mean the fight isn’t necessary.
Instead, time and again, neighbors — and then the community board — take a reactive approach to zoning. They wait until someone buys the property based on the zoning, and decides to take advantage of it, as they have the right to do.
Say what you will about as-of-right construction, but it is perfectly legal. And waiting until a landmark-style building is destroyed, or a park is about to be cast in deeper shadows, is far more hopeless than fighting for general downzoning in the first place.
Yes, New York City has a massive shortage of affordable homes. One way to help bring down prices is to create more “inventory” — that is, more available homes — for the market. If supply outpaces demand, then the cost of that supply is supposed to go down.
But how do we create that supply? The city developed a comprehensive planning map in 1961, and that’s been the lay of the land since, outside of myriad changes and updates and Band-Aids over the years.
We were excited in 2018 to hear interest in having a conversation about better zoning and better planning. We would be even more excited if that conversation actually got started.