Following an impassioned exchange from residents and a minority report presentation from the CB5 Land Use Committee, the board voted in favor of the required variance proposal.
With hopes that the vote would provide developers the approval to move ahead with their 138-unit, $18 million plans, Starr Street resident Dan Russo said the new commercial and residential mixed-use space would ultimately change the community for the better.
“If this doesn’t go through, that means it’s going to go back to the trucks with the exhaust, and the condoms in the mornings from the prostitution,” Russo said. “I really just wish it would go through, just for the neighborhood, for the kids.”
CB5 Land Use Committee chair Walter Sanchez said there was “overwhelming support” from the neighbors for the project at their last committee meeting, and suggested the board move to do the same.
With the proposed community space and commercial components, Sanchez added that the committee nearly voted unanimously in favor of the proposal.
Land-use committee members Paul Kerzner and Theodore Renz, also members of the Ridgewood Local Development Corporation, were the sole votes against the rezoning that would eliminate manufacturing space for rental apartments, and presented an alternative plan that would incorporate the two.
In an effort to keep manufacturing on site, Kerzner and Renz proposed a Special Mixed Use District (MX) designation, a plan that would require the developers to sell their apartment spaces and keep two floors for a manufacturer who they said has already agreed to move a portion of their business to the site.
“We all have to agree that nobody likes what’s happening there now,” Kerzner said. “By doing so we will be bringing back to this location 250 jobs, where right now that spot is maybe providing two jobs.”
Councilman Antonio Reynoso said the average median annual income in his district of Ridgewood is nearly $41,000 (50 percent of the average median income (AMI), and that the average rent for a two-bedroom should be no more than $1,025 per month.
However, studio apartments are currently listed from $1,000 to $1,200 per month, one-bedrooms at $1,400 to $1,800 and two-bedroom apartments at $2,000 per month.
“For the families that are in need of housing, the AMI is not necessarily met by this project,” Reynoso said. “So even though we might not need extremely affordable housing, we can talk about moderate and middle-income housing, or other AMI’s that might be appropriate.”
The newly elected councilman added that while work in the past has been mainly focused on creating an affordable living environment, he alluded to finding new ways of doing business when it comes to seeking housing agreements.
“This is going to be the first rezoning that happens under my watch - and not this project necessarily, but developments in the City of New York - we have been extremely narrow-minded and limited as to how we should be doing these projects so that we can maximize the benefit for the community,” Reynoso said. “That means many things, and not just affordable housing.”