Leave Zoning Where it Belongs: In the Hands of the Community

Homebuyers in Yonkers have a myriad of choices to meet their preferences and budgets. There are single, two, and multi-family homes. Low, medium, and high-density cooperative or condo buildings are also available. Each neighborhood possesses a distinctive character and personality. Predominantly, this is by design. Yonkers has established a comprehensive zoning code that allows builders to know what they can construct in any neighborhood. It also gives homebuyers the peace of mind, that the character of their neighborhood will be stable.

For instance, districts classified as “S-100” have a minimum lot area of 10,000 square feet and can have a single-family home, but not a multifamily home. A district classified as “T” can have a two-family home with a minimum lot size of 5,000 square feet. A home will likely be your family’s most significant investment.

In Albany, there are a number of proposed legislative measures aimed at removing local government authority over zoning. While they are not yet law, the state legislative houses and Governor Hochul agree with their passage.

State Senator Brad Hoylman, representing Greenwich Village is sponsoring Senate Bill S7574. This bill will limit the local zoning authority of municipalities.

* It will prevent cities from banning four-family homes.

* Prevent cities from establishing on street parking requirements tied to building permits.

* Prevent cities from banning six-family homes within a quarter mile of a train station.

* Prevent cities from establishing lot size requirements greater than 1,200 square feet. A 50 by 50 lot is 2,500 square feet. A 30 by 40 lot is 1,200 square feet. In Yonkers, the smallest single-family lot is 5,000 square feet.

Essentially, developers can buy up single-family homes, raise them and start building multifamily townhomes, irrespective of sufficient street parking or utility infrastructure. We all remember how the lack of sufficient infrastructure impacted Yonkers during superstorm Ida.

Senate Bill S4747A is sponsored by Westchester’s own State Senator Pete Harckham, it allows accessory dwellings to be rented as main residences. It legalizes basement apartments and garage conversions without regard to local zoning. It also creates a mechanism to allow homeowners to take out low-cost loans, if they want to create an accessory dwelling, garage conversion, or basement apartment for the purpose of supplying affordable housing.

Senate Bill S7635 is sponsored by State Senator Rachel May. This bill creates a New York State Zoning board of appeals for low-income housing projects. If the local board denies a low-income housing project, it can be appealed to the state board. This bill takes zoning control out of the hands of local government.

The Board of Trustees for Saint Vladimir’s Seminary recently announced that it is relocating the Crestwood Seminary. Should these bills become law and the Seminary sells, Yonkers will not have the authority to control its land use when it comes to low and affordable housing on the site.

Governor Hochul has endorsed legalizing basement apartments and converting accessory dwellings into main residences as a way of supplying additional affordable income housing. The governor is modeling her changes after Massachusetts’ recently adopted economic bill.

Hochul’s proposal may require municipalities to rezone areas within 1⁄2 a mile of a train station to multifamily zoning, as the Massachusetts bill does. It establishes a minimum gross density of 15 units per acre.

If these bills become law, the character and personality of Yonkers’ communities will be destroyed. Yonkers’ streets are not equipped to accommodate the increased density. Parking is tight and fire trucks already have difficulties maneuvering in many neighborhoods. An increase in density also means putting additional stresses on our already burgeoning school system. Property values will go down, while taxes will go up.

I urge the Yonkers City Council to adopt a resolution condemning these bills. During last years’ affordable housing debates the Council’s Real Estate Chair suggested that changes in Yonkers’ zoning laws could be an “out of the box” means for creating more affordable housing. Our recently elected Council President proposed an amnesty program for illegal basement apartments. These concepts are wrong-headed. It is time for the council to side with homeowners.

Email your state representatives and tell them to leave zoning in the hands of local communities, where it belongs:

Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins – [email protected]

Senator Shelley Mayer – [email protected]

Assemblyman Nader Sayegh – [email protected]

Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow = [email protected]

Senator Pete Harckham – [email protected]

Senator Brad Hoylman – [email protected]

Senator Rachel May – [email protected]

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Ron Matten was raised and resides in Yonkers. He engaged in a recent effort vying for Yonkers City Council President.

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