Under the Bloomberg administration, almost 40% of the city was rezoned. Opportunities for high density growth were created nearby subway stations, while low-density neighborhoods were largely preserved.
Bloomberg’s administration and his use of zoning as a tool is reminiscent of Robert Moses and his city planning style in that they were both a bit authoritarian. Bloomberg’s rezonings were all about transforming the city into high-end commercial and residential districts.
College educated and whites moved into neighborhoods like Harlem, which had only been occupied by minorities and lower-income peoples before. Though rezoning encouraged the addition of affordable units, the poor were pushed out as housing prices only rose. Developments in the Melrose neighborhood of the Bronx drew in enough residents that the net effect was a 20% drop in poverty rates. At the same time, however, poverty rates skyrocketed in nearby areas. Hunters Point in Long Island City was also rezoned to now include a high-rise skyline with luxury medium-rise buildings surrounding it. Though the population there has increased by 2000, 600 poor people have had to leave.
During the time of the recession from 2007 to 2011, the country’s median renter income fell by 6.8%, yet NYC’s median increased by 8.5%. The city was quite literally split into two, with the haves driving the have-nots out of the very homes and neighborhoods that they had been living in for years. Neighborhoods like Greenpoint and Williamsburg have been turned into havens for retail malls and condos, all the while displacing many of its working residents.
Moreover, the number of manufacturing jobs have been halved between 2001 and 2011. A a 2005 study found that though the rezoning policies were successful in assimilating industrial ghost towns, this redevelopment of these manufacturing areas was putting at risk the loss of “viable industrial employers.” These jobs aren’t necessarily replaceable with those in other industries, either. Manufacturing jobs provide opportunities to learn the skills one needs for advancement than many of the other entry-level jobs; this is especially true for those who don’t have a college degree or speak English. They were the ones that paid better, too: the average annual salary for a worker in manufacturing in NYC is around $52,000 as opposed to $36,000 for retail and $25,000 for food service (Rosenberg 2014).
Also, the city keeps having fiscal crises because it is so reliant on the financial industry, which is a pretty unstable industry. Instead of diversifying the city’s economy enough to protect it, Bloomberg has made it worse. He built a place where only companies that are very profitable—namely finance—can buy into the city.
All in all, Bloomberg’s rezoning of NYC sets it up for gentrification to take place. Though he tried to introduce voluntary inclusionary zoning, it was ineffective for the most part, resulting in only a few units of affordable housing. Ultimately, manufacturing and affordable housing were pushed out in favor of high-end residential and commercial space.
Brash, J (2008) The Bloomberg way. http://vanishingnewyork.blogspot.com/2008/10/bloomberg-way.html (last accessed 31 March 2017)
Fessenden, F (n.d.) The Bloomberg years: reshaping New York. http://www.nytimes.com/newsgraphics/2013/08/18/reshaping-new-york/ (last accessed 31 March 2017)
Rosenberg, E (2014) How NYC’s decade of rezoning changed the city of industry. http://ny.curbed.com/2014/1/16/10154488/how-nycs-decade-of-rezoning-changed-the-city-of-industry (last accessed 31 March 2017)