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City hesitates…delays certifying Soho/Noho rezoning as opposition mounts

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Updated May 4, 3:15 p.m.: On Monday afternoon, amid snowballing opposition to the proposed Soho/Noho rezoning, the city balked on certifying the plan, which had been set to occur. No explanation was given why.

The move — or lack of a move — on the city’s part comes hot on the heels of a community lawsuit filed last Friday by the Soho Alliance and Broadway Residents Coalition, accusing the de Blasio administration of “abuse of power.” Specifically, the suit charges that the city failed to provide a required full project summary of the proposed rezoning to Community Board 2 four weeks prior to the certification, and also that ULURP meetings for the rezoning must be held in person, not virtually on Zoom.

The proposed rezoning would be the first of its kind in the city, in that it would upzone a landmarked historic district.

Certification of the rezoning would have kicked off a seventh-month-long ULURP, the city’s land-use review process, for the plan. A new date for the certification has not been made public.

However, Andrew Berman, executive director of Village Preservation, which has been one of the fiercest critics of the rezoning for the famed landmarked district, said the clock is now winding down on the mayor’s effort to push through the plan before de Blasio and much of the current City Council are term-limited out of office at the end of the year.

“They clearly have a limited time frame,” Berman told The Village Sun. “There are at most one, possibly two meetings in which they could certify the plan and have time to vote on it before the end of the year. It’s not like the plan dies by the end of the year, but it would be different people. They obviously want the people there now to do it.”

The Department of City Planning for the past month had on its agenda to certify the ULURP for the rezoning of Soho and Noho on Monday. At the public hearing, however, City Planning announced it was not certifying the ULURP, without giving a reason.

Last Friday the lawsuit plaintiffs asked the court to stop the certification vote. On Monday, the matter came before State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron. He denied the petitioners’ request to stop the certification, saying there was no immediate harm posed. In other words, there was no certification to stop.

City Planning will reportedly have its next public hearing on May 17. It is unknown if the certification will be on the table that day.

Regarding having “different people” in office, one leading mayoral candidate, Andrew Yang, recently came out in favor of the rezoning, remarking that no affordable housing has been built in the landmarked enclave. But Berman noted that the rezoning would surely displace many of the existing low- and moderate-income residents in more than 600 rent-regulated units, including many Asian Americans living in the rezoning area’s southeastern corner, basically Chinatown, where the most projected development would occur.

“These are many of the people who turned out at the hearings on the rezoning,” he noted.

A study by Village Preservation shows how de Blasio’s rezoning plan would potentially destroy existing affordable housing in Soho and Noho while actually making housing there more expensive and less socioeconomically and racially diverse.

Village Preservation has also put forward an alternative community rezoning for Soho and Noho that calls for deeper affordability than the city’s proposal, but which would not upzone the areas the way the city’s plan would. Berman said he hopes Yang considers their alternative plan.

In addition to the community lawsuit, the respected Municipal Art Society — the group that famously fought with Jackie Onassis to save Grand Central Terminal from the wrecking ball — recently released a highly critical report of the rezoning, urging the city to slow down its mad dash to ram the scheme through to approval before the mayor leaves office. The rezoning proposal over all “lacks clarity” and would likely result in unforeseen consequences, including development on sites not foreseen by the city, M.A.S. warned.

In addition, two of the city’s oldest and largest tenant groups, Tenants Political Action Committee and Met Council Action, on Monday came out with a devastating op-ed in the Daily News calling the Soho/Nobo plan “A rezoning wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

The column notes that the rezoning would incentivize developers to demolish rent-regulated units in Soho since it would allow them to build taller than they could now. Also under the plan, the column notes, developers could build 25-unit buildings or rooftop additions of the same size without including any affordable units.

“From Soho to Gowanus, from Crown Heights to West Harlem, de Blasio is trying to push through a few last rezonings before he leaves office,” Esteban Giron and Tiffany Ann Kahn write in the op-ed. “The result: more market-rate housing, more money in the pockets of developers, and scraps of ‘affordable’ housing for working Black and Brown New Yorkers.

“In sum, the Soho/Noho plan is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” the op-ed accuses. “We call on City Councilmembers Margaret Chin and Carlina Rivera, as well as Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, to stop this and similarly disastrous rezoning plans.”

In recent weeks, other influential groups have also come out against the rezoning, including  the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Preservation League of New York State.

Asked if it looks like the city is now faltering in its push for the rezoning, Village Preservation’s Berman said, “I don’t know. All I know is they blinked. They didn’t certify — and clearly opposition is growing.”

6 Comments

  1. lilycarver lilycarver May 3, 2021

    I hope this is true but FYI you fail to note that lawsuit filed Friday was DISMISSED by the judge or to be precise he ruled there was no need for an immediate ruling and did not think it would succeed. I am not convinced the city will not try to proceed

    • RM RM May 4, 2021

      Don’t repeat what the real estate TWEET BULLIES want you to say.
      There was NO DISMISSAL OF THE LAWSUIT!
      The City “balked at certification” so the judge ruled “No immediate harm” and no need for a TRO at this point.
      La lotta continua.

  2. JQ LLC JQ LLC May 3, 2021

    Well, just maybe the reason The Blaz decided to suspend this corrupted process is because Mario’s Son Governor Cuomo decided to end all pandemic protocols and allow restaurants and venues to allow full capacity again. Include de Blasio’s self-sabotaging decision to bring all municipal employees back to City Hall and government offices assures there is absolutely no justification to weaponize Zoom and social distancing to keep out community activists.

    Like to see those fiends at Open New York show up at a town hall with residents who are fighting these fallacious luxury public housing plans and call them NIMBY’s to their faces.

  3. Gojira Gojira May 4, 2021

    Andrew Yang is totally clueless and should immediately go back to his swank upstate house and leave the city alone – he would be an absolute disaster as mayor. The last thing we need here is the human equivalent of a My Little Pony in City Hall.

    • JQ LLC JQ LLC May 5, 2021

      Yang is only going to be a continuation of de Blasio’s and Bloomberg’s inequitable, segregation-based and gentrification-exacerbating housing policies. It makes sense that he wants a bureaucrat like Garcia from de Blasio’s administration to do his job for him.

  4. Johnny Dalton Johnny Dalton May 4, 2021

    The Village Sun should get its facts correct.

    The so-called Tenants Political Action Committee (TenantsPac) is not a “tenant group,” rather a creation of Mike McKee, who has a dubious reputation in the tenant community. TenantsPac is supporting at least one candidate who is also strongly supported by Open New York, the outside group of real estate shills pushing the Soho rezoning. They also support Erik Bottcher, who, like his boss Corey Johnson, is more supportive of real estate than West Side neighborhoods’ sustainability.

    Met Council is a tenant group and has a very good past, but these days it seems to often forget who they are supposed to protect. Met Council is (or was) a member of the Campaign for Inclusionary Zoning, which any tenant knows is de Blasio’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing resulting in many luxury towers, fake affordable housing and displaced tenants and small business. (Bloomberg had a similar, but voluntary, program).

    So what side are these groups really on? Why did they decide to chime in now? They have both sold out many times.

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