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City Planning approves Soho/Noho rezoning with only minor changes

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Rubberstamped!

After making what opponents call only some minor tweaks to the sweeping plan, the City Planning Commission on Wednesday approved Mayor de Blasio’s contentious rezoning for Soho, Noho and Chinatown.

The de Blasio admnistration is hell-bent on ramming through the rezoning in the mayor’s waning time in office, now down to just slightly more than two months.

Opponents, ranging from longtime area residents and Community Board 2 to preservation and tenants groups, say some last-minute changes the commission made to the scheme — including bumping down the allowable size for commercial buildings a bit — are “not substantive.”

The Planning Commission’s approval is the third stage in the public review for the plan, known as ULURP. Previously, C.B. 2 nearly unanimously recommended to reject the rezoning, and so did Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. However, the positions by the community board and the B.P. are not binding but merely recommendations. The Planning Commissions’s vote is binding.

Next, the rezoning moves on to the full City Council, which will also cast a binding vote, after which the mayor will weigh in. Councilmembers Margaret Chin and Carlina Rivera and, obviously, de Blasio all back the developer-driven rezoning.

Andrew Berman, executive director of Village Preservation, said City Planning’s approval of the rezoning didn’t come as a surprise.

“It’s shameful but not surprising that the City Planning Commission, controlled by the mayor, would approve this disastrous plan that will deliver on none of its false affordable housing promises,” he said. “What it will do is threaten hundreds of units of rent-regulated affordable housing in these neighborhoods, driving out the considerable number of older, lower-income, longtime residents.

The intersection of Baxter and Canal Sts. as it appears today.

“It will push out the struggling smaller independent and arts-related businesses of the neighborhood, while rewarding the mayor’s developer-donor friends with a massive giveaway of the city’s real estate and an almost unimaginable windfall. It will target Chinatown for the largest upzonings, oversized development and displacement, and introduce a flood of oversized luxury condos, big-box chain stores, corporate office towers and high-end hotels to all three neighborhoods.

“It will make these neighborhoods richer and more expensive, and less diverse and less equitable, in spite of the mayor’s dishonest posturing to the contrary,” Berman charged. “It’s now up to the City Council to do the right thing and say no to this wrongheaded, destructive plan.”

Village Preservation released an analysis showing how what it called the “incredibly minor changes” made by City Planning to the plan won’t change the fact that the rezoning “disincentivizes” the inclusion of affordable housing in new developments by providing huge loopholes and more profitable alternatives for developers, and thus is likely to result in little or no affordable housing creation.

“To call these changes ‘window dressing’ is an insult to window dressing,” Berman said. “They will do absolutely nothing to change the basic structure of the rezoning plan, which offers huge gifts to developers in the form of a vast menu of highly profitable options for getting around the supposed affordable housing ‘requirements.’ The only thing ‘affordable’ about this plan is how cheaply the mayor’s donor friends got one of the biggest real estate giveaways in history.”

Christopher Marte, the Democratic nominee for City Council District 1, which includes Soho, Noho, Chinatown and the Lower East Side, blasted what he called de Blasio’s “displacement agenda.”

“The Department of City Planning is failing its contractual duty to listen to and represent the diverse communities of Lower Manhattan,” Marte said. “Instead, they are siding with the real estate industry to continue de Blasio’s displacement agenda. No part of this community-engagement process has been genuine or in good faith and leaves a lot of questions unanswered. It’s a shame that D.C.P. is voting for this major rezoning with three months left in this administration, which will have dire consequences for decades to come.”

Michael McKee, the treasurer of Tenants PAC, said the vehemently opposed rezoning puts low- and moderate-income tenants squarely in the crosshairs of “greedy developers” looking to cash in on the Downtown neighborhoods’ cachet.

“This plan is a classic example of the gap between what de Blasio says he is doing with neighborhood upzonings versus what actually results,” McKee said. “Not only will this plan not result in new affordable housing in Soho, Noho and Chinatown, it puts a tempting target on the backs of rent-protected tenants and their homes, inviting greedy developers to push them out and replace them with more lucrative uses. Tenants PAC calls on Gale Brewer, Margaret Chin, Carlina Rivera and Speaker Corey Johnson to reject this destructive plan.”

Other opponents of the plan include Met Council on Housing, the New York City Chapter of the Sierra Club, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Preservation League of New York State, among others.

The plan’s opponents warn that it would result in displacement of lower-income tenants — disproportionately seniors and Asian Americans — create little, if any, affordable housing, and allow for oversized big-box chain stores, high-end offices and hotels, luxury condos and rentals, and New York University dorm expansion in the neighborhood.

21 Comments

  1. LES3025 LES3025 October 20, 2021

    Good

    • Harriet Hirshorn Harriet Hirshorn October 21, 2021

      This is such a travesty. Chinatown isn’t even called Chinatown in this plan. It’s called Soho East. Disgusting.

  2. Dalcini Canella Dalcini Canella October 21, 2021

    The mayor of transaction strikes again and REBNY cancer takes another bite out of NY history. It would be one thing if the new development had some value other than that of inflated real estate.

    Oh and then there is all the affordable housing!!! 😜👿

  3. Linda Roche Linda Roche October 21, 2021

    City Planning is owned by de Blasio and the elected officials of the district. But this is happening all over the city. The South Street Seaport Howard Hughes megatower doesn’t even have a fully approved plan but is getting speedy approvals down the line to get it done before they leave office. It’s mindboggling and setting precedents that will have dire consequences throughout NYC. Whatever happened to elected officials serving their constituents?

    • LES3025 LES3025 October 21, 2021

      They are serving their constituents, who overwhelmingly support the plan and generally support building more housing. To be sure, Rivera and Chin aren’t supporting the NIMBY special interests who oppose the plan. But their constituency is much broader than that.

      • Carol from East 5th Street Carol from East 5th Street October 21, 2021

        You are clueless. They are serving the real estate industry and developers who line their pocket with monetary donations and that includes Chin and Rivera. You are most certainly in real estate and an arriviste who will probably be moving after a few years of living in the cool LES to the suburbs. Good riddance.

        • LES3025 LES3025 October 22, 2021

          You’re serving landlords who line their own pockets with the higher rents they can charge working people because people like you oppose building any more housing. See we can both play this game!

      • ms ms October 24, 2021

        To LES3025
        Check out constituent opinion:”Opinion: The mayor, the museum and Chu; Unseemly alliance threatens Chinatown community” 10/15/21 by Yolanda Zhang.

        Worth reminding what most of us all know – that countless landlords have wrecked existing affordable and rent-stabilized housing and the City has turned a blind eye. Landlords 1) hold apartments vacant sometimes for years in order to sell to developers 2) use apartments for Airbnb business 3) harass tenants, keeping building in deplorable conditions so tenants will be forced to leave. (The Marriott Moxy is just one example – housing lost for hotel development)

        The fake Trojan horse affordable housing in the SoHo rezoning is not only tax break time-limited but will allow teardown of existing housing. Moreover, the folks who will chiefly benefit from the fake affordable housing will be the young professionals in the area who may have “lower”-paying jobs — but have money from parents.

        And how “convenient” it will be for Alphabet, Google, Amazon, etc to have new high-rise housing in SoHo so their employees are just minutes away from the massive new commercial-office development in the West Village/Hudson Square area, etc. ..

        BTW, are you aware that neither the City nor the State made any effort to save affordable Mitchell-Lama housing in NYC? Thousands of affordable units lost..

        Hmmm….

      • ms ms October 24, 2021

        LES3025
        PS – Also as we all know, the City did nothing to protect low- and moderate-income neighborhoods throughout NYC, most notably Brooklyn, allowing massive gentrification/luxurification and push-out of longtime residents.

        And more displacement on the way.
        Per the Post:
        “One of the visionaries behind the High Line wants to bring more upscale attractions to NYC, this time in the form of a wellness theme park.
        Robert Hammond, the executive director and co-founder of the High Line… will lead the development of a $350 million New York location for European resort chain….The NYC development is still in its infancy but will need to somehow adapt the resort’s approximately 250,000-square-foot layout to a vertical format (current locations occupy as much as 20 acres, an impossibility in NYC)…”

        • LES3025 LES3025 October 24, 2021

          I read that opinion piece you mentioned. It was not very intellectually rigorous.

          I’m certainly not here to defend the city and state’s housing policies to date. Everyone knows that mandatory inclusionary zoning only works in high-income/value areas like SoHo, and not in places like East New York. The city’s own report on MIH says this, but they went and rezoned East New York anyway. I personally think we should promote development in the rich neighborhoods close to good transit and jobs, like SoHo.

          The thing you need to realize is that you can’t stop the high-income employees at Alphabet, Amazon, etc. from moving here. The options are to build more housing to accommodate them (and others), or let them come bid up the price of the existing housing and make it more expensive for everyone. The city and state have taken the latter approach for the past 60 years. You may think we have built housing because you see a few shiny new buildings, but the fact is housing development has lagged behind population growth in the city for decades. Most of the city’s housing stock was built from 1900-1960. It’s shameful.

          That is how displacement happens. There isn’t enough housing so the people with more money take whatever housing there is and the people with less money get pushed out. Gentrification in Brooklyn isn’t happening because of the new developments there. It’s happening because there isn’t enough housing in rich neighborhoods for all the people with money who want to live there, so those people go out to Bed-Stuy or Crown Heights and displace a person with less money. I want to solve that by building more housing in rich neighborhoods like SoHo and you seem to want to let it keep happening.

  4. Charabia Charabia October 21, 2021

    Don’t expect Carlina Rivera to do the right thing and support her constituents. She will bow to the Mayor as usual. Shame.

  5. Carol from East 5th Street Carol from East 5th Street October 21, 2021

    The mayor and his minions put on a good dog and pony show with all the public meetings and testimony. They were probably laughing behind our backs knowing full well they were going to go through with the plan anyway. After all, 6 out of 12 members of the City Planning Commission are picked by the mayor, as well as the chairperson, so do the math. And since we know where Carlina Rivera and Margaret Chin stand — it’s a done deal.

    So very sad. We are losing the NYC we we know and love.

    • Carl Rosenstein Carl Rosenstein October 23, 2021

      It was lost a long time ago .

  6. Mike Conway Mike Conway October 21, 2021

    As usual, de Blasio and the City Planning Commission are so far up the backside of the real estate industry, we can see only the tips of their shoes. Do I hear, “Wined, Dined and Pocket-lined?”

  7. Carol Yost Carol Yost October 21, 2021

    We should fight this every way we can. They’ll be coming for Chelsea next. That’s where I live. And the Village.

    • LES3025 LES3025 October 21, 2021

      In other words, you would prefer that the city rezoned and built housing in places that are not your backyard?

  8. Judy P. Judy P. October 21, 2021

    It’s shameful that these politicians in their final months in office are handing their last huge giveaway to the real estate industry at the expense of likely hundreds if not thousands of lost rent-stablized apartments with no guaranty of truly affordable housing. So much for “a tale of two cities” that de Blasio first ran on — he surely failed the neediest of this city time and again and built more housing for the wealthiest (many of whom don’t even live in this country). I am sickened by these actions by him and by the City Council.

    • LES3025 LES3025 October 22, 2021

      There aren’t thousands of rent-stabilized apartments in SoHo. Village Preservation says there are. If you think every rent-regulated apartment is going to be destroyed I don’t know what to tell you because there is no way that is going to happen. If you think twice as many rent-regulated apartments will be destroyed as even exist, you’re just delusional.

      • LES3025 LES3025 October 22, 2021

        Says there are 635*

        • Carol from East 5th Street Carol from East 5th Street October 23, 2021

          There are more than 1,350,000 rent-stabilized apartments in Manhattan. I would say a good number of them (as in thousands) are Downtown. As SoHo and NoHo go there go Greenwich Village and the East Village. This is just the beginning. It’s just a matter of time.

          Hopefully, before that unfolds, pro-developer, pro-real estate people like you have gone back to the suburbs where you belong.

          • LES3025 LES3025 October 24, 2021

            This was about the SoHo rezoning area. Even the fiercest opponents have identified only 635 rent-regulated apartments there. Which makes sense because much of the area is zoned industrial.

            I support strong tenant protections. But you have to build new housing too or you’re just going to distort the market and drive up the price for everyone who isn’t rent-regulated, which is more than half the NYC market.

            Your position seems to be that we can’t build any housing in any neighborhood that has any rent regulated apartments. Which means we can’t build more housing anywhere. It’s a deeply unserious position.

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