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.
“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.