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Council District 1 ‘Dream Team’ to call for kibosh on Soho/Noho rezoning

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Like a Marvel Avengers version of District 1 politics, Lower Manhattan councilmembers past and likely future will unite — standing together, shoulder to shoulder — against the mayor’s Soho/Noho rezoning plan.

On Mon., Aug. 23, starting at 6 p.m., Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will be holding her virtual public hearing on the rezoning proposal. Following that, she will issue her advisory recommendation on or before Aug. 26.

Earlier on Aug. 23, at noon, the odds-on favorite to be the next District 1 councilmember, Christopher Marte, and two former councilmembers, Alan Gerson and Kathryn Freed, will gather for a press conference outside the borough president’s offices at the Municipal Building, at 1 Centre St., just north of Chambers St.

The three will urge Brewer to reject the plan. Community Board 2 has already gone on record overwhelmingly opposing the scheme.

The proposal would upzone the area to allow high-rise luxury residential development, hotels, New York University dorms and big-box stores of unlimited size.

Although the de Blasio administration has touted the rezoning as a way to increase affordable housing in Soho and Noho, opponents charge the plan is riddled with loopholes that would allow developers to skirt building any affordable units at all.

For the past 12 years, Margaret Chin has represented Council District 1, which includes Soho, Noho and Chinatown, which are all within the proposed rezoning area. Unlike Marte, Gerson and Freed, Chin — who will be term-limited out of office at the end of this year — supports the rezoning.

Marte won the Democratic primary election in June, and so is heavily favored to win the November general election in the solidly blue district.

Gerson represented District 1 from 2002 to 2009. He was preceded by Freed, who was the district’s councilmember from 1992 to 2002.

Mayor de Blasio, now in the waning days of his final term, is trying to ram through the rezoning for the world-renowned, landmarked Downtown enclave, which has long been eagerly coveted by market-rate developers looking to cash in on its cool cachet. If approved, it would be the first upzoning ever allowed in a New York City designated historic district — whose buildings are all landmarked — which would set a dangerous precedent, the opponents warn.

Responding to the opponents’ incessant and rigorously researched critiques of the plan, Councilmembers Chin and Carlina Rivera, who represents District 2, recently declared that the Department of City Planning must guarantee that the rezoning would actually create affordable housing, plus preserve existing affordable housing.

But the opponents say the two councilmembers’ 11th-hour alarm is too little and way too late and shows just how rushed and ill-considered the current process is. They say the slapdash rezoning is deeply flawed and should be scrapped and left to the new City Council, which will include Marte, to reconsider in a more rational manner.

The opponents — including Village Preservation, which has done much of the research — charge that, as currently planned, the rezoning would spark widespread demolition and actually displacement of low-income residents, especially in the Chinatown part of the rezoning area.

3 Comments

  1. Harry Pincus Harry Pincus August 20, 2021

    I have spoken about my own difficulties, as the last certified Artist in a JLWQA building, and my two lawsuits. But I would like anyone who supports the Soho rezoning to take a moment to envision what “Soho” would look like when the last intact blocks of nineteenth-century buildings that are the legacy of immigrant bricklayers and carpenters are broken, and replaced with huge, discordant shards of glass, inserted on behalf of uber-wealthy speculators who probably won’t even live here. Their pied-a-terre, their foot on the ground, will be a foot on the throat of our history. While every European city preserves their old quarters, for tourism, if nothing else, New York City will have destroyed ours.

    And does anyone really believe that working-class people, or people of color, will be subsidized, in any significant number by the grand developers? There will be no meaningful diversity, just a token of their appreciation, a trickle allowed in to justify the final ruination of the forgotten old factory district that we painted, and scraped and lovingly restored so many years ago.

    I beseech you, Gale Brewer, to put a stop this travesty!

  2. Ronnie Ronnie August 21, 2021

    Thank you, Harry. Is it really the residents or could it be the administration and Dept. of City Planning who are engaged in, as Sylvia Li stated, “magical thinking”?

  3. JackDog JackDog August 21, 2021

    Rivera supports affordable housing? The NYCHA housing along the East River is affordable housing. Yet Rivera has cast the most important vote in the City Council to facilitate the developers’ predatory invasion. First destroy the park to rebuild a park. Make life miserable for the present beneficiaries of “affordable housing.” Encourage the residents to vacate. Warehouse the NYCHA buildings and privatize them to finance the inevitable cost overruns in the boondoggle.

    Rivera — whose story was fashioned on being the single-mother family product of low-income housing — has turned with a vengeance on the people she is supposed to represent. Marrying into a white family from an affluent suburb that yachts on the weekend shows where she now resides. Oh and didn’t she just relocate from the LES to Murray Hill? The northern part of the district. Perhaps she no longer feels “at home” in the LES.

    Rivera rode in on de Blasio’s tale of two cities. It’s lamentably clear which side of the tracks both she and the outgoing mayor reside on.

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