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Nonprofits behind Soho/Noho rezoning are packed with power players

BY GERARD FLYNN | While the massive zoning recently announced for 56 blocks in thhistoric neighborhoods of Soho and  Noho by Mayor de Blasio now calls for unprecedented development, the origins of the proposal date back to community concerns of a very different kind 

Under the plan, which the mayor surprisingly announced last fall, restrictions in the existing zoning on the size of ground-floor retail would be removed and an upzoning would be allowed under the mayor’s 2016 Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, which trades increased density for 25 percent affordable housing. All of this is according to the mayor and his supporters in the name of equitable development, a term of the trade often bandied about by affordable-housing developers.  

But residents of the neighborhood recently told The Village Sun the possibility of behemoth buildings rivaling those on Billionaires Row uptown was not their intention when they reached out to the offices of Councilmember Margaret Chin and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in 2015.  

They were simply asking for enforcement of the law curbing the influx of big-box stores spreading throughout the neighborhoods, which traditionally served industrial uses, but were rezoned M1-5A and M1-5B zoning districts in 1971 to allow for artists to live and work there under the Joint Live Work Quarters for Artists or JLWQA, which has since brought a flood of illegal conversions to luxury condos by occupants working in the financial sector.  

“We were more than tired,” said Pete Davies, of Broadway Residents Committee.It was making it such that we couldn’t sleep at night because of [all the overnight] deliveries.”

How it all began…

In response to residents’ complaints, both Chin and Brewer sent a letter in September 2015 to then-City Planning Chairperson Carl Weisbrod, bringing to his attention the “flood of special permits and variances” being processed by his agency, which, as they put it, added up to a “de facto rezoning” but with “limited public benefit.”  

The letter called for a new framework for Soho and Noho, aiming to strengthen small-scale retail character, promote a diversity of uses and a diverse employment base, and encourage the development and preservation of affordable housing” — but it did not push for affordable housing in the disruptive way now proposed, which the mayor hopes to add to his legacy before he leaves office early next year. 

six-month long community engagement series launched in January 2019, the Envision Soho/Noho process brought together property owners, residents, artists, politicians and members of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), the most powerful real estate lobby in the state, to discuss the neighborhoods’ future. 

Mayor waffles…then plows ahead

However, in January of last year, speaking on “The Brian Lehrer Show,” the mayor said he had decided he would not push for new housing in Soho and NohoHis change of heart, then, nearly nine months later has prompted a lot of speculation. 

Davies told The Village Sun that what the mayor is now determined to ram through is in stark contrast to what was discussed and agreed to” during the Envision discussions. 

Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, attended most of the 30-plus meetings, at which, he said, real estate lawyers were also pushing for a residential rezoning shift — on behalf of wealthy clients. These affluent residents, perhaps hundreds or more, had paid perhaps millions for artist lofts, even though, legally, they did not have a right to live in them since they were not certified artists. Sweeney said he is also surprised by the mayor’s shift.  

“I swear to you, no one ever talked about an upzoning, even REBNY,” he said. “The only thing REBNY wanted was unlimited square footage for retail. So where this came from was de Blasio, and de Blasio is as crooked as a witch’s nose. We don’t know who got to de Blasio.”

Open New York behind the scenes

Davies said that he wonders if Open New York, a pro-development group, had something to do with the mayor’s shift in thinking, given that, around the time the envisioning meetings were concluding, the group was calling online for the city to construct 3,400 new residential units, with 700 set aside as below market rate, social justice figuring importantly in their concerns. Those figures are close to what the plan would later propose, which is 3,200 new apartments with up to 800 of them set aside for affordable housing.  

Sweeney suspects “shills like Jessica Katz” may have gotten to the mayor. He pointed to an editorial in City Limits magazine in September 2020, an op-ed that he suspects  helped shaped the mayor’s shift. 

“The Window is Closing to Rezone for a More Equitable Soho” was written by Katz, executive director of the well-connected Citizens Housing and Planning Council. It reads like a plea for racial and economic justice in super-white and wealthy Soho and Noho, leading Davies to ponder how adding thousands of new luxury units will make thosneighborhoods that much more diverse. 

Nonprofit group’s oversize influence 

A nonprofit dating back to 1937, CHPC’s donors make up a who’s who of bankers, developers and affordable housing groups. The nonprofit was run from 1958 to 1973 by Roger Starr, known for his neoconservative politics, and op-eds for the super-conservative Manhattan Institute, co-founded by William Casey, head of the C.I.A. under Ronald Reagan. A keen foe of Jane Jacobs, Starr once wrote in The New York Times, also a supporter of the upzoning, of almighty powerbroker and segregationist Robert Moses as “a great man.” 

Katz would not talk directly to The Village Sun, but in a prepared statement wrote, “Decades ago, Soho was a haven for low-income residents who formed a thriving creative community among its spacious lofts. Today, Soho is one of the most expensive districts in the nation, barred by exclusionary zoning that protects majority wealthy, white New Yorkers. Updating Soho/ Noho’s zoning is a critical step toward more equitable development for New York City.” 

CHPC’s involvement in the plan has prompted accusations that its strings are being pulled by its  donors, which include Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Described by The Real Deal as “pro-development,” CHPC has on its board Edison Properties. Edison Properties is not only a developer, but also owns two of the largest lots in Soho and Noho and reportedly was a major donor to the campaigns of Mayor de Blasio. Leading lobbying firm Capalino+Company is also represented on the board, joining REBNY and high-powered international law firm Fried Frank, which is on the board at Citizens Budget Committee, which is supporting Intro 2186. HR&A is also on the board at CHPC, and has none other than Carl Weisbrod, as a senior partner. Weisbrod stepped down as City Planning commissioner in 2017.  

Diversity argument 

New York Housing Conference, an affordable housing developer, connected by board members with CHPC, also came out in favor of the Soho/Noho zoning change last fall. Its executive director, Rachel Fee, told The Village Sun, the mayor’s plan will broaden racial diversity in the Downtown enclaves.

“Previous rezonings have been concentrated in low-income communities, predominantly communities of color, which has been reinforcing New York City’s segregation patterns,” she said. She added that the upzoning — which, if passed by the City Council, would increase floor-area ratios (F.A.R.) up to between 9.7 and 12.5 in certain areas — “has widespread support and…is one of the most effective tools at our disposal to create a more affordable, accessible and diverse city.” 

Under the current zoning, the existing maximum F.A.R. in most of Soho and Noho is 5.0 — or 6.5 with a community-facility use.

Open New York letter

Coincidentally, the same day the mayor made his  announcement on Oct. 7 that he was resurrecting the Soho/Noho rezoning process, CHPC joined NYHC and a host of other affordable housing groups as signatories to an open letter published online by none other than Open New York that called for “housing justice” in the rezoning of Soho Noho 

How the YIMBY (“yes in my backyard”) group managed to corral so many affordable housing organizations as signatories on the same day is not clear. But Open New York’s letter includes the Cooper Square Committee, which sits on the board of the Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development, which, by the way, sits on the board of CHPC. The letter was also signed by the Community Service Society of New York, run by David R. Jones, who sits on the board of City Limits, whose onetime parent company was ANHD.  

New York Housing Conference’s list of major funders includes Trinity Wall Street, which has an open lot in the zoning area and was formerly run by Carl Weisbrod. Major real estate developers, including Tishman Speyer, and banks are also donors to NYHC.  

Preservation group pans rezoning

Supporters of the mayor’s plan may see it as an engine of diversity, but a recent report by Village Preservation (Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation) predicted it would foster less economic and racial diversity. 

Andrew Berman, Village Preservation’s executive director, told The Village Sun that the rezoning would likely bring “waves of harassment” of low-income and minority residents who occupy rent-stabilized and Loft Law-era apartments, as landlords would be incentivized by the upzoning to build tall.   

As for promised affordable housing, Berman said there “is a very good chance, in at least 80 percent of those cases, if development takes place, it would be commercial development not residential development, and therefore there will be zero affordable housing on those sites.”

He said Jessica Katz was waging a campaign during the summer and height of the COVID-19 epidemic in favor of the rezoning, and “that was kind of seemingly the impetus or the fig leaf for the city doing it.”

Census data tell different story

However, an analysis of zoning census tracts for Soho and Noho by the Census Bureau revealed a neighborhood more nuanced in terms of economic diversity than the Citizens Housing Planning Council claimsA Census Bureau spokesperson told The Village Sun that while the blocks bounded by W. Fourth St., W. Houston St., La Guardia Place and Broadway had the highest median income, at roughly $130,000, for Census Tract 49, right below, the area median income was $85,000 in 2019. Census tract figures there also show that more than one-third of individual earners in 2019 took home an annual income of under $65,000 while one in five earned less than $50,000.  

City Hall and CHPC fire back

A few days after Village Preservation’s report was published, Katz and the Mayor’s Office, including his former planning czar Weisbrod, took to the pages of Crain’s to publicly pan the report.  

Katz told Crain’s, “The erroneous claims that the proposed Soho/Noho rezoning would make the neighborhood richer, whiter and more expensive are especially puzzling coming from the group that fought against the Elizabeth Street affordable housing project to create housing for low-income seniors.”

Weisbrod said that there was “no real current demand, especially in this neighborhood, for commercial office space. There may be in the future, but it’s not the case in the foreseeable future,” he maintained. However, this January, permits were filed for a 21-story mixed-use office tower at 358 Bowery in Noho in the proposed zoning area. 

In 2017 Weisbrod received a Roger Starr Public Service Award from CHPC, joining the ranks of other eminent figures in the world of real estate and politics, including the “perverted powerbroker” himself, former Assemblymember Vito Lopez, who would later step down amid a slew of allegations of sexual harassment 

Prof mocks Village Preservation report

Other opponents of Village Preservation’s report took to Twitter to trash its findings. In one tweet, David Schleicher, a Yale law professor, dismissed Berman’s report as “funny. 

In an e-mail exchange with The Village Sun, Schleicher wrote, “The implication of the argument of Part I of the GVHSP report would be that all new construction everywhere should be banned, and even that all sales of property should be banned. That’s how wild it is and why I thought it was funny!” 

Berman, however, replied that Schleicher “is living in some fantasy world where the people who are buying new condo construction in Soho and Noho aren’t extremely wealthy — and significantly more wealthy than current neighborhood residents over all.”  

Roderick Hills, a New York University law professor, also panned Village Preservation’s report. He told The Village Sun that the “overwhelming empirical evidence has established pretty much beyond doubt that new market-rate housing does not raise rents in the neighborhoods in which it is located.” 

New housing, Hills added, “is not the cause of rising rents but the effect of high demand. Excluding new housing,” he said, “just causes rents to rise all the faster, as more rich bidders bid up the prices for existing units in high-demand neighborhoods. Soho/Noho rents have skyrocketed precisely because supply has been so constrained.” 

‘Upzonings increase housing prices’

In response to Hills comments, Berman wrote, “This trickle-down, let-the-market-take-care-of-everything approach has been tried and failed many, many times. Every neighborhood in New York City that saw upzonings, which significantly increased the amount of new market-rate housing, also saw dramatic increases in housing prices — whether Williamsburg/Greenpoint, West Chelsea, Hudson Yards, Downtown Brooklyn or Long Island City. Tell that to the thousands of people whose homes were demolished or were displaced by rising rents in their neighborhoods.” 

‘An E.I.S. factory’

In some may see as another strange coincidence, responsibility for drafting the rezoning’s environmental impact statement, or E.I.S., rests with AKRF, which, as it turns out, is yet another board member of Citizens Housing and Planning Council.

Tom Angotti, a retired urban planner and professor at the CUNY Graduate Center, said in a conversation more than a year ago, “AKRF is an E.I.S. factory. The E.I.S. is always a charade. They churn them out like widgets. They religiously follow the guidelines set out by the city and will usually make projections they think will stand the smell test in the courts if they are ever challenged, and courts are quite reluctant to challenge such esteemed experts anyway.” 

The mayor’s plan has also drawn support from other power brokers in the New York City real estate market, including Scott Rechlerchairperson of the powerful Regional Plan Association, a co-signer of the Oct. 7 open letter from Open New York and C.E.O. and chairperson of RXR Realty.

RXR is also a supporter of City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s Intro 2186-2020 bill, which RXR said would not only “create a comprehensive plan” for the city but also “improve upon the existing ad hoc approach to planning and center racial equity in the City’s land use regulations and capital planning.” 

20 Comments

  1. Lawrence White Lawrence White April 9, 2021

    In my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes NYC ever made was not maintaining the integrity of the Soho Arts District. Almost every gallery, performance venue, or artist studio/building that was there when I arrived in the mid-’70s was driven out of existence by escalating rents and the crush of big money businesses for the uber-wealthy. I recall setting up my art display on the sidewalk curb outside of a new business at 420 West Broadway when the manager came out and asked where all the galleries had gone. The irony was as thick as oil-based paint. Even the street artists are gone now. It was like watching a child throw away a precious jewel to pick up a common stone. In spite of clearly making an errant turn, it appears NYC is only picking up speed as it continues to go in the wrong direction.

  2. Fred G. Fred G. April 9, 2021

    It’s about time someone exposed City Limits (Jarrett Murphy and his predecessors) for their relationships with CHPC, ANHD and various not-for-profits that make money from selling out to developers and others. CL used to be a respected journal in the ’70s and ’80s, but once Alyssa Katz took over, she went down the Bloomberg path of inclusionary zoning and its variants.

    This is the sort of investigative piece that The Village Sun really needs to publish. There’s no more Voice, The Villager is scattered remnants. Without this sort of sunshine, what’s left of NYC will be fully taken over by millennials within a few years.

  3. Judy P Judy P April 9, 2021

    I have realized, unfortunately for us, that the mayor turned out to be the “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” So much for the tale of two cities — a slogan he ran on his first election. This Soho-Noho dreadful giveaway promises 25% “affordable” housing — but how is “affordable” defined? It is certainly NOT housing for the neediest, low- and middle-income earners. The majority of units posted on the city’s housing lottery site (NYC Housing Connect) require a minimum of $60,000 – $100,000 income for a one-person household – making the majority of units unavailable to those who need it the most. De Blasio should stop this farce now and let the next mayor – hopefully one who truly cares about all residents of this city – take the lead.

  4. savenycjobs savenycjobs April 9, 2021

    If there are Villagers “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore,” now is the time, this 2021 election, to “yell” by supporting new true progressive candidates and kick the real estate lobby’s cronies out of office. The real estate lobby has their clone candidates ready to replace their loyal lawmakers. If successful like in past elections, the destruction of the Village and Lower East Side will continue. They all have records and actions that expose their hidden agendas and who they will serve if elected.
    Their shame is hidden in plain sight. Walk down any street in the Village or Lower Manhattan and you will see the consequences of electing fake progressives.
    Support and volunteer for new honest candidates.

    • Fred G. Fred G. April 9, 2021

      Whoa!!! You don’t think that Gail Brewer, Corey Johnson, Scott Stringer and soon-to-be something Erik Bottcher aren’t progressive? Why would VID, DID, DIY endorse Erik the Arthur Kill, if he weren’t progressive?

      • David Thall David Thall April 9, 2021

        I’ve lived in Soho for 31 years and been a condo board president for 21 years, in the same building.

        The big question remains: How can the owners and residents who actually live in SoHo defend themselves against these well-funded, well-organized outsider “developers” who are hell-bent on turning our neighborhood into an overbuilt, extremely noisy, big-box store, garbage-generating shopping mall — with big corporate outsider pop-up events making it a nonstop construction site of build-outs and tear-downs — all in the name of diversity? AKA: to turn a fucking dime?

        I believe the SoHo/NoHo pre-zoning meetings that were held pre-pandemic clearly showed that residents are very eager to push back, if they only knew how.

        FACTS: Rents are way down — even before the pandemic. Real estate taxes and property insurance has skyrocketed — and only keeps going higher. Empty unrented units are proliferating everywhere. My six-story building’s two ground-floor commercial units remain unrented for well over a year, pre-pandemic, plus empty residential rental units.

        By what crazy logic can this be interpreted to mean SoHo needs more “affordable” real estate inventory?

    • Rowbow Rowbow April 9, 2021

      I hate, hate, hate upzoning, but I don’t believe that the SBJSA is constitutional (and it works for multinationals equally to small biz’s – ugh!). Hope I don’t have to be monolithic when I vote.

    • Over It Over It April 9, 2021

      The city is already progressive and that’s the last thing the city needs. That’s why we are in this mess. We are in this mess because people don’t understand basic economics. NYC needs balance. We need to vote for a moderate. NYC is not comprised of only one class! Everyone needs to be represented and supported. This is an international city and arguably the center of the world in terms of business and industry. And like it or not, the wealthy fund this city. I mean, look at what happened during Covid without money being spent. I mean, what else needs to happen for you to get it? Wealthy people are not evil. Get your irrational, uninformed and angsty head out of the clouds. People who think this way are the ones that voted for de Blasio. I’m proud to say I never voted for him or Cuomo. NYC is a tale of two cities because of people like you. The middle class are being priced out of Manhattan because of these archaic policies that the public votes for. It’s insane. Who is going to keep the city going? People who live in NYCHA? I mean come on…wake up! People jump on these bandwagons without educating themselves on what domino effect many of these progressive policies have had on all of us. They haven’t been good at all. The city needs to be run like a business, but also NEEDS to implement strong social policies. Politicians will always be politicians. I saw deB’s con coming from a mile away. Cuomo’s father ruined Upstate NY and Andrew has done the same. And to the people who are soooooo surprised by deB turning out to be crooked, he is a communist, for goodness sakes. And communism, at its core, is about the uber-powerful taking from everyone (and giving to no one, not even the poor). NYC needs a moderate.

      • Over It Over It April 9, 2021

        ^^^ Apologies that within my rant I forgot to comment at the issue at hand. I do not agree with this upzoning nonsense. It’s a cash grab and a disgusting one at that. It will not benefit the greater good. It just won’t. It’s unnecessary.

  5. David R. Marcus David R. Marcus April 9, 2021

    My money is on Andrew Berman and Village Preservation to speak truth to power.

    De Blasio is flailing around in his waning days in search of a legacy; from daring to think he was presidential material to now seeking to be New York’s Master Builder. Meanwhile he continues to ignore the real issues causing decline of the city, pre-pandemic, in terms of quality of life, sanitation and safety, that harkens back to his early start in politics.

    And then, as a close second, we have Speaker Corey Johnson, promoting his Intro 2186, a homage to his early pro-developer roots to whence he has returned.

    Community opposition is clear and their right to self-determination is paramount. Self-interested politicians, academics, developers and money-changers with no roots in the affected neighborhoods should be seen for what they are and be rejected.

  6. Charles Grant Charles Grant April 9, 2021

    Is anyone really surprised at the incestuous relationship between these real-estate interlocking directorates and the poverty pimps whose salaries they help pay?

    One dirty hand washes the other dirty hand.

  7. Deceived by DeBlasio, Chin & Brewer Deceived by DeBlasio, Chin & Brewer April 9, 2021

    How many times are we going to take this??? You only need to look at the St. John’s fiasco: Landlords promise affordable housing; politicians buy it with a wink. Residents are forced to take it. Then, once building begins, the landlords all of a sudden change to full commercial buildings, and we’re screwed. No affordable housing – plenty of big buildings. And politicians just say, “Oops!” No more!
    I don’t have a problem with YIMBYs, but this is NOT that. Open New York people do NOT live here, so this is not their Backyard. If they want to encourage overbuilding and shadowed streets, why don’t they ever fight for such horrible ideas where they actually live???? Ha, not bloody likely!

    • Fred G. Fred G. April 9, 2021

      On OpenNY members, according to Mr. Richard Federer, they are all white and all live in Fort Lee, NJ. He wants them back.

  8. Peter Reginato Peter Reginato April 9, 2021

    the simplest answer is to enforce the Loft Laws as they are now.

  9. Harry Pincus Harry Pincus April 9, 2021

    As a certified Artist living in a JLWQA co-op apartment since 1975, I recently wrote in The Village Sun about my struggles to fend off attempts by several wealthy nonartist real estate speculators to force me and my family out of our legal apartment.

    As an old New York Times illustrator, I then sent my Village Sun articles to the Pulitzer Prize-winning city editor of The New York Times, who said he’d “take a look at it.” However, the Times editorial board, where presidential candidates and cabinet members go with their hats in their hands in order to plead their case, decided instead to support the real estate lobby and their rezoning plan.

    Last week, the Times ran an article which framed this situation in racial, rather than economic or class terms, as if removing artist protections and allowing developers to run rampant in the ruination of Soho is going to create equality.

    So, money talks, and seniors and artists walk? Hopefully not.

    We need to forcefully oppose and then remove any elected officials who do not stand for the protection of our community. We need to fight these attempts to railroad us out of our homes, and our legacy, which we should be allowed to pass on to our children.

  10. Over It Over It April 9, 2021

    The city is already progressive and that’s the last thing the city needs. That’s why we are in this mess. We are in this mess because people don’t understand basic economics. NYC needs balance. We need to vote for a moderate. NYC is not comprised of only one class! Everyone needs to be represented and supported. This is an international city and arguably the center of the world in terms of business and industry. And like it or not, the wealthy funds this city. I mean look at what happened during Covid without money being spent. I mean what else needs to happen for the public to get it? Wealthy people are not evil. People who think this way are the ones that voted for DB. I’m proud to say I never voted for him or Cuomo. NYC is A tale of two cities because of people like this. The middle class are being priced out of Manhattan because of these archaic policies that the public votes for. It’s insane. Who is going to keep the city going? People who live in NYCHA? I mean come on…wake up! People jump on these bandwagons without educating themselves on what domino effect many of these progressive policies have had on all of us. They haven’t been good at all. The city needs to be run like a business, but also NEEDS to implement strong social policies. Politicians will always be politicians. I saw DB’s con coming from a mile away. Cuomo’s father ruined upstate NY and Andrew has done the same. And to the people who are soooooo surprised by DB turning out to be crooked, he is a communist for goodness sakes. And communism, is at its core, about the uber-powerful taking from everyone (and giving to no one not even the poor). NYC needs a moderate.

    • carl rosenstein carl rosenstein April 10, 2021

      Here Here!!

  11. Jane Les Jane Les April 9, 2021

    Of all this real estate grab by de Blasio for his donors, seeing Cooper Square Committee, where I live in a stabilized building on E. Fourth St., is most shocking. I’m very disappointed that they have not opposed this absurd scam.

  12. Diane Diane April 12, 2021

    As a 30-year resident of Noho the alternative plan presented by Andrew Berman and the Village Preservation Society makes sense to me. If you would like to see the Alternative Plan implemented pls write ASAP to Chin and Brewer. They are in a position to block Envision Soho/Noho and they need to hear from you.
    You can find the Alternative Plan here:
    https://www.villagepreservation.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Upzoning-SoHo-NoHo-Report-March-2021.pdf
    Below some highlights from the alternative plan overview.
    There are three major flaws to the city’s plan, which could be corrected:
    • It relies on an upzoning, which by its very nature incentivizes the destruction of existing buildings, in this case including 4-6 story residential buildings that in many cases include affordable rent-regulated housing
    • It is entirely market-driven, and is dependent upon the whims of developers and their for-profit construction to subsidize affordable housing development
    • It makes the price for every unit of moderately affordable housing three units of super-luxury housing, which will have ripple effects of pushing out existing lower income tenants and incentivizing the destruction of more affordable housing
    The Community Alternative Plan addresses all three of these issues. That plan:
    • while attaching a mandate for inclusion of affordable housing in new residential developments, does not employ an upzoning, and would only allow development at the same current maximum allowable density for new development (5 FAR). Thus it would not increase pressure for demolition of existing buildings beyond pressure that already exists (and would largely only incentivize the development of sites that currently have parking lots or 1-3 story buildings on them, which are almost never residential)
    • calls for deeper and broader levels of affordability than the city’s plan, so there would be both a higher percentage of affordable housing in new developments and housing which is affordable and accessible to people of greater need than currently proposed
    • calls for direct subsidies to create new affordable housing, as a market-driven approach will never meaningfully address these issues
    This last point bears further explanation. It’s worth noting that were the city to work with non-profit housing developers to acquire properties in the area and develop affordable housing, that alone could achieve much of what the city’s plan purports to do, without threatening existing affordable housing, without leaving the development open to the vagaries and timing of the market, without introducing a flood of super-luxury housing, and without allowing markedly out-of-scale new construction (up to 2.4 times the size of what current rules allow).
    There are two large parking lots, one each in SoHo and NoHo (375 Lafayette Street and 174 Centre Street), both owned by Edison Properties, which has donated generously to the Mayor and stands to profit handsomely from the city’s proposed upzoning.
    If instead of upzoning those properties as proposed, the City acquired and developed them as 100% affordable housing at the currently allowable density (5 FAR), they could build about 133 units at the NoHo site and 88 units at the SoHo site. That total of 221 affordable units is more than our analysis shows is likely to be built under the current city plan (68-103 units) and about 2/3 of the entire total which the city (unrealistically) projects for their plan (330-498). This would create a significant portion of the affordable housing the city projects coming from these two sections of the proposed rezoning area, without an upzoning that would endanger existing affordable housing.
    Additionally, there are several parking lots, garages, and 1-2 story commercial structures in the southwestern “Housing Opportunity Zone” where the city proposes to upzone to allow development at 2.4 times the currently allowable size (12 FAR), threatening multiple 4-6 story walk ups with rent regulated affordable housing. Were the city to work with affordable housing developers to acquire these sites and develop purely affordable housing there, it would produce another approximately 88 units of affordable housing – providing nearly all the affordable housing the city projects, and far more than the city’s plan is actually likely to produce.
    Combined with the affordable housing mandate for new residential developments which the Community Alternative Plan proposes, this would vastly exceed the production of affordable housing in the city’s plan. And it would do so without introducing a flood of new super-luxury housing, without allowing out of scale new development, and without endangering existing affordable housing.
    Additionally, changes in the market post-COVID 19 may well mean that office space currently in the neighborhood could be available for conversion to affordable housing, if the funds were made available to make this possible.

    • Jamie Jamie April 12, 2021

      Thank you for your clear explanation of all that is wrong with the Envision Soho/Noho plan!

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