Sunday, January 16

New NYC Mayor will walk through a ‘minefield’ of rezoning plans in Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn waterfront


Like the criminal violence, the homeless crisis, the overcrowding on Rikers Island and the escalating deterioration of public housing units, the new Mayor to be elected this Tuesday will receive another great ‘hot potato’: How to avoid that the changes approved by the municipality in the use of the land, do not end expelled the poorest of their own communities?

The next municipal president will inherit a couple of rezoning plans raised by outgoing Bill De Blasio, undermined by explosive controversies.

Last week the rezoning plan for parts of SoHo and NoHo, in Lower Manhattan, he overcame his last hurdle. The members of the City Planning Commission voted unanimously in favor of the proposal, which continues to be rejected outright by the Community Board of that sector.

City officials argue that the way is being opened for the construction of up to 3,500 new apartments, including up to 900 subsidized units for low-income New Yorkers, through the Mandatory Inclusive Housing requirement.

It is the latest rezoning that De Blasio is trying to achieve under his administration, but which continues to receive strong resistance, which will have to be addressed by the new occupant of your chair in the City Hall.

“This disastrous step in modifying urban variables will make these neighborhoods richer and more expensive, and less diverse, despite the dishonest position of the Mayor who tries to sell otherwise,” he said. Andrew Berman, executive director of ‘Village Preservation’.

Opponents of the idea fear not only that historic sites will be “crushed” by developers, but that new permits for a flood of luxury condos, large chain stores, corporate office towers and high-end hotels in those neighborhoods end up displacing their poorest residents. Particularly those who live in Chinatown areas.

The City Council now has 50 days to review the plan, make changes and vote.

The other controversy: Gowanus

There are already very clear records of this “expulsion” of residents in Williamburg (Brooklyn), in areas of Upper Manhattan and Long Island City (Queens), which residents of Lower Manhattan now fear, particularly in parts of Chinatown.

“It is not about opposing development and modernity, but recent history has made it clear. They make modern residential towers in a neighborhood and the landlords all around start to rise in prices of the old buildings because the neighborhood improved. That is the drama ”, he described Luisa Pereira, a Dominican community leader from Upper Manhattan who claims was displaced from Inwood a El Bronx four years ago.

The other controversy that will remain lit after the departure of De Blasio, arises with a new 8,500-unit housing megaproject in the coastal area of ​​the Gowanus neighborhood, in Brooklyn, which would be completed in the year 2035, whose change of zoning from “industrial to residential”, has already been approved by the City Planning Department (DCP) and it is also nearing its final vote in the City Council. Now he is encountering a lawsuit from grassroots organizations that they try to prevent at all costs this approval.

The experience of Upper Manhattan communities is that real estate development is an “eviction letter” to other neighborhoods. (Photo: F. Martínez)

Fear is not displacement

The plan known as Gowanus Canal, which began to be discussed by the Administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, aims to change the development rules within an area of 82 blocks along Fourth Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and 15th Street, extending west to Bond and Smith streets.

The idea is to allow more residential construction in a neighborhood that for decades has been an industrial enclave next to that Brooklyn waterfront.

The greatest fear of the opponents of this new development, in this case, is not because of the future risk of the uncontrolled increase in rent costs and the displacement of racial minorities. This new complaint is for environmental reasons.

Two grassroots groups, ‘Voice of Gowanus’ and ‘Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus’, argue that the consequences of climate change and they are on their way to filing a complaint in state court.

“Nothing in the plan has taken into account the realities of climate change. The city has felt the worst part of this reality with Storm Ida, that is why we cannot allow this type of project, ”Miranda Sielaff, a member of the ‘Voice of Gowanus’.

The plaintiffs claim that the sewers and other services in that area are not prepared for a change in population density.

“The City has consistently done this kind of fraudulent use of irrelevant statistics and outdated on the amount of rain that is expected ”, he highlighted Penn Rhodeen, member of the coalitions that oppose this mega housing plan.

A rezoning in New York City must be approved by community boards, the president of each county, and the City Council.

3,000 apartments for the poorest

Sources of the Council Planning Commission oppose the arguments of the opponents of this plan, assured that not only do they have different environmental impact studies, but they have also carried out a detailed analysis of how this zoning change will convert this neighborhood “In more inclusive” for communities of color.

The change of use of this 82-block coastal extension proposed by the City, according to official documents, would pave the way for 3,000 apartments reserved for low and moderate income New Yorkers.

In addition, a ‘Racial equity report ‘, prepared by Columbia Urban Planning professor Lance Freeman, who concluded that “the rezoning would likely make Gowanus, currently one of the whitest neighborhoods in the five boroughs, more closely match the diversity of New York City,” he posted. the digital medium The City.

The report estimates that between 20% and 25% of new lottery apartments under the rezoning they would be rented by black households, and between 25% and 37% of them would be rented by Hispanic households.

The neighborhood is currently one of the 10 city districts with more than 60% white residents.

New ‘anti gentrification’ law put to the test

This type of study that precisely tries to overcome the risks of the displacement of black, hispanic and poor, registered in other localities marked by changes in land use, it also offers an approximation to the advantages of a Law already approved by the Council, which comes into force in 2022, which requires “Reports of equity on housing and opportunities” for rezonings in the future of the Big Apple.

The new legislation, co-sponsored by the councilor of Puerto Rican origin Rafael Salamanca, requires that a report be evaluated and presented on the racial impact of large urban developments, as part of the land use review procedures from the city.

“We were seeing that in the last eight years the Mayor’s Office has proposed many rezoning projects and the history of the City even in some communities in the Bronx shows how the installation of large luxury developments drives out blacks and Latinos. This legislation tries to put a technical brake to that possibility in the future ”, Salamanca valued.

The Bronx councilor highlighted how in the case of the rezoning analyzes in Gowanus, the City Council Land Use Committee ordered this racial impact report, even though it is not yet considered legally mandatory.

“We want put an end to gentrification and that large urban developments do not force their neighbors to abandon their communities. And that new law is a great step, “concluded the legislator.

Adams: Include NYCHA residents

The Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams, and who has every chance of becoming the next Mayor of New York City, approved rezoning proposed in Gowanus, but formally released its recommendations that aim to provide additional funding for this project for Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens, two NYCHA public housing developments in that area.

“Public housing residents cannot be left out of the equation. For too long, we have neglected the people who live in NYCHA, who has forced to live in poor conditions”, Highlighted the Brooklyn Daily Eagle

In this way, the Democratic candidate showed part of his vision to the rezoning programs in the future of the Big Apple.

“Each rezoning must take into account the needs of longtime residents and deliver real results for those in greatest need. Our recommendations they trace a path to achieve it“.

Adams indicated that public housing residents in Gowanus should have priority for housing in new affordable housing developments in the area, including Gowanus Green, a site 100 percent affordable expected to provide 950 new homes below the market price.

Ups and downs of rezoning in NYC:

  • SoHo-NoHO: In a 37 to 1 vote, Manhattan Community Board 2 rejected last August the SoHo / NoHo Neighborhood Plan presented by Mayor Bill de Blasio that seeks to establish a new special plan to modernize the zoning of these areas and expand opportunities for housing for New Yorkers in this segment of the Lower Manhattan.
  • Inwood: Since last fall, when the New York Superior Court gave the green light to a broad rezoning of the area of Inwood in Upper Manhattan, where tall residential towers will now be allowed, builders have acquired dozens of remodel sites, according to The New York Times version.
  • Industry City: At the end of last year, after years of litigation, the rezoning of the coastal area of ​​Sunset Park in Brooklyn known as Industry City, to make way for a community commercial and industrial development plan.


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