City certifies SoHo/NoHo rezoning plan despite lawsuit to stop de Blasio administration

Historic buildings on Greene Street in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City
Photo via Getty Images

The City Planning Commission certified their plan to rezone the neighborhoods of SoHo and Noho for the first time in decades, which they say could produce up to 900 affordable units with new developments.

The plan still requires further review before it is finalized, but Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration expects the rezoning to level the playing field for low-income New Yorkers who cannot afford the neighborhood that averages about $8,000 a month for a two bedroom.

About 66% of households in these areas have an income of over $100,000, the administration says, and scarcity is what really contributed to the high prices.

Up next is the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

“Every New Yorker should have the opportunity to live in transit-rich, amenity-filled neighborhoods like SoHo and NoHo. Built on years of community engagement, this proposal was crafted with a lens focused on fair housing, an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, reinforcing SoHo/NoHo as a regional hub for jobs and commerce, and preserving and augmenting the arts,” CPC Chair Marisa Lago said. “Through permanently affordable housing requirements and support for the arts, this plan is a giant step forward towards a more equitable and even livelier New York City.”

According to the Department of City Planning, 19% of these housing units will fall within the scope of the city’s inclusionary housing mandates, equalling anywhere from about 621 to 940 units that will supposedly fall within the price range of low income New Yorkers, as released in a draft of the plan in October.

“Today’s certification is a clear win for housing, equity and smart city planning. To build a more equitable and more affordable city, every neighborhood must do their part,” Jessica Katz, Executive Director of Citizens Housing and Planning Council, said. “The proposed rezoning creates an opportunity for SoHo/NoHo – two neighborhoods with virtually no affordable housing whatsoever – to contribute to solve NYC’s housing crisis. The plan shared today is thoughtful regarding the historic and landmarked districts while ensuring that New York City continues to move forward.”

Claims that the proposal will bring little affordable housing while putting historical locations at risk have long been contested by the de Blasio administration which believes that the rezoning is overdue for the mostly upper-crust community. Opponents say the zoning change will pave the way for the displacement of current residents while increasing the number of big-box retailers in the area.

“These claims have been completely and repeatedly debunked,” mayoral spokesman Mitch Schwartz said. “This group has spent months telling anyone who will listen that SoHo is actually a diverse and affordable neighborhood, and it’s just one ULURP hearing away from ruin. But New Yorkers aren’t fooled; they know it’s time for a rezoning plan that finally makes these iconic areas accessible again.”

Andrew Berman, Executive Director of Village Preservation, has been a primary accuser of the de Blasio administration for creating an environment that benefits the real estate industry, casting doubt that it will bring true affordable housing to Lower Manhattan.

“In the dying days of the de Blasio Administration, the Mayor is indulging in an orgy of payback to the special interests who donated generously to his campaign and his legally suspect, ethically tarred, now-defunct ‘Campaign for One New York.’ High up on that list is a massive giveaway of real estate development rights in SoHo, NoHo, and Chinatown to his generous donors like Edison Properties, which will enable them to build enormous office buildings, big-box chain retail stores, and super-luxury condos where current rules prohibit them from doing so,” Berman said. “Wrapped in a false veneer of affordable housing and social justice equity, de Blasio’s SoHo/NoHo proposal is a fire sale giveaway of enormously valuable real estate that will destroy hundreds of units of existing affordable housing and create few if any new ones.”

In fact, all attempts to stop the city have fallen short at this point.

A recent lawsuit hoping to put a temporary restraining order on the plan was cast aside by a judge in early May which claimed that the city cannot properly hold public hearings on the matter due to the dangers of COVID-19.

Public hearings have indeed taken place, despite the claim that input has been hobbled by the pandemic.

More from around NYC