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SoHo/NoHo rezoning opponents lawsuit against de Blasio administration short-lived

Shoppers make their way on Lafayette Street in July 2020. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

A judge denied on Monday a temporary restraining order in a lawsuit against Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Department of City Planning based on its claims that the plan for rezoning SoHo and NoHo launched during the pandemic as a violation of due process.

The suit, seeking an Article 78 declaration in New York County Supreme Court and filed on Friday, claims the city cut corners in facilitating public input over virtual sessions on the matter before sending it the City Planning Commission where it awaits their approval.

“Through the Controversial SoHo/NoHoProject, Respondents are proposing a massive and expansive rezoning of the historic SoHo and NoHo neighborhoods. The Controversial SoHo/NoHo Project would encompass 56 blocks and span 146 acres in lower Manhattan. The Project would change the unique existing zoning, which has been in place for the past 50 years, to allow for, among other things, upzoning for taller and more high-density buildings, large retail and supermarket space, and more standardized residential uses,” the preliminary statement filed on Friday reads.

“TRO denied because of no showing of immediate irreparable harm; court need not and does no address liklihood [sic] of success and exhaustion of administrative remedies issued at this time,” Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron scribbled the court documents filed Monday.

According to the Department of City Planning, 19% to 30% of the new units that could grow out of the plan through private development will fall within the scope of the city’s inclusionary housing mandates and could equal anywhere from about 621 to 940 new households, as released in a draft of the plan in October.

“We are finalizing a few small matters related to the application, and look forward to beginning public review in the near future,” DCP spokesman Joe Marvilli said.

The city, however, has held public hearings on the matter, including one in December 2020, in which a number of residents outside of SoHo and NoHo expressed belief that it would bring relief to communities across the city by reducing the impact of gentrification.

Others believe new development will contribute to crowding and destroy the character of the historic neighborhood which once was a mecca for artists who could live in studio space for affordable rates. Some aspects of the neighborhood have already changed the sense that the streets are dominated now more than ever by pricy retail outlets.

The de Blasio administration does not share the plaintiff’s view.

“We were never going to modernize 50-year-old zoning laws, or build affordable housing in one of the least affordable and least diverse neighborhoods in America, without a good hard fight,” mayoral spokesman Mitch Schwartz said. “So we’re not surprised. But we are prepared – and we’re confident that remote hearings are inclusive and fair, and we will deliver a rezoning plan that moves SoHo and NoHo forward.”

The SoHo Alliance, Broadway Residents Coalition, John Sean Sweeney, Pete Davies, Jeanne Wilcke and Maria Judith Feliciano Chaves are all listed as plaintiffs.

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