The controversial effort to upzone SoHo and NoHo was approved unanimously by the City Planning Commission on Wednesday, but the motion hardly reflects the opinions of the plan’s loudest opponents.
CPC Chair Anita Laremont defended the plan which has received mixed reviews in the effort to bring 3,500 new homes to the artist enclaves, with up to 900 units being technically affordable under the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing law.
“The SoHo/NoHo neighborhood plan stands for the idea that, with focused planning and robust public dialogue, all neighborhoods across the City can play a part in the solutions to the planning challenges that we, as New Yorkers, face. By bringing flexible and modern zoning to these historic mixed-use neighborhoods, the Plan significantly advances NYC’s equity and inclusivity goals, helps address our severe and ongoing housing crisis, and serves to speed NYC’s economic recovery,” Laremont said.
Andrew Berman, Executive Director of Village Preservation, called on City Council members to reject the plan once it reaches the chamber for a vote in doubt that housing will be built and not structures better suited for office space or retail, rather than housing.
“It’s shameful but not surprising that the City Planning Commission, controlled by the Mayor, would approve this disastrous plan that will deliver on none of its false affordable housing promises,” Berman said. “It will target Chinatown for the largest upzonings, oversized development, and displacement, and introduce a flood of oversized luxury condos, big-box chain stores, corporate office towers, and high-end hotels to all three neighborhoods. It will make these neighborhoods richer and more expensive, and less diverse and less equitable, in spite of the Mayor’s dishonest posturing to the contrary.”
Some concerns voiced over the long months of public outreach included the apprehension that historic sites could be under threat from real estate developers who will undermine the character and appeal of SoHo and NoHo. Laremont was of the opposite opinion.
“Critically, this initiative affirms that historic preservation and continued growth can be mutually beneficial, especially with sensible urban design controls to help weave the new into the historic fabric,” Laremont said. “It also offers meaningful support for the arts in a public-oriented way, while recognizing the continued contribution of artists to the vitality of SoHo and NoHo.”
But the public engagement process may not have been impactful enough, according to Christopher Marte, Democratic nominee for City Council for the district currently represented Margaret Chin, who said the process should not be pushed through in the final months three months of the Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration.
“The Department of City Planning is failing its contractual duty to listen to and represent the diverse communities of Lower Manhattan. Instead, they are siding with the Real Estate industry to continue DeBlasio’s [sic.] displacement agenda,” Marte said. “No part of this community engagement process has been genuine or in good faith and leaves a lot of questions unanswered. It’s a shame that DCP is voting for this major rezoning with three months left in this administration, which will have dire consequences for decades to come.”
Not is de Blasio out at the end of this year, but the majority of City Council members meeting the tail-end of their term limited tenures coming at the start of 2021.