Sorry! Brewer, Chin on chaotic Soho/Noho rezoning meeting

Jonathan Martin of BFJ Planning was in the eye of the chaotic storm at the rezoning meeting. Photos by Gabe Herman

BY GABE HERMAN | At the first public meeting of the Soho/Noho rezoning process on Feb. 6, there was general consensus that the event started out chaotic and unorganized.

Jonathan Martin of BFJ Planning stood in the middle of a room with no microphone and tried to explain the public feedback process, as he was continually interrupted and shouted at by skeptical attendees.

On Feb. 11, the officials who organized the process and meeting said they were sorry for how the meeting turned out.

Feedback, in the form of scrawled notes, at the rezoning meeting.

In a message titled “An open letter to the Soho/Noho Community,” from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Councilmember Margaret Chin and the Department of City Planning, they wrote, “We apologize for being unprepared for the tremendous turnout.”

Nothing that more than 250 people attended, they said, “We’ll do better for the next public meeting in February.”

Much of the anger expressed by those in attendance was over not knowing what the motives were behind the process, and whether locals would really have a say in potential zoning changes in residential or retail areas.

“To be clear, the intent of the Soho/Noho planning process is to collaborate with all those who care about the challenges our neighborhoods face,” the letter stated. “The purpose of our public meetings is to gather ideas and input well before pen is put to paper and proposals are created.”

Trying to make some sense of it all.

People at the meeting, held in P.S. 130 at 143 Baxter St., wrote 211 comments on paper slips provided at various stations, according to the letter. People were able to give feedback in different areas, including living, working, creating and visiting the neighborhood.

Despite the chaos that they chalked up to a larger-than-expected crowd, the officials wrote that it was, in fact, a good start.

“Because of that turnout,” they said, “we obtained a significant amount of feedback on where our planning process should start and what the community wants us to focus on.”

The letter promised that every item of feedback in the process would be read, adding that there are several ways to offer input, including at SohoNohoPlan.nyc, and by e-mailing soho-noho@planning.nyc.gov.

The next public meeting is scheduled for Thurs., Feb. 28, and is being called a “Thematic Public Workshop.” The letter said details of that event, including its format and topic, would be sent out by Feb. 25.