Mayor de Blasio on Wednesday pushed forward forward a city-led rezoning plan for Soho and Noho that would bring 3,200 new apartments including 800 affordable units to the upscale area plus an update of 50-year-old regulations for business owners and artists.
“This is a rezoning that’s been proposed to really create substantial community benefit, and there’s a lot of support on the ground for the idea that there needs to be affordable housing in every community, including those that are upper income,” de Blasio said about the plan during his daily press briefing from City Hall.
The proposed rezoning area sits roughly between Canal Street and Astor Place to the from Avenue of the Americas to the Bowery. Three “housing opportunity zones” on the edges would provide space for the new apartments and a “commercial corridor” between Broadway and Lafayette Street would allow for more retail.
James Power, a partner at law firm Kramer Levin who specializes in land use, said Soho and Noho have “the most anachronistic zoning in all of New York,” dating back to the 1970s.
“Most people have realized that it’s long overdue for an update,” he said. Even though the neighborhoods are well-known shopping destinations, retail currently involves a cumbersome special permitting process, said Power, who is not involved in the rezoning project.
But Deputy Mayor Vicki Been said the real impetus for the plan going forward now is the combination of the coronavirus pandemic downturn and anti-police protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd.
“The pandemic and the movement for racial justice make clear that all neighborhoods must pull their weight to provide safe, affordable housing options,” Been said.
That racial inequality argument is not sitting well with some community activists.
“He’s playing his class card, his race card and that’s despicable,” Sean Sweeny, director of the Soho Alliance, told The Post.
“They’re trying to play this that we don’t want affordable housing which is completely wrong. We want affordable housing, we want diversity, but it’s really disgusting that they’re introducing the race card and it’s equally disingenuous to assume that more minorities will win a housing lottery that’s totally random,” said Sweeney.
“I don’t want some upper-class person taking advantage of the system and people are still going to be living in welfare hotels. Let him do it in Park Slope.
”We don’t want to be the whipping horse for another one of de Blasio’s failed schemes.”
Mayoral candidates Scott Stringer and Eric Adams also back the plan, but the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation opposes it.
Society director Andrew Berman says it would create luxury towers that are out-of-scale with the neighborhood at two-and-half times the size of those currently allowed.
De Blasio said Wednesday the project would start the public review process with a remote hearing on Nov. 10. Approval could come as early as the end of 2021, but may stretch beyond the end of the mayor’s time in office.
De Blasio refused to back a deal to redevelop Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn despite its plan to create 15,000 jobs amid the COVID-19 downturn. Developers ultimately withdrew the proposal citing a lack of political leadership when community members argued the area would be gentrified by the project.
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