A proposed plan that would uproot and transform SoHo/NoHo is now in the hands of Borough President Gale Brewer as Community Board 2 rejected the project last week 36-1.
What Mayor Bill de Blasio has been pushing for since October 2020 could be in trouble. The plan was designed to replace 50-year-old zoning to offer more flexibility for businesses and arts and cultural organizations, while creating incentives for new affordable housing.
On July 26, the board adopted a resolution stating proposed Soho, Noho and Chinatown rezoning fails to achieve affordable housing goals and instead incentivizes office, dormitory and large retail development and will displace existing rent-protected and low-income residents.
Key points in the resolution include:
· Community Board 2 is committed to the protection of existing rent-regulated housing and the creation of new equitable affordable housing for NYC residents who are most in need.
· The Soho Noho Neighborhood Plan is unlikely to produce any affordable housing, while being falsely presented as a proposal to expand affordable housing and instead incentivizes commercial and dormitory uses.
· The Mayor’s Plan fails to protect against displacement, particularly for residents in Chinatown, seniors aging-in-place and tenants who are rent stabilized, rent controlled or protected under New York State Loft Law.
· The rushed rezoning plan is designed to coincide with the last days of Mayor de Blasio’s administration and prevents input from the incoming mayor and city council.
· The plan, conceived during the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, cannot take into account post-pandemic changes in live-work and usage of commercial space.
· Zoning changes will squeeze out small retail stores and negatively impact quality of life for current and future residents.
Residents voiced their opposition to the project at the two-hour meeting.
Artist Stephanie Bennett is among those who are not in favor of the plan. She feels the neighborhood is being gentrified and this will project will only make it worse.
“I’ve watched my own family leave and I’ve watched weekend after weekend families uproot and leave,” Bennett said at the meeting. “We’re a thriving community. We need to design a way to move forward.”
Resident Phyllis Rosenblatt doesn’t understand why the city is not listening to the concerns of the people. She added that the plan, which will ruin the community, does not include a health center or school, which are both needed.
“The communities being affected are continually disrespected and disregard,” she stated. “The communities are seen as obstacles to real estate goals and are not active partners.”
One resident named Kathleen, who has lived in the community for 50 years, said the upzoning should not be approved. She feels this proposal is helping the many people who struggle to live in NYC and will displace many families.
“This upzoning is another giant giveaway to developers during the de Blasio lame duck year in office,” she said.
Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, who filed a lawsuit with the Broadway Residents Coalition against the project in May, was pleased about the board’s rejection of the plan.
“The board’s vote is an affirmation of the widespread popular opposition to de Blasio’s real-estate scheme,” Sweeney said. “The resolution spelled out in detail what residents, small businesses, preservationists, and tenants groups have been saying all along.
“We appreciate the time, research, effort and dedication that the community board spent on this issue.”
Brewer has until Aug. 26 to review the project and then it goes to City Planning. If the Commission votes to approve the proposal, it goes on to the City Council for a public hearing and vote. If the Council votes in favor, the proposal is approved.
If either the City Planning Commission or City Council votes against an application, the process ends at that stage.
“This proposal will finally bring affordable housing and economic opportunities for all New Yorkers to two of the wealthiest and most desirable communities in the country,” said DCP Spokesman Joe Marvilli. “DCP will review the Community Board’s recommendation and is committed to working with all stakeholders to advance this plan for a more affordable and equitable SoHo and NoHo.”