Planning Commission approves 125th Street rezoning

By David Jones | March 10, 2008 05:20PM

The contentious rezoning of Harlem’s 125th Street cleared its first hurdle today, as the New York City Planning Commission approved by an 11-2 margin a plan that could transform the historic commercial corridor.

The vote had been expected, and the City Council must approve the plan.
City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden hailed the vote. While residents fear that the rezoning will displace residents and small businesses, Burden said the plan will preserve the community’s brownstone residences, while encouraging affordable housing, commercial office space, entertainment venues and retail outlets.

“Today is a major milestone in moving this extremely significant initiative forward towards final adoption,” Burden said in a statement. “This rezoning will reinforce the 125th Street corridor as an important regional business district and bolster its historic role as an arts, entertainment and retail corridor.”

Height limits will range from 120 to 160 to 290 feet, depending on location. The city Department of Planning last week recommended allowing the Harlem Park project on Park Avenue and 125th Street, which is being developed by a Vornado-led team, to reach 330 feet. Inner City Broadcasting and a new broadcast network from Major League Baseball are in talks to enter the proposed office building, Harlem’s first major commercial tower in decades.

Franc Perry, chairman of Community Board 10, said he was disappointed by the vote. He said many residents fear that the rezoning will lead to massive condominium projects and big box retail chains that would displace local merchants and pressure local residents to leave the community.

“We still want to preserve the commercial character of 125th street,” said Perry.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer on Sunday recommended a rejection of the rezoning. He called for a Harlem-wide development plan that would develop city-owned land for “income-targeted” housing and develop a plan to save local businesses that could be displaced by new development.