Foes of Inwood rezoning approval to seek appeal

Neighborhood group needs permission just to bring case to state’s highest court

TRD New York /
Jul.July 30, 2020 10:46 AM
Northern Manhattan is Not for Sale will seek to appeal the Appellate Division’s reinstatement of Inwood’s rezoning (Google Maps)

Northern Manhattan is Not for Sale will seek to appeal the Appellate Division’s reinstatement of Inwood’s rezoning (Google Maps)

The neighborhood coalition that opposed Inwood’s rezoning is taking another crack at dismantling it.

Members of Inwood Legal Action, which is part of the neighborhood coalition Northern Manhattan is Not for Sale, voted Wednesday night to seek an appeal of last week’s appellate court decision reinstating Inwood’s rezoning. Because that ruling was unanimous, the neighborhood group will need permission from the state’s highest court to argue its case there.

“The Inwood rezoning will displace Dominican, Black, Asian, and other Latino residents and small business owners, and we believe the city should have examined the racial impact of the Inwood rezoning, though it refused,” Inwood Legal Action Co-Chair Cheryl Pahaham said in a statement.

The de Blasio administration’s failure to do such an analysis was the basis for rezoning opponents’ win last year in the first round of the court battle.

“We believe federal fair housing law requires the city to do so, despite its refusal,” Pahaham’s statement said. “We will continue to fight in court until we exhaust all avenues to force Mayor de Blasio to hear the people who live and work in Inwood, and to be true to his commitment to racial equality.”

Even if granted the option to appeal, the group faces an uphill battle. The appellate court found that the City Council “acted properly, and consistently” in approving the Manhattan neighborhood’s rezoning, and that the policy “would likely improve the rental situation, or at least ease the rent pressures that were already in effect.”

The court was referring to the administration’s argument that by allowing more residential construction, the rezoning would add to Inwood’s supply of housing — both affordable and market-rate — easing gentrification pressures on existing tenants. Critics say it would draw attention and development to the neighborhood, attracting more residents than would otherwise come and inspiring landlords to raise rents.

The City Council approved Inwood’s rezoning in August 2018, won over by the prospect of 5,000 units of affordable housing and a promise of $200 million in city-funded benefits for the neighborhood.

But in December, New York Supreme Court Justice Verna Saunders nullified the rezoning, finding that the city should have studied its potential socioeconomic impacts. The Appellate Division justices wrote that they understood the “desire to require the city to explore the potential impacts on racial and ethnic groups,” but the land-use review process doesn’t mandate it.

Write to Kathryn Brenzel at [email protected]


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