Manhattan Community Board 2 voted overwhelmingly Monday night to reject the Soho/Noho rezoning proposed by the de Blasio administration.
The 50-member board’s vote is only advisory, but its resolution against the plan represents a speed bump in the seven-month land use review, which will ultimately be decided by City Council members Margaret Chin and Carlina Rivera. The two members have said they want changes to ensure more affordable housing is built and preserved.
Board member Chris Dignes cast the only vote against the board’s resolution. The board based its resolution on its Landmarks Committee’s review, which calls the plan a “model for the destruction of historic districts citywide.” The vote came after hours of testimony from residents and interest groups that at times grew heated.
“I’ve called this before a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I actually think that’s insulting to wolves,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of Village Preservation, a group opposed to the rezoning. “This plan is a farce. I’m so glad the community board is rejecting it,” he said.
Backers of the rezoning say it will create affordable housing and help diversify the largely white neighborhood.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who will deliver the next opinion — also advisory — in the review process, spoke after the public comment section of the meeting. She said she has not made a decision on the rezoning, but plans to hold her own public hearing sometime in August.
The next vote will come from the City Planning Commission, which could meet as early as Sept. 1. Approval is expected, as the mayor appoints the board’s chair and a majority of its members.
Several community board members who spoke were concerned about luxury housing and big-box retail entering the neighborhood as a result of the rezoning. Many worried the proposal would destroy the neighborhood’s artistic character. It called for a plan that creates more affordable units, rented at a lower percentage of the area median income.
The Department of City Planning says the proposal will match Soho/Noho’s zoning with its modern-day uses and promote affordable housing in the neighborhood . But for now, the agency is playing defense.
Sometimes community boards reject a proposal but lay out conditions under which it would be acceptable. That did not happen Monday night.
“It’s not a ‘deny, unless’ — it’s a deny, for sure,” community board member Anita Brandt said of the board’s decision.