City Council subcommittee approves Harlem rezoning

The rezoning of Harlem’s 125th Street commercial corridor appears headed toward approval, now that the City Council’s influential land use subcommittee on zoning and franchises has voted 9-1 to approve a modified plan, city officials said.

Tony Avella, a Queens Democrat and chair of the subcommittee, cast the lone opposing vote.
City Council Member Inez Dickens, who represents central Harlem, had been in talks with the City Planning Department to set aside space for local retailers and lower the income caps for affordable housing. Critics say the rezoning will displace small businesses, and that Harlem residents don’t earn enough to buy the affordable housing.

The rezoning plan would allow developers to build market-rate Apartments And Office Towers On 125th Street. Inclusionary zoning provisions will allow density bonus incentives if developers set aside a percentage of apartments for affordable housing.

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Councilman Robert Jackson introduced the motion to approve the rezoning and was seconded by Melinda Katz, who chairs the land use committee, city officials said.

The modified plan is scheduled for a Wednesday vote by the full land use committee, which if passed, would clear the way for a full vote by the City Council at the end of April.

Some critics of the rezoning plan expressed satisfaction that nearly all of their concerns were met.

“As presented today, I’m very pleased,” said Franc Perry, chairman of Community Board 10, the only one of three local boards to reject the plan. “We were the only board to vote no. People told us we were crazy for voting no. People told us we couldn’t get anywhere.
The original plan called for 2,500 new housing units, with 500 of them reserved for affordable housing. Under the revised plan, about 1,775 affordable units would be created out of a total of 3,858 new units.
Nine hundred of those units will be guaranteed for residents making 60 percent of the federal income limits for affordable housing, which is $53,700 for individuals and $76,800 for a family of four.
About 200 units will be guaranteed for residents earning 40 percent of the federal income limits. The remaining units will be market rate.
Within the core rezoning district there will be a 195 foot height limit on new buildings, compared to a proposed height limit of 290 feet.
The 71 businesses facing displacement will be eligible for up to $750,000 in relocation assistance. In addition, a $1 million fund will be used to help these businesses pay for brokers fees needed to relocate.  
The rezoning plan had called for ground-floor space to be dedicated to arts organizations, including galleries and museums. The agreement requires that arts organizations be given 15-year leases, with two five-year renewal terms.

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