Council approves Harlem rezoning

The City Council voted by an overwhelming 47-2 margin today to back the rezoning of Harlem’s 125th Street corridor, capping off one of the most ambitious and controversial development programs launched under the Bloomberg administration.

The rezoning is expected to create 1 million square feet of new office space, 90,000 square feet of non-profit and visual arts space and more than 3,800 new apartments.

Two of the Council’s most vocal opponents of rezoning, Charles Barron, a Brooklyn Democrat, and Tony Avella, a Queens Democrat, voted against the measure.

“When I came into office, we promised to stimulate economic growth and strengthen neighborhoods across the city,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in a statement, “and our plan for the area around Harlem’s famed 125th Street is the latest example of how we’re doing it.”

Community Board 10 Chairman Franc Perry, who initially opposed the plan, said he was pleased with the final outcome.

“Whatever development occurs I hope the developer takes into account the community in which the developer is serving,” said Perry. “Once you do that the community is very amenable.”

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The vote followed a raucous Council session in which numerous opponents were escorted out of the chambers amid screams of “sellout” against Council Member Inez Dickens. She negotiated several key modifications to the plan, including an increase in affordable housing to almost half the total number of units.

The plan had been expected to pass the full Council after the influential land use subcommittee on zoning and franchises approved the modified plan earlier this month. Under the revised plan, about 1,775 affordable units would be created out of a total of 3,858 new units. That means 48 percent of the units will be affordable, up from 20 percent in the original plan.

Sources say that major retailers like Macy’s, Bed, Bath and Beyond and Sears Roebuck are exploring potential sites on 125th Street. However, officials warned that the increased demands for affordable housing could slow potential residential development.

“At this point a lot of developers are rethinking their plans to comply with the modifications,” Perry said.

The New York State Supreme Court turned down a request early today for a temporary restraining order filed by Voices Of The Everyday People (VOTE), one of the key opposition groups to the plan.

Critics charge the plan would overwhelm the community with dense office buildings and price local residents and small businesses out of Harlem.

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