Developers might drop affordable housing plan after Inwood ruling

Maddd Equities, Joy Construction planned 611 units before judge nixed rezoning

Jorge Madruga, Eli Weiss and 3875 Ninth Avenue (Credit: Google Maps, Getty Images)
Jorge Madruga, Eli Weiss and 3875 Ninth Avenue (Credit: Google Maps, Getty Images)

A massive affordable housing project planned for Inwood could turn into an industrial development after Thursday’s shocking ruling overturning the neighborhood’s rezoning.

Jorge Madruga’s Maddd Equities and Eli Weiss’ Joy Construction were poised to take advantage of the rezoning with a development at 3875 Ninth Avenue by West 207th Street. The frequent real estate partners had pre-filed plans with the Department of Buildings in August for a 30-story, 544,000-square-foot project with 611 residential units and about 62,000 square feet of commercial space.

The developers wanted to make every unit in their project affordable for low- or middle-income families and still hope to do so, but the New York Supreme Court decision “potentially changes that,” Weiss said. He and Madruga may now consider an industrial or manufacturing project instead for the site.

“Our goal is to build affordable housing,” he said. “I’m just saying if, at the end, the zoning is for what it was originally, which was M1 [light manufacturing], we’ll build a distribution center or something industrial.”

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The City Council passed its rezoning of Inwood in August 2018 expecting it would add 5,000 units of affordable housing to the northern Manhattan neighborhood. However, the rezoning faced spirited opposition from people concerned that it would lead to higher rents and displace many of the neighborhood’s current residents. The de Blasio administration argued that rents were already rising because outdated zoning restricted residential development.

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Maddd Equities purchased 3875 Ninth Avenue in 2015 for $4.25 million, roughly two years after the rezoning plan was announced. Weiss stressed that the developers still strongly prefer to build affordable housing on the site, but if the rezoning is not restored, an industrial project might be their best option.

“One way or another,” the developer said, “we’ll have to work within the parameters that we’re left with.”

Inwood Legal Action filed a petition against the rezoning last December, claiming that the review process was not thorough enough and did not take potential socioeconomic impacts into account. New York Supreme Court Justice Verna Saunders issued a ruling Thursday granting the petition and nullifying the rezoning — a highly unusual reversal that surprised even many opponents of the rezoning.

The New York City Law Department plans to appeal the decision. Whichever side loses in the Appellate Division will likely ask the Court of Appeals to decide the matter — a legal process that could take many months.

Cheryl Pahaham, co-chair of Inwood Legal Action, was not particularly concerned that the ruling would stop affordable housing from coming to the neighborhood. She argued that the new units would have been too expensive for many neighborhood residents anyway.

“What people were calling affordable housing really was out of bounds for more than half of the residents of our community,” she said. City officials have said low-income residents who don’t snag new units would still benefit indirectly.