Soho to be rezoned: de Blasio

Move indicates turning point in mayor’s approach to development

Mayor Bill de Blasio (iStock; Getty)
Mayor Bill de Blasio (iStock; Getty)

If Mayor Bill de Blasio gets his way, Soho will have mixed-income housing added to its famous art galleries and multimillion-dollar lofts.

The neighborhood will be rezoned to make way for as many at 800 affordable housing units, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday in a statement to The New York Times. The move signals a turning point in development strategy by the administration, which to date has spared wealthy areas from rezoning.

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“Thoughtful, progressive zoning changes will pave the way for the next 50 years of growth — while making two iconic neighborhoods more accessible than ever, and helping us rebuild a fairer and better city,” de Blasio said in the statement.

Zoning rules in Soho and the nearby Noho area have not been updated in half a century, the mayor’s office told the Times. The zoning is so outdated that many retail and other uses that New Yorkers take for granted are technically forbidden in the neighborhood.

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Progressives, Yimby activists and elected officials have been increasingly pressuring de Blasio to rezone Soho to welcome low-income residents, and the issue has emerged as a theme in the 2021 mayor’s race.

“We shouldn’t be limiting homes, we shouldn’t be limiting the amount of people that can live in our city, we shouldn’t be limiting our tax base,” Bronx Community Board 6 district manager John Sanchez, a City Council candidate, told The Real Deal in August.

The mayor’s Department of City Planning has been eager to rezone Soho and Noho for some time, but has been waiting for robust political support from the mayor to withstand anti-development forces in the neighborhoods. Local residents and groups such as the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation are expected to fight the plan, which is sure to propose building heights substantially higher than what is common in the area.

Race will also play a role in the debate to come, as Soho’s population is about 70 percent white but residents of the new affordable housing would be almost entirely people of color.

The mayor faces a tight schedule to get a rezoning approved, as a proposal usually takes months to be certified by city planners and then must endure a seven-month public review, culminating in a City Council vote. The mayor must leave office by the end of next year. [NYT] — Sasha Jones

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