Council members call out City Planning on Soho rezoning

Rivera, Chin want protection for low-rent units and more of them

Council members call out City Planning on Soho rezoning
Council members Margaret Chin and Carlina Rivera (Margaret Chin and Wikipedia)

The rezoning of Soho and Noho has hit a speed bump.

Council members Margaret Chin and Carlina Rivera, who represent parts of the areas pegged for the rezoning, want more affordable housing in the plan.

The lawmakers penned a joint statement calling on the Department of City Planning to “come back to the table” and map out a rezoning that “can guarantee the most affordable housing possible for our communities.”

The rezoning relies on the approval of the two members, who also criticized City Planning for its treatment of certain community groups.

“While there has unfortunately been a fair share of fear-mongering and disrespect during this discussion, the outright disregard of groups like Cooper Square Committee and NoHO Bowery Stakeholders from DCP is incredibly troubling to us,” the council members wrote.

In a statement, a City Planning spokesperson said the agency is grateful for the council members and community groups.

“We wouldn’t want to move forward without giving a voice to all the stakeholders who care about the community,” the spokesperson said.

It is standard practice for local Council members to seek more from the administration before signing off on a city rezoning, even if they have signaled support from the outset.

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The Soho/Noho proposal has been criticized by various groups for not creating enough affordable housing, endangering a historic district and potentially leading to an influx of big-box retailers.

The Village Sun reported that a City Planning official clashed with community groups at a Community Board 2 meeting this month after she said an alternative plan floated by one of the groups “is not rooted in reality.” The plan, proposed by Village Preservation, called for an affordable housing mandate for residential conversions or new residential development without increasing permitted density in the district.

Ground-floor retail and residential use is largely barred in Soho and Noho, which is zoned for manufacturing. Under the rezoning proposal, mixed-uses would be permitted, paving the way for higher density commercial and residential development.

The city projects that 1,829 residential units will be created under the rezoning over the next decade, with 382 to 573 set aside as affordable per the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program. Another 1,719 units, with 365 to 545 permanently affordable, could be built, but likely not before 2031.

Developers can either set aside 25 percent of a building’s floor area for residents making an average of 60 percent of the area median income, with 10 percent of that space for residents making 40 percent of the AMI; or they can designate 30 percent of the building to residents making an average of 80 percent of the AMI.

They can also apply for a special permit to instead pay into an affordable housing fund, rather than including affordable units onsite, “if the building’s configuration creates practical difficulties in physically siting such affordable units.”

City Planning certified the rezoning application in May, officially starting the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. The de Blasio administration has made it a priority to complete the public review process before the end of the mayor’s term.

The rezoning has already survived a legal challenge. Further delay could punt the plan to the next mayor and City Council.