Local Group Blasts Lame Duck de Blasio’s Release of SoHo/NoHo Rezoning Plan, Calling it a “Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing”

Says Plan Will Create Little or No Affordable Housing, Displace Lower-Income Residents and Eliminate Existing Affordable Housing, While Destroying Historic Neighborhood with Huge High Rises Built By de Blasio Developer Donors who Lobbied for Plan

New York — Village Preservation, the largest neighborhood preservation organization in New York City and the largest membership organization in Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo, released the following statement today in response to the certification, or formal release and beginning of the public approval process, for Mayor de Blasio’s SoHo/NoHo Upzoning plan.

“In the dying days of the de Blasio Administration, the Mayor is indulging in an orgy of payback to the special interests who donated generously to his campaign and his legally suspect, ethically tarred, now-defunct ‘Campaign for One New York.’ High up on that list is a massive giveaway of real estate development rights in SoHo, NoHo, and Chinatown to his generous donors like Edison Properties, which will enable them to build enormous office buildings, big-box chain retail stores, and super-luxury condos where current rules prohibit them from doing so. Wrapped in a false veneer of affordable housing and social justice equity, de Blasio’s SoHo/NoHo proposal is a fire sale giveaway of enormously valuable real estate that will destroy hundreds of units of existing affordable housing and create few if any new ones; displace hundreds of lower-income residents and residents of color; make these neighborhoods richer, more expensive, and less diverse than they are now; and destroy locally and nationally recognized historic neighborhoods while pushing out the remaining independent small businesses with a flood of big-box chain retail. It’s a classic de Blasio bait and switch, and one has to wonder, after 7½ years of seeing this Mayor in action, who is naive or desperate enough to not see it for what it is?” said Village Preservation Executive Director Andrew Berman.

Village Preservation recently released a study that analyzed the de Blasio plan and found that in every case where the City predicted affordable housing would be included in new development, the plan actually makes it more lucrative to build without the affordable housing, and to utilize the many loopholes in the plan for avoiding affordable housing requirements (commercial, retail, community facility, and market-rate residential space of no more than 25,000 square feet per zoning lot are all exempted from affordable housing requirements). Thus, the chances of any affordable housing being generated by the plan are exceedingly small. The study also found that the plan only accounts for about 37% of the 10.3 million square feet of new development potential it will create (nearly four Empire State Buildings’ worth), thus hiding millions of square feet of additional development likely to take place that will almost undoubtedly take the form of luxury condos, big-box chain retail, and high-end commercial office space with no affordable housing.

In March, Village Preservation released a study analyzing the city’s plan that showed that it would also incentivize the demolition of hundreds of existing units of affordable rent-regulated housing in the area, which is completely ignored by the city’s analysis. In addition, the study showed that new developments under the city’s plan, even if they do include the promised 20-30% affordable housing, will still overall be more expensive to live in, wealthier, and less diverse than the current neighborhood as a whole, which in addition to a considerable number of wealthy people still contains a substantial number of longtime low- to-moderate income residents, mostly holding on in affordable rent-regulated and loft-law housing, which the plan would likely destroy.

Village Preservation has also been joined by more than a dozen SoHo, NoHo, and Chinatown neighborhood and tenant groups in proposing a Community Alternative Rezoning Plan that would create deeper and broader affordable housing than the city’s plan, without threatening any existing affordable housing, and without allowing big-box chain stores of unlimited size to push out existing businesses, as the Mayor’s plan would.

In recent weeks, opposition to the Mayor’s plan has grown, including from Chinatown/social justice groups, citywide tenant/housing groups, former members of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, the venerable Municipal Art Society (which lobbied for the city’s first zoning laws), and the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Preservation League of New York State.

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May 17, 2021