This Monday, the City Planning Commission certified a major initiative to rezone Manhattan’s Soho and Noho Historic Districts. The goal of the initiative is to expand allowable residential density for multifamily buildings, spur the construction of income-restricted and permanently affordable housing, and increase available community facilities.
The proposed amendments would affect approximately 56 city blocks. Broken down by neighborhood, this includes 11 blocks in Noho and 45 blocks in Soho.
Now certified, the rezoning proposals will move to the next phase of the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). If approved, the zoning text amendments could facilitate the development of more than 3,200 new apartment units, 108,000 gross square feet of retail space, and 35,000 square feet of community facilities. Of the total residential area, it is estimated that 940 new affordable homes will be created.
“This rezoning has the potential to create hundreds of units of desperately needed affordable housing in a transit- and resource-rich neighborhood, with abundant access to jobs, good public schools, and other amenities,” said Carl Weisbrod, senior advisor for HR&A Advisors and former chair of the the Department of City Planning. “I remember when Soho/Noho became a resource for a prior generation of low-income people and now it can do so again while maintaining its historic character, its creative energy, and its economic diversity.”
Weisbrod is hopeful the rezoning will help improve equitable livability for more New Yorkers. Not everyone is as convinced or hopeful.
In April, the Soho Alliance and Broadway Residents Coalition banded together with local residents in a lawsuit against the city. The plaintiffs argue that Mayor De Blasio wrongfully allowed virtual ULURP meetings to proceed which precluded in-person commentary from local community groups. The complaint goes further to say that these allowances were made only because De Blasio’s term ends this December and goes beyond his allowable powers as New York City Mayor. That lawsuit has not yet been settled.
Despite the legal challenge, the Department of City Planning has elected to move forward with certification following a decision by Judge Arthur Engoron to decline an injunction to halt the rezoning process.
“Today’s certification is a clear win for housing, equity, and smart city planning,” said Jessica Katz, executive director of Citizens Housing and Planning Council. “To build a more equitable and more affordable city, every neighborhood must do their part. The proposed rezoning creates an opportunity for Soho/Noho, two neighborhoods with virtually no affordable housing whatsoever, to contribute to solve NYC’s housing crisis.”
It is impossible at this phase of the review process to predict the outcome of the proposed rezoning. Today, however, community groups in support of the initiative remain positive.