The City’s Rezoning Plan Is No Good for Inwood

The city Economic Development Corporation’s Inwood rezoning plan states that one of its main goals “is to preserve and create affordable housing.” 

However, this plan will cause the loss of more affordable housing units than it will create. Conceived during the Bloomberg years (the first public reference to it was in 2005) it is not about the sound planning principles that would make a great neighborhood and city. 

The idea behind Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing plan, letting developers build luxury housing taller in exchange for having to include a percentage of below-market-rate apartments, was originally intended to desegregate wealthier, whiter neighborhoods and build subsidized apartments in places that already had luxury housing. But in poorer neighborhoods, the result will be gentrification, clearing out lower-income residents. In New York City, developers already get generous tax breaks, so why not insist on affordable units in all new buildings? 

Like many other recent rezonings, going back to those of Williamsburg and 125th Street in Harlem, the displacement resulting from this plan will have a much greater impact on people of color and immigrants. Although Inwood residents have asked the city to examine the effect the rezoning would have on different racial, ethnic, and immigrant groups, it refused. 

The EDC’s proposal also threatens to displace every business in a “soft site,” those in one- or two-story buildings. The proposed upzoning of commercial and industrial areas to allow much taller buildings will give owners an incentive to demolish those smaller buildings. In the “Commercial U” (207th Street, Broadway and Dyckman Street) alone, almost half the independently owned small businesses, many operated by immigrants, are at risk, according to figures from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office: 147 of 309 are located in buildings of one or two stories. These numbers do not include any of the businesses and jobs in other soft sites, or those on Ninth and Tenth Avenues. 

I am writing this in the coolness of the Inwood Library. According to city law, public projects must go through the Uniform Land Use Review Process, in which people have a right to review the project’s effect on their community. CLOTH, the not-for-profit organization that was chosen developer for the city’s plan to tear down the library and rebuild it, has repeatedly refused to share the actual proposal with the public. There is still no budget, no location, and no plan for an interim library. Where will students go after school? Where will all the library’s programs take place? Where will our cooling center be? 

Katherine O’Sullivan is a resident of Inwood. Tenant/Inquilino went to press before the City Council’s hearing on the rezoning plan July 10