9 thoughts on “Inwood Groups Show Strength in Push for Contextual Rezoning

  1. Excuse me… I was there and that was a great synopsis. The dialogue was had, CDC needs to listen…

    I will continue to say that EDC is doing this over the summer deliberately knowing our board is on summer recess…

    This is about the Mayor’s re-election and he could care less about what happens to the regular folks…

    No one wants to talk about the lead in our water… If a school has 450x the dangerous levels in Flint, MI, don’t you believe that the surrounding buildings are with lead as well.

  2. Combining 1) an influx of wealthier outsiders with 2) an antiquated, over-taxed infrastructure will place a lethal curse on Inwood, with implications for Washington Heights.
    Infrastructure refers to sub-street utilities (gas, electric, potable water, sewer), transit systems (subways, busses, bridges and vehicular traffic choke points etc.) plus civic and social services (police, fire, ambulance, medical, schools, etc.)
    Our current residents need relief from unaffordable and escalating rents, rent decontrol, mis-managed apartment houses, cramped housing conditions, harassment and the accumulation of warehoused and neglected buildings.

    • No one in the deBlasio administration is paying attention to NYC’s limited infrastructure. Water and sewer systems in particular. I live on S.I. in a very different neighborhood than Inwood but infrastructure issues – roads, schools, water and sewer – drove the major 2005-06 downzonings of most of SI from R3-1 to R3X.. There is no plan to add more water/sewer treatment facilities anywhere in the five boroughs. The two plants (for 474000 people) on SI are 60 years old and I’m sure the plants in the other boroughs are even older.

  3. It’s always messy to try and summarize zoning details for a newspaper article, especially when converting zoning density to “stories”, the linga franca of building size.

    To be clear, the current R7-2 zoning throughout ALL of Inwood has an allowable density (Floor Area Ratio or FAR) of 3.44 for schemes that are tall and skinny, or 4.0 for schemes that are fat and short. The fat-and-short works out to six to eight stories for most lots, which is why recent buildings in Inwood like the Stack or the condo at Payson and Seaman are about the same size as their older neighbors. The skinny buildings are theoretically possible but very rare because you need huge lot sizes to make them economically practical; when they do pop up they break the streetwall and are generally bad urban planning.

    In general most Inwood buildings are five to eight stories and have an actual built density of around FAR 3.5 to 4.5. There are a few blocks that are lower (217th St for example has a density of around FAR 1.0 due to its historic Tudor houses), and a very, very few isolated examples that are FAR 5 or higher. And most of those are community facilities like the tower next to the Y, as community facilities can go all the way up to FAR 6.5 under current zoning.

    The point is, Inwood has a remarkably consistent existing density that is unlike other parts of Manhattan. Side streets on the Upper West Side or Greenwich Village, for example, are often zoned lower than Inwood and have as-built FAR of around 2. Much of the Upper East Side on its side streets is less than FAR 4.

    All of this is a prelude to saying that Inwood is already quite dense in its residential areas, and it is looking to maintain that medium-density zoning by updating it to R7A (or whatever zoning best matches built conditions) in order to ensure that any new building mass end up short and fat and 8 stories tall and not oddly skinny and much taller. This is what the neighborhood has been asking for since more than a decade ago, when other parts of the city started getting contextual rezonings.

    But those requests were long ignored. Even at the start of the InwoodNYC rezoning process a year ago the city ignored them, because they thought it would be smoother sailing if they only focused on rezoning the former industrial areas to become residential and thereby create thousands of new housing units. They soon realized that the precedent that would set was greatly alarming existing residents into opposing their plans, as was then writ large in the case of a private rezoning proposal at Sherman Plaza. (That aimed for R9A/R8X, an enormous leap in FAR to more than 7, and was ultimately voted down by the local councilmember after mass protests over its size and lack of affordability).

    So the city came back to say “ok, we heard you, and yes, we will expand the rezoning to preserve the neighborhood’s character”, more or less as the statement from Ms. Baez above makes clear. On that basis people were expecting to hear about how different R5, R6 and R7 contextual variants would map to existing built conditions and preserve them in these established areas. i.e. if the City wanted to do its plan that would bring affordable housing, jobs and waterfont access, it would have to offer to preserve the neighborhood’s distinct character.

    And that is why people were shocked when the city handed out materials at this meeting that included R8A with highlighted statements about how you can only trigger MIH and get affordable housing if you go bigger. No one ever asked the city to upzone the existing residential areas. The meeting was being held explicitly to NOT upzone these areas and prevent future upzonings (again, with new housing going to the vast former industrial areas near transit and the river, to the east of 10th Ave, in the areas not discussed last night). It was a bait-and-switch to turn a meeting about contextual rezonings into yet another forum to preach the mayor’s agenda of ramming MIH into an existing residential area.

    Inwood is not a NIMBY neighborhood. We have a lot of unsightly and difficult city infrastructure in our backyard, and have been open to the idea of more housing and more affordable housing in underutilized industrial areas and maybe even along the commercial streets. Such ideas would be thrown out of Forest Hills or Riverdale in two seconds. We accept the idea of more 8 story buildings (i.e. R7A) because it’s what we predominantly have now and it works great (as any urban planner will tell you). But we thought we had a deal to protect that character of desirable medium-density in exchange for potentially rezoning these other areas, and instead we saw on the table zoning types that would upzone 100% of Inwood, encourage teardowns of our many soft sites, and change our consistent streetwalls of 65 ft high to 105 ft high with 14 story setback towers.

    The city is playing dirty pool, and divide-and-conquer. It will not be tolerated lightly.

    • Zoning is a dry but important topic. Most New Yorkers, even home owners might know their own zoning but don’t know or care about FAR. The FAR in my part of the city is 0.5 or 0.6, and my home is either 0.228 or 0.2795 depending how you calculate it. Very dry topic. You seem to know a lot about this. Can the city change the FAR of a given area without going through the entire re-zoning process?? In other words can the city council vote to change my neighborhood’s or your neighborhood’s FAR??

      • FAR is defined by the zoning, and to change the zoning is to rezone under a ULURP process. Public has input into the ULURP process, but city council (and in practice only the local city councillor) has the controlling vote.

  4. The current library sucks and if they make it better I am all for it. The fact that nothing gets built in INWOOD/WASH HEIGHTS allow landlord to displace residents regardless so it going to happen. BTW we live in NYC and in Manhattan we need to be realistic about that will happen regardless and use this time to make demands about what is best for people living here since before gentrification. Truth is these are the people at the forefront acting like they care about who gets displaced. It will not be them. They own apartments in this neighborhood (park terrace and some on 158 street Grinnell Building to be exact. These apartments are worth more than a million dollars. New construction would threaten that for them. I am tried of watching some people use the people in the community again and again as if they care about them at all outside of housing.

    Lets just speak honestly and openly so we can all get what we want.

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