On Tuesday, a coalition of Inwood neighborhood groups and residents released the Uptown United Platform, a 16-page document that reacts to the Economic Development Corporation’s proposed rezoning of Inwood and proposes an alternative plan.
These Inwood stakeholders join a number of other neighborhood coalitions who have reacted to the de Blasio administration’s proposed rezonings with their own plans and white papers over the past three years, including the Coalition for Community Advancement in Cypress Hills and East New York, the Bronx Coalition for a Community Vision, the steering committee of the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan and the Movement for Justice in El Barrio, among others.
Like the plans before it, the Uptown United Platform describes a variety of initiatives related to several facets of community well-being, while also calling for more comprehensive protections for existing tenants and more affordable housing than can be guaranteed under the city’s new mandatory inclusionary housing policy.
Given the de Blasio administration’s negotiation process in other neighborhoods, it’s likely the administration will take some of Uptown United’s recommendations to heart, but the administration will also likely disagree with one of the platform’s central demands: that the city require 100 percent affordable housing on any upzoned property. The administration has in the past stated that requiring private properties to provide 100 percent affordable housing would be likely ruled unconstitutional.
The platform is the merged outcome of proposals by multiple Inwood groups, including Northern Manhattan Is Not For Sale, Inwood Preservation, Inwood Small Business Coalition, Save Inwood Library and other residents, each of which brought their own priorities to the table in the crafting of a merged plan. The single document arrives two days prior to Community Board 12’s public hearing on the city’s proposed Inwood rezoning.
The platform includes its own detailed rezoning strategy. Generally, it would use zoning to preserve the neighborhood’s character in more areas west of 10th avenue without upzoning stretches of Dyckman, Broadway and West 207 as the city’s proposal would do. It also would encourage residential development east of 10th avenue at more modest densities than those proposed by the city, and with some areas zoned for industrial or mixed uses.
The document also includes a series of recommendations related to preserving existing affordable housing, creating truly affordable and “community-controlled” new housing on community land trusts, protecting small businesses, strengthening neighborhood infrastructure and making the neighborhood climate resilient. The platform also calls for the city’s redevelopment of the Inwood library to undergo a separate ULURP process. A section on “Respecting the Community” asks for a better program to create good construction jobs for locals, efforts to memorialize Lenape and African burial grounds, and improved community engagement.
The Economic Development Corporation (EDC)’s proposed rezoning of Inwood, and its accompanying, multi-agency neighborhood plan, is currently making its way through the seven-month Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), the process through which a rezoning is approved or disproved. EDC says its plan is the outcome of two-and-a-half years of thorough community engagement involving over 2,500 residents and other stakeholders, and will further many neighborhood goals including creating jobs, allowing waterfront access and improving neighborhood infrastructure, increasing investments to protect the neighborhood’s existing tenants, increasing the overall housing supply and affordable housing supply, and more.
The Uptown United Platform, to the contrary, argues EDC’s proposal is a “top-down plan, created prior to community input.” It points to a map in a document produced by a consultant for EDC in January 2016 (and obtained by the advocates via the Freedom of Information Act) to suggest that EDC had an idea of the general shape its final rezoning would take long before the final plan came out. But EDC rejects this interpretation, saying there was no fully pre-planned rezoning.
“The City structures environmental review consultant contracts broadly, so that a range of options can be considered. This standard practice increases efficiency and reduces cost overruns, and never replaces community engagement, which ultimately defined the proposal the City proposed. With several months left in the public review process, there is still time for the community to help us make this plan even better,” said Stephanie Baez, a spokesperson for EDC, in an e-mail to City Limits.
You can read the alternative platform below, and express your own opinions at Community Board 12’s rezoning hearing on Thursday, February 22, 6:30 p.m. at I.S. 52, 650 Academy St.