At Inwood Rezoning Meeting, More Fears of Gentrification

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207th Street south of Sherman Avenue in Inwood.

Dozens of residents packed into the gymnasium at Washington Heights Academy Monday night for the latest in a series of public meetings about the city’s plan to rezone Inwood—a proposal officials say will help spur the creation of new affordable housing, but which some critics fear will speed up gentrification and displacement in the neighborhood.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is proposing the changes, which would rezone mostly industrial areas on and east of 10th street to allow for significant residential and commercial development. Busy commercial districts on Broadway, Dyckman and 207th streets would be rezoned to allow for greater density under the plan, with upzoned areas subject to the city’s mandatory inclusionary housing (MIH) policy, which requires a portion of new residential development be rent-restricted. The proposal would also “contextually rezone” several residential blocks, using height limits and other restrictions to preserve the area’s existing character.

City officials say the plan is necessary to update Inwood’s outdated zoning—which hasn’t been changed in more than 50 years—and expect the proposal to generate up to 4,348 new apartments in the neighborhood, including 1,325 to 1,563 income-targeted units under the MIH requirement.

“Essentially what we’re doing is using zoning as a tool to trigger the creation of affordable housing,” the EDC’s Charlie Samboy told the crowd at Monday’s meeting.

But some attendees blasted the proposal as gentrification-in-disguise, echoing earlier concerns that the majority of new development spurred by the rezoning would be market-rate units that many existing residents can’t afford.

“Why don’t they go to the mayor’s part of Brooklyn, why don’t they go to Park Slope and rezone over there?” said Lena Melendez, of the advocacy group Dominicanos Pro Defensa Negocios y Viviendas (Dominicans for the Defense of Businesses and Housing). “We do not need luxury towers here in Washington Heights and in Inwood.”

Some said they worry the rezoning would threaten Inwood’s existing stock of rent-regulated apartments, leading to increased displacement and landlord harassment. More than 86 percent of rental units in the neighborhood are rent-controlled or rent stabilized, according to a 2014 study by NYU’s Furman Center.

“In this particular neighborhood we have the highest concentration of rent-stabilized apartments in the city of New York,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat, who organized Monday’s meeting.

Though he does not get to vote on the rezoning plan—which is currently making its way through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP)—Espaillat repeatedly called on the city to commit to creating 5,000 affordable apartments in Inwood under the rezoning, with 1,000 of those dedicated to seniors.

The congressman says his office has already identified 14 sites in the district where potential new affordable units could be built. He invited representatives from the private developer Maddd Equities to speak at Monday’s meeting about residential projects they’ve built in the Bronx where all of the units were income-targeted—an effort to show that it’s economically feasible to build developments that are 100 percent affordable, he said.

“We want to do away, dispel this notion, that you cannot build affordable housing in New York City,” Espaillat said.

Members of the crowd at Monday’s hearing expressed other concerns about the rezoning plan, including how the influx of residents the new development will bring could impact local schools and crowded subway lines.

The Inwood rezoning is part of a broader plan for city investment the neighborhood, dubbed the Inwood NYC Action Plan, which also includes improving access to the area’s waterfront as well as building a new, state-of-the-art library at the site of the New York Public Library’s current Inwood branch.

Details of that project were unveiled last week, and call for a 14-story building that will include the new three-story library branch as well as 175 “deeply affordable” apartments, a Pre-K for All facility and other amenities.

Manhattan’s Community Board 12 is currently reviewing the Inwood rezoning proposal, with the board’s executive committee expected to vote on a resolution this Thursday. The full board will vote on that resolution at its meeting on March 2o, though its recommendation is only advisory— the City Council will have the final say on the plan.

Borough President Gale Brewer will host a hearing on the Inwood rezoning at I.S. 218, 4600 Broadway, at 6 pm on Tuesday April 10. Watch a live webcast here. Her office is welcoming written testimony or video testimony of about two-minutes, which can be sent to Inwood@manhattanbp.nyc.gov.
Councilmember Rodriguez will be hosting a meeting at which he will present his visions for the rezoning on April 29 at 2:30 p.m., Manhattan Bible Church, 3816 9th Avenue between 204th and 205th Street.

4 thoughts on “At Inwood Rezoning Meeting, More Fears of Gentrification

  1. “City officials … expect the proposal to generate up to 4,348 new apartments in the neighborhood, including 1,325 to 1,563 income-targeted units under the MIH requirement.”

    Keep in mind that the 4,348 number is a projection from the EIS of how many of the 14,000 possible new apartments enabled by the rezoning will be built. They could be wildly off and the rapid development of sites that went from zero FAR to 16 to 30 story residential towers might end up with many thousands more units. (Case in point — in the Long Island City rezoning, the city predicted 300 apartments would be built. It ended up being closer to ten thousand.) All without a single new school, park, community center, arts space, etc. and all wildly out of context with an area that already functions quite well as a medium-density midrise neighborhood.

    The fears about context, gentrification, business displacement, traffic, infrastructure, etc. are all mollified or reduced if the city would simply rezone the former industrial areas to something closer to the fabric of the existing residential areas — R7A, R7D, R7X even. But not R8s, not R9s. Why they are choosing the radical path that is causing so much opposition can only be answered by City Hall.

  2. Sen. Espaillat teamed up with Gale Brewer to express with as much empathy and compassion they could muster and a wee bit of regret that the Inwood Library will be the sacrificial lamb to fix the decades old, persistent problem of “affordable “
    housing. How will the proposed 175 units of “affordable“ units save or solve a housing problem synonymous with NYC housing issues? The refusal (by those in power) to even give the library its own ULURP, according to my conversation with Gale Brewer, indicates the library never had a chance. One can assume it was a backroom deal made before the plan was brought to the community for feedback. Shame on our local politicians for pitting an award-winning and heavily used library against housing when the city can find other city-owned lots for housing to be built. Just ask Scott Stringer for the list of 1,100 vacant city lots. Who are the powerful people who refuse to give Inwood Library its own ULURP? Who are the powerful people who determined Inwood Library has to go? Who are the powerful people who say it’s okay for the library to close for 5 years when community schools and students are dependent on the services of the library to fulfill curriculum requirements, get scheduled homework help, and tutoring? The Inwood Library community will be without the pre-school programs, ESL programs, citizenship programs, adult literacy programs and much more. Our children do not have 5 years to spare, while the library is being rebuilt. We will be sent to other libraries, at least one fare away. Libraries that are already heavily used. Gale Brewer talks about her experience. When the St. Agnes Library was closed for renovation the sign on the door entrance directed me and the public to the Bloomingdale Library at West 100th street or to the Riverside Library, between W. 65th and W. 66th street. That was and is her solution to the problem of a closed library. I will add, St. Agnes Library was built in 1903 and was going through a renovation, not a demolition so housing could be incorporated in the rebuilding. Although the upper west of Manhattan desperately hungers for “affordable” housing. Shame on local politicians. I hope Community Board #12 votes down not only the Inwood Library but the entire ULURP.

  3. I for one welcome the change to the neighborhood. There is too much wasted space up here. Rents are going up without rezoning and if more housing isn’t brought in then it will just continue at a more rapid rate.

    Transportation is another story. I would like to see at the very least a ferry stop to be added.

  4. I agree with the proposed Rezoning. The area can’t sit still and hope nothing will change when the economic pressures are this great. We can either support the kind of change we want or adventually the changes will be made without us. The city can’t grow without change and adding diversity to the economic and demographic fabric of the community is a good thing for all of us.

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