Adi Talwar

The Inwood waterfront, Harlem River side, seen from the Bronx.

The City Planning Commission voted in favor of the city’s Inwood rezoning proposal Monday, the fifth neighborhood rezoning sponsored by the de Blasio administration, during a quiet special meeting with almost full support from commission members.

CPC Chair Marisa Lago and Vice Chairman Kenneth Knuckles both shared comments about how long the rezoning process took, how it will create opportunities for Inwood and how the community was involved before giving their approval for the rezoning proposal. The next and final vote in ULURP, the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, through which a rezoning is approved or rejected, will take place in the City Council in July.

The plan’s features “promote economic development by providing opportunities for commercial and community facilities [and] they create a more inviting pedestrian friendly street by establishing ground floor design regulations in key areas [and] they set the stage for reconnecting the neighborhood to the Harlem River waterfront,” said Lago.  “Like all of our neighborhood rezonings, today’s rezoning stems from a community engagement process, which began in 2015 to identify the needs and also the opportunities of the community.”

CPC Chair Lago added that the City Planning Commission modified the proposal before giving the “yes” vote, to encourage open space on the waterfront and to loosen the requirements for nonresidential ground-flood uses.

Knuckles joined her for the approval along with other members of the City Planning Commission except for commission member Michelle De La Uz.

“While I appreciate and agree with the amendments for public access to the waterfront and to limit the requirement for ground-floor commercial space,” De La Uz said, “I remain deeply concerned about the loss of local immigrant businesses and rent-stabilized housing. I think it is important to point out that residential tenants may have a right to counsel but they do not have right to their rezoned buildings.”

Over the last two years, the city has worked with the New York City Economic Development Corporation to develop a rezoning proposal for the Inwood area for residential and commercial development in areas on and east of 10th Avenue both north and south of the MTA rail yard, which are currently zoned for industrial or auto-uses.

The rezoning would include an increase in residential density on West 207th Street, Dyckman Street and Broadway. In all upzoned areas, the city would institute mandatory inclusionary housing, which requires that a portion of the units be rent-restricted. The surrounding residential area roughly from Thayer Street to West 218 Street would be “contextually rezoned”—subjected to height limits and other restrictions to preserve the neighborhood character. Areas where Con Edison facilities are located and the tip of Manhattan, where the city intends to encourage job-focused development, will be designated as industrial.

Other components of the proposal range from various land use actions, improving waterfront access and the redevelopment of Inwood library with over 100 units of income-targeted housing above the new library and a Pre-K program.

According to city estimates, these changes could lead to the development of 4,348 units of housing, 472,685 square feet of community facility space, 1,135,032 square feet of commercial space, and a decrease of 50,614 square feet of light industrial space. The city’s new certificate of no harassment program will also be applied to protect Inwood tenants.

The proposal is also part of a larger plan for the neighborhood that includes investments in neighborhood infrastructure, improvements to waterfront access, economic development initiatives, strategies to prevent displacement and more.

The Inwood proposal has been met with censure from Inwood residents, community groups and city officials  who fear gentrification, displacement for minority and low-income residents, and the loss of small businesses and jobs. Those fears brought Inwood community groups together to create a coalition which proposed their own rezoning plan. The local Community Board approved parts of the city’s proposal but rejected others* and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer voted against the proposal and called for major changes.

Earlier in the year, the city released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement detailing the potential impacts of the Inwood rezoning. According to the DEIS, there will be no “direct residential displacement,” or resident displacement due to demolition and redevelopment.The city identified 33 sites most likely to be redeveloped and says none of these sites contain apartments.

But those 33 sites contain 26 businesses providing jobs for 271 workers in the fields of food service, health care, transportation, and warehousing and accounting for three percent of total employment in the half-mile area, including two large supermarkets could be affected by “indirect displacement.”

The EIS did not detect a potential for significant “indirect” residential displacement caused by a changing market and rising rents. It noted that 83 percent of the rental housing in the area is rent-regulated or subsidized. The law allows deregulation when an apartment’s rent is $2,700 or more and the tenant’s total household income exceeds $200,000.

The EIS did acknowledge impacts on library services, open space, shadows, historic and cultural resources, traffic, pedestrian movement, transit, construction.

* Correction: The original version of this article erroneously reported that CB12 had approved the rezoning with conditions. In fact, the board passed a nuanced resolution that assessed the distinct land-use changes encompassed by the city’s plan, approved some and rejected others.