The rezoning could lead to a total increase of an estimated 3,200 housing units, including 600 to 900 affordable units, plus an additional 3,181 residents over a 10-year period, according to a key document released this week.

NYCDCP/SoHo Broadway Initiative/NoHo-Bowery Stakeholders

SoHo scenes captured for a report issued last November mapping a possible rezoning of the Manhattan neighborhood.

The Department of City Planning projects the city’s proposed rezoning of SoHo and NoHo could lead to a total increase of an estimated 3,200 housing units, which could include between approximately 600 to 900 affordable units. The Manhattan neighborhoods could see an additional 3,181 residents in its population from the rezoning, and a slight decrease in workers—1,093 of them—over a 10-year period, according to a key document released this week in the project’s public review process.

The draft scope analysis also projects there could be a total of 84 development sites in the rezoning area over the decade, 27 of them identified as more likely to be developed and 57 other “potential” sites that would be less likely to see development. The 27 likely sites could see the creation of 1,683 housing units, which could include anywhere between 328 to 494 affordable apartments. On the potential 57 sites, there could be 1,548 units, including between 293 and 446 Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) units. 

The affordability levels for these units were not specified in the draft scope, a document detailing the city’s proposed land-use actions and outlining the methods the city will use to study the project’s potential impacts, which will be described in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The city must release a draft EIS before it can launch the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), the multi-step public review process required to legalize a land-use change. DCP’s predictions are based on an assessment of development trends and other factors.

According to the analysis, in addition to new housing, the rezoning could lead to an additional 169,663 square feet of retail space, including local and “destination” retail and a supermarket, and 19,598 square feet of community facility uses. Residential developments along major corridors within the rezoning area would have ground-floor retail and second-story commercial uses.

If no rezoning action is taken, the area would see limited development over the next 10 years, according to DCP. The area’s projected development sites are currently home to just 16 dwelling units, with no affordable housing units and 1,205 workers.* According to DCP, without the proposed rezoning action, no residential use is permitted as-of-right, therefore no new residential development is assumed on these sites. 

Currently, Joint Living Work Quarters for Artists (JLWQA) dwelling units, considered a manufacturing use, make up an estimated 30 percent of the total dwelling units within the rezoning study area, according to DCP. These are not counted as typical residential housing units because of their unique status as a manufacturing and residential space. 

The city says the rezoning is a critical step toward furthering its Fair Housing goals and creating opportunities for the “equitable production of market rate and affordable housing in two high-opportunity neighborhoods close to transit and employment centers.”

The SoHo/NoHo rezoning is the second city-initiated rezoning in Manhattan after the Inwood rezoning in 2018. So far, the de Blasio administration has rezoned seven neighborhoods in total: East New York in Brooklyn, Downtown Far Rockaway in Queens, Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, East Harlem and Inwood in Manhattan and the Bay Street Corridor in Staten Island. 

Another rezoning is also taking place in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Efforts to rezone parts of Southern Boulevard in the Bronx and Bushwick in Brooklyn fell apart over the past year.

City Planning first released the SoHo/NoHo rezoning plan last November, after Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and local Councilmember Margaret Chin asked the city to address three issues: to modernize Joint Live Work Quarters for Artists (JLWQA), contribute to the construction and preservation of local affordable housing, and to create concrete retail regulations, like size restrictions, to protect SoHo/NoHo from big box or chain businesses.

However, there has been some contention over the plan. In January, during a city presentation, some residents said they did not think the affordable housing being brought into the neighborhood would serve New Yorkers who need it the most, and would not protect long-time artists residents who’ve served the community over decades. Other speakers at the January event, like members from Open New York, a group that advocates for more housing, spoke in favor of the rezoning, saying they could not afford to live in SoHo/NoHo and wanted those types of opportunities.  

The rezoning study area is an approximately 56-block or 146-acre area split between two Manhattan neighborhoods—11 blocks in NoHo and 45 blocks in SoHo—bounded by Astor Place and Houston Street to the north; Bowery, Lafayette and Baxter streets to the east; Canal Street to the south; and Sixth Avenue, West Broadway, and Broadway to the west.

On Tuesday, the city reintroduced the rezoning plan during a virtual meeting, where residents expressed an array of concerns related to the proposal: about traffic congestion, historical sites, access to light and air, big-box stores, overcrowding and affordability levels for the planned affordable housing. 

Andrew Berman, the executive director of Village Preservation and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, called the rezoning proposal “outrageous.” 

“The city’s plan would upzone the entirety of these neighborhoods by a minimum of 20 [percent], and in areas where developers have been especially generous over the years to the Mayor’s campaigns and now-shuttered non-profit (Campaign for One New York), the allowable size of development would be doubled or more,” Berman said in an emailed statement. 

“What an incredible windfall for these real estate tycoons, with so little in return for New Yorkers,” the statement continued. “That in his final months our lame-duck Mayor is looking for new ways to line the pockets of big real estate, expand big box chain stores, and destroy long-standing neighborhood protections is shocking and unfathomable.  This is not what New York City needs right now.”

Land use experts and housing advocates, however, see the rezoning as a step towards planning for a more equitable city. In a recent report, the Regional Plan Association said it welcomes the SoHo/NoHo rezoning and suggested five other neighborhoods the city should upzone next: Midwood in Brooklyn along Coney Island Avenue, Forest Hills North in Queens, Riverdale in the Bronx, the Meatpacking District and Far-West Village in Manhattan and Grasmere in Staten Island.

“These are neighborhoods with good access to jobs and transit, are majority white and have significantly higher incomes than average, and which are much lower-density than surrounding neighborhoods,” wrote Moses Gates,  RPA’s vice president for housing and neighborhood planning. 

The Department of City Planning has scheduled a public scoping meeting on the SoHo/NoHo plan to take place Thursday, Dec. 3 at 2 p.m., to be held remotely. To join the meeting and comment, visit NYC Engage.

*Clarification: An earlier version of the article stated that with no rezoning action, there would be an increase of 16 housing units. It was corrected to clarify that the area, where there is currently no residential use permitted as-of-right, would continue to have 16 existing housing units on those projected sites. 

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