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Help Stop SoHo/NoHo Upzoning

The City’s plan to drastically upzone SoHo and NoHo has begun the public approval process. The City says the goal is to create affordable housing in this neighborhood. The Conservancy supports affordable housing. But we oppose the plan because it needlessly threatens the area’s unique historic character without any guarantee of affordable housing. Now Cooper Square Committee (CSC), a respected non-profit whose mission is to create and protect affordable housing, opposes the upzoning as well.

“In addition to the out-of-scale development it will promote, it has too many loopholes that will allow for developers to damage the historic districts through building enlargements with no affordable housing required,” CSC said in a May 28 announcement. It added that new luxury housing could be built with no affordable housing on site because the developer will pay into a fund to build it elsewhere.

The non-profit said it supports the concept of mandatory inclusionary housing but wanted the City to protect the SoHo residential core by maintaining its current zoning density. CSC had asked the City to target the largest upzoning mainly to the parts of SoHo and NoHo outside the historic districts where roughly 80% of affordable housing development opportunities exist.

Courtesy of MAS: model of SoHo/NoHo rezoning area showing projected (orange) and potential (yellow) development sites. New zoning applies to all lots in the area. The red line represents the rezoning boundary.

The group noted that the final plan is virtually unchanged from the Department of City Planning’s (DCP) initial proposal and “does not do justice” to the efforts of participants in a lengthy visioning process for SoHo and NoHo in 2019 and subsequent meetings held with DCP since October 2020. Both the Conservancy and CSC were involved throughout.

>Other groups involved in the process also proposed detailed suggestions to tailor the zoning changes and protect the area’s historic character. They were all ignored. CSC urged Council Member Margaret Chin and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to oppose the rezoning and look to a new administration willing to work to balance the goals of historic preservation and mixed-income housing. “It is possible to do both.” CSC declared. We agree.

We urge you to tell CM Chin and MBP Brewer to “vote no on the SoHo/NoHo rezoning.”

Council Member Margaret Chin chin@council.nyc.gov
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer gbrewer@manhattanbp.nyc.gov

There need to be some zoning changes in SoHo and NoHo to legalize residential living and ease some business requirements. But the City’s plan is a gift to developers who have long chafed at not having a free hand to build what they want in historic districts. The City can do better. And the residents and businesses SoHo and NoHo deserve better.

Read August 17, Update

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