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SoHo/NoHo Upzoning Overkill

SoHo – Looking down Broadway – www.envisionsohonoho.nyc

The City says the massive upzoning proposed for the SoHo and NoHo historic districts is based on recommendations by the SoHo/NoHo study group that I was part of last year. Don’t blame us. We really didn’t agree on any recommendations. Even people who wanted some changes think this is overkill. Or, as more than one now puts it, “a betrayal.”

For all the City’s talk of “contextual zoning,” much of the 56 block area would see a near doubling of the allowable size of new development.

This is not a threat confined to SoHo and Noho. If this passes, massive upzoning proposals for historic districts across the City would follow.

The City is touting a “best case” scenario where new development could produce 800 “affordable” units. It would take triple that number of luxury condos to achieve that. But the documents the City put out says there are 27 sites “likely” to be developed, producing a smaller number of “affordable” units – between 330 and 498.

The study group members welcomed more affordable housing and assumed it could be contextual. They all said the historic character of the area was a priority. This upzoning would destroy that character for relatively few affordable units.

The issue is not “either/or” – affordable housing or historic districts. Many historic districts are already the densest and most diverse in their areas. The hundreds of NoHo and SoHo residents who came to public sessions during the study period weren’t “rich.” Many were longtime residents concerned that upzoning would make living there more expensive, or impossible. The issue is an administration too ready to bow to developers who have long chafed against landmark regulations in historic districts—and too dismissive of the economic and quality of life benefits historic districts provide.

The proposal will be going through a lengthy public review process. We’ll keep you informed throughout. And we’ll be asking for your help. The City cannot be allowed to decimate these historic districts—or any others.

Peg Breen, President
The New York Landmarks Conservancy

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