NoHo and SoHo Rezoning Controversies, Amplified

One of the big questions of planning is up for debate with a proposed rezoning in the SoHo and NoHo neighborhoods of New York City: Can upzoning be an effective tool for affordability?

2 minute read

September 21, 2020, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


SoHo Manhattan

solepsizm / Shutterstock

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, writes an opinion piece in CityLimits to oppose the Envision SoHo/NoHo rezoning plan, in the works in New York City since 2018. Berman characterizes the proposed Envision NoHo SOHo rezoning plan as a "Trump-like," large-scale approach to rezoning, which hides the "vested interests" behind the plan's "overscaled towers of largely-luxury housing."

But when business groups engineered the recent SoHo/NoHo “re-envisioning” process, many neighbors, including Village Preservation, pushed back, aware of this administration’s miserable track record on developer-driven, community-unfriendly rezonings. This latest campaign to use this process as a vehicle for a large-scale upzoning in the neighborhood — which the city claimed was never its intention — confirms the worst fears about the motivations behind the process.

Berman's opinion piece is responding to a previous opinion piece, written by Jessica Katz, executive director of Citizens Housing & Planning Council, which expresses support for the idea that upzoning the neighborhood would create more affordable options in the area. 

SoHo is a perfect case study for the increasing body of evidence that limiting housing production spurs gentrification. Rezoning SoHo would not fundamentally change its character, but it could provide several hundred low-income families the safety net of an affordable unit in a safe neighborhood with rich access to jobs and other amenities. Limiting the affordable housing to only artists is a slap in the face to all the essential workers who have kept this city running throughout the pandemic.

Katz is writing to spur the city toward action, saying the plan has until the middle of September to act if the rezoning will be complete under the current mayoral administration.

For additional reading, the New York Post Editorial Board also recently published an editorial in support of the rezoning. Planetizen has also been checking in with the rezoning since it was first announced in March.

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