East Harlem rezoning wins City Planning approval

The effort to rezone East Harlem to allow for more building density and low-income housing made a leap forward today, as the City Planning Commission voted to approve the measure. The rezoning effort will now move on to the City Council, the final vote necessary for the rezoning to become a reality.

East Harlem is the fourth neighborhood to undergo the city’s land-use review procedure as a part of Mayor de Blasio’s effort to build and secure over 200,000 units of affordable housing in New York City by 2020. East New York and Far Rockaway have already been rezoned to allow for additional building density. The rezoning of Inwood is pushing through the ranks towards approval.

While the sweep of rezonings are posited as a necessary means to achieve Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious affordable housing agenda, the plan has been consistently criticized for failing to meet the limitations of New Yorkers with the lowest incomes who need it the most.

The plan to rezone East Harlem lost the support of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in August, who said the neighborhood “needs a plan that better preserves neighborhood context, makes real up-front commitments to affordable housing preservation, [and] spreads new development across a wider area.”

On Thursday, 10 City Planning commissioners voted for the rezoning with one voting against and one abstaining. The vote against the rezoning came from Michelle De La Uz, who rejected the proposal on the grounds that it “does not achieve inclusive growth.”

Commissioner Levin, who abstained from voting, noted that the city’s commitment to develop affordable housing on city-owned properties will go a long way to “tempering the market forces that are now at work in East Harlem,” but said she was not comfortable voting on the land use aspects of the plan given that measures to abate tenant harassment, seek deeper affordability, and maintain neighborhood character were still being sketched out.

Commissioner Ortiz, who voted for the rezoning, also reiterated calls for an anti-tenant harassment program—in her words, “one that has real teeth.”

The rezoning approved by City Planning calls for a neighborhood height cap of 32 stories in certain areas. The plan also calls for contextual zoning to help protect neighborhood character, as well as ground-floor retail to create street-level neighborhood engagement.

The area under consideration for the rezoning is generally bounded by East 104th Street to the south, East 132nd Street to the north, Park Avenue to the west and Second Avenue to the east.

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