The city has released its plan to rezone Inwood, the third New York City neighborhood targeted under Mayor de Blasio’s initiative to build and preserve 210,000 units of affordable housing by 2020. The rezoning is just one facet of the city’s newly-released action plan, which details a four-pronged approach to create more affordable and mixed-income housing, bolster the neighborhood’s existing community, and strengthen neighborhood infrastructure. The action plan represents the first major public investment in Inwood in decades.
Residents of Inwood, where rents have risen 38 percent between 2002 and 2014 compared to 24 percent citywide, have been on guard about outside forces acting on the neighborhood. That came to a head last summer with a developer’s proposal to rezone a site at the intersection of Broadway and Sherman Avenue. The plan was met with deep hostility—and ultimately shot down—by the community and local elected officials.
To sidestep the hostility that comes with change, the city’s Economic Development Corporation has engaged the Inwood community and business owners to give shape to the newly unveiled action plan. That engagement determined areas of focus for the plan beyond the rezoning and affordable housing initiative, such as providing fixes to intersections and parks. As with East New York and East Harlem before it, the rezoning portion of the action plan will need to pass through the city’s land use review procedure before being ratified, meaning some aspects are likely to change.
So what are the specifics, as of now? For starters, the rezoning and action plan area would roughly extend north from Dyckman Street, bordered by Inwood Hill and Isham parks and excluding the MTA rail yard, New York Presbyterian’s Allen Hospital, and Columbia University’s Baker Field.
A major point of focus is to reengage the Harlem River waterfront, now lined with parking lots and low-rise manufacturing buildings. Under the plan, the waterfront would be rezoned for residential use, requiring private developments to participate in the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) program. Any city-owned lots that give way to housing would seek deeper affordability than MIH’s 80-20 model. Waterfront developments would be required to provide public open space along the river.
The call for permanent affordable housing through the MIH program would also extend west of Tenth Avenue, which will be contextually rezoned to include a height cap.
In the last two decades, just 200 units of housing have been built in Inwood, and 89 percent of its affordable housing stock was built before 1947. Stats cited by the action plan note that the neighborhood’s median houshold income is $41,687 (compared to NYC’s median household income of $53,373), with 26 percent of its residents living below the poverty line.
About 70 percent of Inwood and Washington Heights apartments are rent-regulated; but many of these apartments were built during the Koch era and may have regulatory agreements reaching the end of their term. The action plan will seek to maintain these apartments as affordable. Similarly, it will offer tenants tools to fight back against landlord harassment. The city is currently exploring the creation of a Certificate of No Harassment pilot program, as well as doing outreach to inform tenants of their rights and how to report issues.
The action plan also calls for expanding access to parks—the city has already committed $15 million to improving green space in the area—and creating more pedestrian-friendly streets; developing neighborhood infrastructure like enhanced drainage systems; and expanding broadband service. The action plan will also focus on creating pathways to careers for area residents through a new career center.
The NYCEDC will present the plan to the Land Use group of Inwood’s Community Board 12 in mid-July, 2017. The plan is expected to enter its formal environmental review in early fall with a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure following in late 2017 or early 2018.
Read more on the plan here.