Fighting for SoHo and NoHo
I was disappointed to see the New York City Council approve the SoHo/NoHo Neighborhood Plan in December 2021 in one of their last actions as a deliberative body. While there have been minor modifications to the re-zoning, these modest changes do not effectively correct the many problems with a large-scale zoning change in this neighborhood. Throughout 2021, as our community has discussed this Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), I have been clear that drastic increases in commercial Floor Area Ratio (FAR) in the opportunity zones, lack of protections for existing artist residents, failure to address big-box and food hall commercial spaces, and the inclusion of the “arts fund” make this proposal a bad deal for our community. Opponents to this plan have been cast as “NIMBYs” whose singular desire to retain over-inflated property values and parking comes at the expense of rent-burdened or homeless New Yorkers who would benefit from the creation of affordable housing in SoHo and NoHo. What is lost when we paint fellow New Yorkers with such a broad brush is the legitimate policy discussion about how much housing will be created when we continually rely on luxury development as a vehicle for construction. Residents in this community have asked if they can trust the de Blasio Administration, Department of City Planning, and the Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development when they claim that thousands of affordable units will be developed despite seeing affordable housing evaporate from the St. John’s Terminal/550 Washington ULURP which was negotiated only a few years ago. There are many shameful examples of broken promises or missed opportunities seen in every Trump SoHo, air-rights sale that led to a fully luxury building, or the new tech company campus in Lower Manhattan. I am concerned for every rent stabilized building that may be lost due to real estate speculation and tenant harassment. I am concerned that small businesses serving local residents may be pushed out in favor of destination retail. I am concerned that working artists may be taxed and fined for non-conforming uses when the city chose not to create a legalization mechanism or work with the state to find a solution when this process started three years ago. I will continue to fight for New Yorkers and this community who deserve affordable homes, open green space, and limited commercial or luxury development that alters the character of our neighborhoods. I believe that the only way to make SoHo and NoHo available to all New Yorkers is to prioritize the community’s needs over the whims of developers.