Board members of Community Board 7 last night voted unanimously in favor of the Department of City Planning’s new zoning proposal aimed at placing a limit on the size on ground floor frontages of new and expanding retail spaces on Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues.
The packed meeting saw a 37-to-0 vote in favor of the Department of City Planning’s proposal, as well as 2 voters abstaining and 2 other voters citing conflict of interest, said Mark Diller, chairman of Community Board 7.
“The end product here is a resounding endorsement of a proposal set forth by the Department of City Planning with the goal of preserving the retail character of our neighborhood,” said Mr. Diller.
With Community Board 7’s approval intact, the re-zoning plan will now go through a multi-faceted public review process in which it will first go to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s office, then, pending approval, will go to a public hearing held by the city Planning Commission. Finally, it will be delivered to the City Council, where it will await a final vote.
The plan would also limit the size of store frontages for bank chains on Broadway to 25 feet or less. There has been chatter that this proposal may be against a federal law protecting bank chains from such zoning limitations, although many were unsure what that precise federal law was, or if it even exists.
The new retail zoning plan came about from local concern that the Upper West Side was being overtaken by big-box retailers and national bank chains.
The re-zoning plan is aimed at keeping the frontages of new stores at 40 feet or less. A collection of very vocal opponents of the plan, which includes the West Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and the Columbus Ave. BID, have said that the new zoning would prohibit existing businesses from expanding while also nixing “the possibility of seeing new stores open that are similar to those we now treasure, such as Barney Greengrass or Isabella’s Restaurants.”
“It’s a tough issue, because everyone wants to maintain the local neighborhood stores, but they differ on how to do that,” said Andrew Albert, executive director of the West Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. “Some believe that this was the way with zoning and others felt that neighboring stores can’t be kept static.”
A city official said that there were several misconceptions surrounding the proposed zoning proposal.
“Over time [the proposal] is maintaining roughly the same mix of stores that you have today,” said the city official, who wished to remain nameless.