Manhattan BP Gale Brewer Comes Out Against SoHo Rezoning

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After a contentious round of public meetings on the rezoning of SoHo and NoHo, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said she would oppose the fraught rezoning.

“There are too many challenges with this rezoning for me to support it outright,” Brewer said in a Thursday statement. “While the city’s need for affordable housing is massive and all neighborhoods should contribute to helping increase it, we can do better than this proposal.”

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She argued that the city should limit commercial development in the area, preserve the historic district, provide subsidies to developers who want to do low-income housing, and develop better protections for loft law tenants. 

The SoHo/NoHo Neighborhood Plan, as it’s officially known, is expected to bring 3,200 new apartments — of which roughly 900 would be affordable — to 56 blocks across the two heavily landmarked Lower Manhattan neighborhoods. 

The rezoning proposal, which entered public review in May, was roundly rejected by the local community board in July. The City Planning Commission held a six-hour-long public hearing on the plan on Thursday, during which Brewer testified.

She explained that she “wanted to get to a situation where there is affordable housing, where there is rezoning, where the historic district is maintained, where tenants do not have to lose their apartments, and … we should not be incentivizing commercial development over residential.”

However, the Beep has yet to issue her official recommendation on the rezoning, which is required as part of the city’s public land use process.

Council members Margaret Chin and Carlina Rivera previously came out against the rezoning — arguing the city needs to rework the plans to add more affordable housing — and it was almost unanimously rejected by Manhattan Community Board 2 in July.

Brewer is leaving the borough president’s office at the end of the year to return to her old Upper West Side New York City Council seat, which she won by a landslide in a Democratic primary in June. 

Two community groups have unsuccessfully tried to block the rezoning in New York State Supreme Court, arguing in a lawsuit that the public review process cannot be legal if meetings are conducted over Zoom. In an effort to counteract these kinds of lawsuits, City Planning now conducts many official land use meetings in-person, while allowing people to testify over Zoom if necessary. 

Rebecca Baird-Remba can be reached at rbairdremba@commercialobserver.com.