City Planning Commission Approves Controversial SoHo Rezoning

Agency also gave the OK for Howard Hughes’ 250 Water Street plan and the citywide hotel permit proposal.

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The City Planning Commission (CPC) unanimously approved the controversial rezoning of SoHo and NoHo on Wednesday, which could pave the way for thousands of new apartments in two of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods but faced opposition from residents and local politicians.

The plan, spearheaded by Mayor Bill de Blasio, would update the neighborhoods’ 1960s-era zoning to help pave the way for up to 3,200 new apartments — with 900 affordable units — and new retail development.

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“By bringing flexible and modern zoning to these historic mixed-use neighborhoods, the plan significantly advances NYC’s equity and inclusivity goals, helps address our severe and ongoing housing crisis, and serves to speed NYC’s economic recovery,” CPC chair Anita Laremont said during the Wednesday hearing.

However, not everybody was as enthusiastic as Laremont about the plan. It was previously shot down by Manhattan Community Board 2 and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. New York City Council members Margaret Chin and Carlina Rivera also came out against the rezoning. All said it didn’t provide enough affordable housing for the neighborhoods. 

Opponents also tried to block the rezoning plan through a lawsuit that argued meetings for the proposal should have been held in-person and not over Zoom, a contingency planners resorted to because of the pandemic. The suit was dismissed.

“What [the rezoning] will do is threaten hundreds of units of rent-regulated affordable housing in these neighborhoods, driving out the considerable number of older, lower-income, longtime residents,” Andrew Berman, head of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said in a statement after the vote. “It will push out the struggling smaller independent and arts-related businesses of the neighborhood, while rewarding the mayor’s developer-donor friends with a massive giveaway of the city’s real estate and an almost unimaginable windfall.”

The rezoning will now move to the City Council for a vote before making its way to the mayor’s desk for final approval. And while de Blasio leaves office on Jan. 1, 2022, his likely successor Eric Adam had previously voiced his support for the plan.

Aside from the SoHo rezoning, the CPC also approved two other contentious proposals: Howard Hughes Corporation’s 250 Water Street tower and an amendment that would require all new hotels built in the city to go through a special permitting process, which an undisclosed new group sued the city on Tuesday to block.

Nicholas Rizzi can be reached at nrizzi@commercialobserver.com.