Inwood rezoning plan can move forward, appeals court rules

July 24, 2020

Photo of Inwood Hill Park by Dana on Flickr

The plan to rezone Inwood can move forward, a state appeals court ruled on Thursday. The decision comes after a judge in December overturned the land-use changes approved by the City Council in 2018 to rezone 59 blocks of the northern Manhattan neighborhood. But in their decision, the appellate court said the City Council “acted properly and consistently” with review procedures.

The rezoning is the sixth approved during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s term, part of a plan to bring more affordable housing across the city. The related land use changes would allow for new buildings in Inwood to be between 18 and 30 stories tall and residential projects with a combination of market-rate and affordable housing. The city expects the plan to create and preserve more than 4,000 affordable housing units.

Advocacy group Northern Manhattan is Not for Sale filed a lawsuit in 2018 (as Inwood Legal Action) to challenge the city’s plan, arguing the environmental review process was incomplete and that officials failed to study the effect the rezoning would have on minority communities and tenants in rent-regulated apartments.

Supreme Court Judge Verna Saunders struck down the rezoning last year and ruled in favor of the neighborhood groups, writing in her decision the city “failed to take a hard look at the relevant areas of concern identified by the public” and did not comply with a state environmental quality review. The city appealed and with a 5-0 decision, the Appellate Division First Department reversed the December ruling.

“The City Council acted properly, and consistently with SEQRA/CEWR procedures, in approving the rezoning and issuing its own written statement finding that the rezoning avoided or minimized adverse environmental impacts to the maximum extent practicable,” the panel’s decision from Thursday reads.

Cheryl Pahaham, the co-chair of Inwood Legal Action, said in a statement that the members of the group will meet to vote on whether to appeal the decision to the New York Court of Appeals.

“We are deeply disappointed by the court’s ruling and that the City still refuses to study the racial impact of its proposed rezoning, which would be a significant step toward addressing the racial inequality that is baked into the City’s housing policies,” Pahaham said. “If Mayor de Blasio truly believes that #BlackLivesMatter, he should support our calls for a racial impact study, and provide equal housing opportunities to Asian, Black, and Latino New Yorkers.”

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who led the effort to rezone the neighborhood, said he will work to bring “truly affordable housing” to Inwood.

“As the Inwood rezoning plan moves forward, I will continue to work alongside the City, the community, and local elected officials to ensure that we live up to the agreements we came upon and ensure that we bring truly affordable housing into our community while also providing tenant protection programs for all Northern Manhattan residents,” Council Member Ydanis Rodriquez wrote in a statement.

“Additionally, we will make sure that we bring much-needed investment into our schools by continuing plans to bring Mechatronics to our entire school district, invest in our community parks, and in our mom and pop shops.”


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