Judge overturns city’s plan to rezone Inwood

December 20, 2019

Photo by kathryn on Flickr

A state Supreme Court judge on Thursday overturned land-use changes approved by the City Council in 2018 to rezone the neighborhood of Inwood. A group of local residents and preservationists filed a lawsuit against the rezoning last December, claiming the plan did nothing to protect the community from displacement, as well as other effects of gentrification. In the decision, Judge Verna Saunders said 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 59-block Inwood rezoning falls under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration plan to rezone five neighborhoods across the city as a way to create more affordable housing. Despite years of pushback and protest from local residents, the City Council approved the land-use changes in August 2018, with support from Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who represents Inwood.

The zoning would allow for buildings between 18 and 30 stories high, offering a combination of market-rate and affordable housing. The city said the plan would create and preserve more than 4,100 affordable housing units for the northern Manhattan neighborhood. The de Blasio administration also agreed to $200 million in investments in exchange for the rezoning,

Advocacy coalition Northern Manhattan is Not for Sale filed a lawsuit (under Inwood Legal Action) last year to challenge the Council’s approval. The group argued the city’s environmental review process was incomplete and claimed the city did not study the impact of the plan on minorities, small businesses, and tenants in rent-regulated apartments.

“Thank you @InwoodLegal for never giving up on the fight against the Inwood rezoning,” State Assembly Member Carmen De La Rosa, who represents the neighborhood, tweeted on Thursday. “Today because of our amazing neighbors & the power of the people, our community has won! I look forward to continuing to stand with our neighbors as we go from temporary annulment to a permanent end to the ill conceived Inwood rezoning.”

The decision calls for the city to address the issues raised by the community during the public hearings, including the socio-economic effects, racial impact and displacement, the plan to replace the library with housing, and real estate speculation. The city plans on appealing the ruling.

“We strongly disagree with this ruling which we believe is legally incorrect and contrary to well-established precedent,” Nicholas Paolucci, a Law Department spokesperson, said in a statement. “We stand by the City’s thorough environmental review and will challenge this decision so important projects, including building new affordable homes in this community, can proceed.”


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