NYC Council approves plan to rezone Soho and Noho, which will add 900 affordable units
A rendering of West Broadway in Soho, looking downtown; courtesy of City Planning Commission
The New York City Council on Wednesday voted to approve the plan to rezone Soho and Noho, a major policy win for Mayor Bill de Blasio in his final days in office. The rezoning aims to bring about 3,000 new homes, with roughly 900 of them permanently affordable, to the Lower Manhattan neighborhoods, which are two of the wealthiest in the city.
“This rezoning victory sends a powerful message that every community can and should join the fight to help solve our affordable housing crisis and make this city accessible for working families,” de Blasio said in a statement.
“Soho and Noho are two of the most iconic neighborhoods in the country for a reason – and now, we are one step closer to them finally reflecting all the diversity that makes our city great.”
The upzoning applies to over 50 blocks in the Lower Manhattan neighborhoods, encompassing an area bounded by Canal Street to the south, Houston Street and Astor Place to the north, Lafayette Street and the Bowery to the east, and Sixth Avenue and West Broadway to the west.
Existing zoning rules were established by the city 50 years ago to address the neighborhood’s change from a manufacturing area to a hub for artists, as 6sqft previously reported. The approved plan replaces existing 1970s-era zoning rules with medium- to high-density mixed-use districts, allowing for new buildings that could be as tall as 275 feet.
In the historic district commercial corridors, including on Broadway, the maximum height for new buildings would be 205 feet. In the “historic cores” of the proposed area, the maximum height would be 145 feet.
A new arts fund model allows those living in Joint Living Work Quarters for Artists (JLWQA) to convert to residential use through a contribution to a neighborhood art fund. The JLWQA program will remain an option for certified artists forever.
As part of a “Points of Agreement” package released before Wednesday’s vote, more affordable housing was added to the plan, as City Limits reported. New housing will rise on two nearby city-owned sites, 388 Hudson Street and 324 East 5th Street.
Opponents of the rezoning say the plan would actually create more luxury buildings and luxury condos in the historic neighborhoods, as well as allow more “big box” retailers to open in the area.
“What it will do is prompt a flood of luxury condos, giant big-box chain stores and high-priced corporate offices and hotels, and generate enormous pressure and incentive to demolish hundreds of units of affordable rent-regulated housing in the area, displacing lower-income residents who are disproportionately seniors, artists, and Asian Americans,” Andrew Berman, executive director Village Preservation, said. “The changes wrought by the City Council are lipstick on the proverbial pig.”
The approval comes just weeks after the Council approved the rezoning of Gowanus, another predominantly white and wealthy neighborhood. The Gowanus Neighborhood Plan applies to the area around the Gowanus Canal, a toxic Superfund site in the midst of cleanup, and includes the creation of nearly 8,500 units of housing, with roughly 3,000 of them designated affordable, new parkland, and four acres of open waterfront space.