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Term-limited Mayor de Blasio is forging ahead with a controversial rezoning plan for Soho as part of his “racial justice” legacy — despite an ongoing lawsuit by local opponents.
The plan would create 3,500 new apartments including 900 affordable units to the upscale area plus an update of 50-year-old regulations for business owners and artists.
The City Planning Commission officially kicked off its public review process Monday — angering locals who are trying to stop it from going ahead in court.
“The mayor’s pursuit of the Soho rezoning over community opposition reflects, once again, that Mr. de Blasio prioritizes political vanity projects over the interests of New Yorkers,” said attorney Michael Hiller, whose firm represents the SoHo Alliance and Broadway Residents Coalition in a pending case against the city.
They groups argue in the suit that the process shouldn’t move forward without in-person hearings as opposed to the virtual ones that have been conducted during the coronavirus pandemic. They feel the plan is out of character with the low-slung, historic neighborhood and will bring towers and big box stores to the area.
The new housing would be built on vacant lots and by converting existing non-residential buildings.
A real estate company with ties to the mayor is also expected to profit off the rezoning.
The local community board, which held a hearing in December full of testimony against the plan, has 60 days to vote on the proposal. Then it goes to Borough President Gale Brewer for review. Brewer supports the plan.
Finally, it will go back to the Planning Commission before a City Council vote. It’s possible — though far from certain — that the process will be completed before de Blasio leaves office at the end of the year.
“Through permanently affordable housing requirements and support for the arts, this plan is a giant step forward towards a more equitable and even livelier New York City,” said city Planning Commission Chair Marisa Lago.
Last fall, Deputy Mayor Vicki Been said the real impetus for the project was the combination of the coronavirus pandemic downturn and anti-police protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd.
“The pandemic and the movement for racial justice make clear that all neighborhoods must pull their weight to provide safe, affordable housing options,” Been said at the time.
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