City Council Approves Inwood Rezoning, Despite Resident Protests

Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez tried to allay community concerns about the new zoning changes for Inwood, saying, “This rezoning is not about pushing tenants out,” but about “millions of dollars in investment.”

After three years of planning, meetings and protests, the City Council overwhelmingly approved a plan on Wednesday to rezone a large swath of Inwood, often referred to as the last affordable neighborhood in Manhattan.

The proposal is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to rezone up to 15 neighborhoods across the city and create and preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing by 2026. Inwood became the fifth neighborhood, all low-income and largely minority, to be rezoned under the plan.

The rezoning will create and preserve 4,100 units of affordable housing, including 925 units on city-owned land and 675 units that will be established in market-rate buildings under housing rules that require developers to build affordable housing in projects made possible by rezoning.

“The approval of the Inwood neighborhood rezoning means a fairer, stronger future for a community that has experienced decades of disinvestment,” Mr. de Blasio said in a statement. “It means affordability, security and opportunity for residents and new immigrants alike.”

But a coalition of Inwood residents have opposed the plan because they fear that even with new affordable units, an influx of market-rate apartments will increase rents and displace longtime residents.

[Residents of Inwood talk of a way of life there, a sense of place, order and community that they fear will be threatened if the new zoning changes the character of the neighborhood. Read more here about the fight for Inwood’s future.]

Some of those opponents disrupted the Council meeting before the vote, shouting “shame,” throwing fake money from the balcony and accusing the councilman who represents Inwood, Ydanis Rodriguez, of betraying them.

As a part of the negotiations for the rezoning, Mr. Rodriguez and city officials agreed to $200 million worth of neighborhood investments, including a new 20,000-square-foot library with affordable housing; a plan to open up access to the waterfront; and $50 million in improvements at the George Washington Educational Complex, such as a new science, technology, engineering and math curriculum.

“This rezoning is not about pushing tenants out,” Mr. Rodriguez said at a news conference before the meeting. “This rezoning is about millions of dollars in investment.”

Earlier, Stephanie Frias, 26, an Inwood resident, stood outside City Hall in the scorching sun, holding a sign that read “SAVE INWOOD.”

“If he wants to help the community of Inwood he could take a different approach without rezoning,” said Ms. Frias, 26. “This is a loss for the Inwood community.”

Inwood, on the northern tip of Manhattan, is known for its parks, diversity and affordability. Longtime residents there regard the neighborhood as a closely guarded secret. Nearly 80 percent of units there, which are in five- to eight-story tenements, are under some form of rent regulation.

Half of the residents are foreign born, and the neighborhood contains the highest concentration of Dominicans in the city. Whites, Asians and blacks make up almost a quarter of the neighborhood.

The rezoning will have the biggest impact in the industrial area east of 10th Avenue, where the changes will allow for buildings between 18 and 30 stories tall. Buildings of that size, which will contain some affordable housing, will contain many more market-rate units. The higher costs of those units will drive up rents and change the character of the neighborhood, opponents argue.

Councilman Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn, who is running for lieutenant governor, abstained from the voting, saying, “We are not doing as much as we should be for affordable housing.”

City officials say that gentrification is already underway in Inwood. According to the most recent data, rents are rising faster in Community District 12, which includes Inwood, Washington Heights and Marble Hill, than in the rest of the city.

A quarter of Inwood residents live below the poverty line, compared with 18 percent citywide. Only 200 new units of housing have been built in the neighborhood of 43,000 residents over the last two decades, versus 67,000 units in the rest of Manhattan. That means the pressure on rents will occur without the rezoning, James Patchett, the president of the Economic Development Corporation, said in a recent interview.

“People have legitimate fears that rents are going up,” he said. “But we believe we will create a substantial amount of affordable housing.”

Mr. Rodriguez said he listened closely to residents concerned about the rezoning. A business district known as the “Commercial U,” which stretches along Dyckman Street, Broadway and West 207th Street, was removed from the plan. The maximum density allowed was reduced on blocks with concentrated amounts of rent-regulated housing.

As a part of the rezoning, the city will also look to develop affordable housing on the site of a sanitation garage on 215th Street and 10th Avenue that is soon to be relocated, and at the schoolyard at Intermediate School 52 on Vermilyea Avenue.

The city will also help Con Edison consolidate facilities that could lead to the sale of land to private developers, who would be required to build affordable housing as part of the mandatory inclusionary housing program.

Corey Johnson, the Council speaker, said that Mr. Rodriguez “fought as hard as anyone could have” to get the best deal for his community.

Councilwoman Laurie A. Cumbo, who fought off a tough election challenge last year after originally supporting a plan to redevelop an armory in her Brooklyn district before changing her mind, said she sympathized with the attacks Mr. Rodriguez faced for “looking to bring incredible resources to a neighborhood that has been incredibly underserved for decades.”

One of those attacks took the form of a message that Mr. Rodriguez received on Facebook. The message, shared by Mr. Rodriguez, showed a hooded person cutting the throat of what looks to be a law enforcement officer. Mr. Rodriguez described the image as “ISIS like.”

“The N.Y.P.D. received information about social media postings that were concerning,” Detective Sophia Mason said in an email. “An investigation and threat assessment was carried out by the intelligence bureau.”

Police officials declined to answer further questions.

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