City Council approves rezoning of Soho and Noho


Councilor Corey Johnson and Margaret Chin with renderings of 250 Water Street & River Ring (Getty Images, margaretchin.nyc, seaportvision.nyc, riverring.nyc)

Coming out, city council members forever changed the future of Soho, Noho and parts of many other neighborhoods.

In what was for many their last session, lawmakers approved new zoning for Manhattan’s two enclaves and several other controversial land use proposals. Due to term limits, most Council members are in their last month.

Here is an overview of the main land use planning measures adopted on Wednesday.

Rezoning of Soho and Noho
Compulsory inclusive housing has long been criticized for its exclusive targeting of lower-income neighborhoods. But in recounting Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing legacy, critics will likely point to the end of administration as an exception.

The rezoning of Soho and Noho represents the second such initiative to focus on a predominantly white and affluent area, after the rezoning of Gowanus in Brooklyn. The change allows for residential and commercial uses in areas that had been zoned for manufacturing.

Despite its reputation as a retail hub, ground-floor retailing was not permitted as of right in most of Soho. The zoning change removes this restriction, but a special permit will still be required for commercial spaces over 10,000 square feet on narrow streets and 25,000 square feet on broad streets.

Opponents argued that the new zoning would endanger historic neighborhoods, displace rent-stabilized tenants and lead to oversized, mostly market-priced housing in neighborhoods.

Last week, city council reached a deal to reduce some of the commercial and residential density that had been proposed in parts of the neighborhoods. It also eliminated “option 2” under the inclusion program, in which 30 percent of apartments in new projects are reserved for residents earning 80 percent or less than the region’s median income. The other program choices largely require greater affordability.

Although there are no city-owned sites in the rezoning area, the mayor – whose last full day in office is January 1 – has pledged to prioritize the construction of 100 apartments. affordable on a city owned parcel just outside the area at 388 Hudson Street.

De Blasio has also agreed to create a SoHo / NoHo arts fund, which will be funded by payments made by landlords who convert joint artist working quarters into residential apartments. City council also passed a bill on Wednesday that increases fines for using these units for other purposes without formally converting them. The penalty for a first violation starts at $ 15,000 and is $ 25,000 for each subsequent violation.

River ring

(riverring.nyc)

The Two Trees Development project passed the Uniform Land Use Review process in just four months. The company headed by Jed Walentas kicked off the process in August and got swift approvals from Community Council 1, Borough President Eric Adams and the Town Planning Commission.

The pace of the exam was a matter of survival for River Ring. Had this spread in 2022, the developer would have had to face new member of city council, Lincoln Restler, whose campaign platform implied he would have demanded even higher accessibility.

Instead, the project will include 1,050 apartments, of which 263 will be permanently affordable. Two Trees also agreed to pay for over 150 new senior housing units in the community neighborhood and fund $ 1.7 million for neighborhood environmental improvements.

250, rue de l’Eau

(seaportvision.nyc)

After a long trip and a few haircuts, Howard Hughes’ project moves forward. The building, which will stand on a site that has been a parking lot for decades, will have 270 units, 80 of which will be affordable. The Texas-based developer has pledged $ 40 million for 234,630 square feet of air rights from Pier 17 and the nearby Tin Building. The city will set aside that money and an additional $ 10 million for the Seaport Museum.

Opponents have raised concerns over the prolonged construction and mercury disposal of the site, where a thermometer factory once stood.

FRESHNESS expansion
In 2009, the city launched the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health Program, offering tax and zoning incentives to encourage developers to build supermarkets in so-called food deserts. The program has been disappointing: only 28 projects have been approved, and it is likely that some would have seen the light of day even without the incentives.

The expansion will add 11 districts to the 19 currently in the program. City council also approved certain limits on permitted residential increases.

Special hotel permits

City council passed the text amendment at its December 9 meeting, but the action was overshadowed by the Soho and Noho rezoning deal.

New hotels or expansions of 20% or more of existing hotels must first obtain a special permit. This policy has been rolled out to other areas of the city, including Midtown East, the Garment District, and areas zoned for light manufacturing. In November 2020, city hall abandoned its proposal to apply a special permit requirement to Union Square, turning instead to a city-wide rule.

Critics of the plan, which included former and current town planners, argued that it unfairly targets an area and lacks justification for land use. It also restricts the development of new hotels at a time when the hospitality industry is still reeling from the pandemic.

The administration countered that the amendment to the text would support “more predictable development” and limit “the extent to which hotel use can harm the future use or development of the surrounding area.”

Hotels that house homeless people, as well as those that were planned before the approval of the text change and that are ready to be occupied within six years, are exempt from the permit mandate.

A lawsuit challenging the change calls the plan a giveaway to the Hospitality Trades Council, saying it allowed the union “to exert political pressure to block new limited-use hotels or demand that all new hotels use a union workforce “. The measure was a high priority for the union group.