Gale Brewer won’t support de Blasio’s Soho rezoning plan


That is Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s message to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is trying to ram through a controversial redevelopment of Soho before the end of his tenure on Dec. 31.

“There are too many challenges with this rezoning for me to support it outright. While the city’s need for affordable housing is massive and all neighborhoods should contribute to helping increase it, we can do better than this proposal,” Brewer said in a statement Thursday night.

The plan currently creates 3,200 units of new housing, including 800 affordable apartments

The borough president’s take is advisory, but the mayor and City Council have traditionally headed the advice of local officials on development projects in their districts.

Brewer believes the plan incentivizes too much commercial development, does not guarantee preservation of the historic district, fails to protect loft law tenants, and should give more subsidies to developers who add additional affordable housing beyond the required amount.

“I stand ready to continue to work with the Planning Commission, the Council, and to engage the community and stakeholders in efforts to improve this proposal,” she said.

Her request for changes to the plan could mean that the City Council will not vote on it until after de Blasio leaves office.

Brewer’s statement comes after over six hours of public testimony about the project before the City Planning Commission Thursday where around a 100 people spoke — with only about 10 in support of the plan.

Manhattan Borough President Gale BrewerManhattan Borough President Gale Brewer does not support Bill de Blasio’s rezoning plan for Soho.William Farrington

Jessica Katz, a Soho resident and director of Citizens Housing & Planning Council, a local nonprofit, was one of those supporters.

“Over the last 40 years the area’s restrictive and exclusionary zoning has allowed it to transform from a hub of working class artists to what it is in effect today– a gated community.

“New Yorkers are experiencing homelessness … the risk of doing nothing is even greater. Freezing this neighborhood in amber has led to skyrocketing rents and a wave of gentrification,” Katz said.

But one of her neighbors, Trevor Stewart, had a different view.

“Despite of the interest by the mayor and other proponents of this up-zoning plan to portray it as motivated by social justice and equity, let’s be 100 percent clear who the main benefactors would be — big real estate developers,” Stewart said.

New York Mayor Bill de BlasioMayor Bill de Blasio is trying to ram through a controversial redevelopment of Soho.AP Photo/Richard Drew

Edison Properties, a real estate firm with ties to de Blasio, owns property in the area and stands to reap a major windfall if the plan is approved.

Reps for the mayor and the company have denied any impropriety related to the plan.

Deputy Mayor Vicki Been has said the real push for the plan moving forward last summer 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.

City Council candidate Christopher Marte, who is favored to win the November election for a district that covers the rezoning plan, also spoke in opposition to it.

sohoGale Brewer believes the plan incentivizes too much commercial development.Getty Images

“As Gale said … there are still too many questions that have gone unanswered. Why are we going to make a decision on this plan when we don’t know whether it’s going to displace residents or not. Or whether it’s going to displace small businesses or not?” Marte testified Thursday.

Asked for comment on Brewer’s thumbs down, mayoral spokesman Mitch Schwartz said, “Soho looks a lot different today than it did as a manufacturing and industrial hub, but it’s zoning laws are exactly the same. Those laws have squeezed small businesses and excluded low-income families for too long. The public process is ongoing, and we’re proud to work with all the local elected officials to make sure the final plan reflects our shared goals.”

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