De Blasio: Collapse of Inwood Rezoning Proposal ‘Not A Win for the Community’

Mayor Bill de Blasio says the City Council's vote against the Sherman Plaza proposal will hurt efforts to create affordable housing.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a news conference in Times Square March 22, 2016 in New York City.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a news conference in Times Square March 22, 2016 in New York City.

Mayor Bill de Blasio says he’s perplexed as to why community residents are rejoicing over the City Council’s vote to reject to the Sherman Plaza rezoning proposal in Inwood—arguing it is “not a win for the community” because developers could now erect housing with no affordable units. 

Under the proposed Broadway Sherman rezoning, developers would have been able to build a mixed-use residential building at the intersection of Sherman Avenue and Broadway with as many as 17 stories. Half of the units were slated to be affordable under the deal struck between with developers that included city subsidies, according to Politco New York.

After Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez—whose district is where the development would have been built—announced on Tuesday night that he could no longer support the proposal, the City Council followed suit, unanimously rejecting the plan.

The Broadway Sherman rezoning proposal was the first private application filed under the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing zoning text amendment passed by the City Council in March. MIH is one of the mechanisms the city utilizes to advance its plan to build or preserve 200,000 affordable housing units over the next decade; it allows developers to build taller buildings than existing regulations allow if they include affordable housing.

The mayor said he sympathizes with residents’ concerns about gentrification, development and displacement but echoed his longstanding argument that there are two options: either “do nothing” and watch rents increase and people get displaced or “do something” and at least create new affordable units when developers build luxury housing.

“I will go into the community and happily say this to people: it’s not like they turned down development and now the land is going to be some other public use,” de Blasio said. “It’s a private site where a developer controls the outcome.”

Developers can build a 14-story tower with no affordable housing at the site as-of right, according to Politico. The mayor says he does not understand why anyone is celebrating when they could “end up with zero affordable units, just luxury housing.”

“Someone tell me why that’s a win for the community. It’s not a win for the community,” de Blasio said. “And I’m happy to go out and talk to people about that.”

Rodriguez has said his support of the proposal was contingent on the building being 50 percent affordable, providing ample permanent space for local cultural nonprofits and neighborhood service providers and that it must support area small businesses. He said that ultimately, the proposal was not right for the neighborhood but that he still supports MIH and the mayor’s housing plan.

The Council has a long tradition of voting on a land use issues based on the opinion of the Council member whose district include the project, on the grounds that the member has the most knowledge of the community.

The mayor, who served as a Council member for eight years, said the practice is not the issue at hand with the site and noted that it is a “good foundation” with a “perfectly good history”—but that there may be exceptions.

“There are some very valid reasons why there’s a deference to members in their home districts,” he said. “There’s a perfectly good history there. And there are some times where that needs to be challenged.”

The mayor also defended Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s record on affordable housing when asked how ideologically in sync she is with him and whether he expects her to play more of a role in whipping support from members for such projects.

The most important vote “probably of the entire administration” was the vote on enacting Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning, he said, stressing that Mark-Viverito was “in the forefront of putting together support for that.”

But he said that the Sherman Plaza proposal was a single site as opposed to a neighborhood rezoning, so it is “not typically the kind of thing” to which the speaker would devote time.

“And I have to be honest, I think we’re all a little shocked at the outcome,” he said. “So I think now I’m going to look at it differently. I think she may have an opportunity to look at it differently as well.”

De Blasio: Collapse of Inwood Rezoning Proposal ‘Not A Win for the Community’