An abridged version of this piece appeared as an op-ed in the January 23, 2020 edition of AM-Metro NY.
A recent report issued on behalf of the NYC Department of City Planning, the Manhattan Borough President, and City Councilmember Margaret Chin called for seeking opportunities to create affordable housing in SoHo and NoHo, and to increase density to do so. That suggestion has recently been amplified by a small but vocal group of activists who’ve made this their No. 1 priority as zoning changes are being considered for these lower Manhattan neighborhoods.
This may sound benign enough; there’s no denying New York City in general and these increasingly pricey neighborhoods in particular need affordable housing, and one could easily be forgiven for thinking that “increased density” means nothing more than allowing smaller buildings to be replaced by larger ones for this purpose. In fact, what is actually being called for is something far less innocuous, that would result in much more super-luxury than affordable housing being added, and in grossly out-of-scale development of the sort currently prohibited in these neighborhoods. And no one would benefit so much from these proposed changes as the real estate developers who would earn a tremendous windfall from these changes.