Why South Villagers Should Oppose the City’s Rezoning Plans

The City’s rezoning proposals ‘Zoning for Quality and Affordability’ (ZQA) and dcp-presentation-iconMandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) are making their way through the public review process. If approved, each would profoundly impact our neighborhoods and our city, increasing the size and amount of allowable development.  And while both have received overwhelming disapproval from community boards and Borough Presidents, the Mayor insists they will ultimately be approved.  The City Council has final say over these proposals’ fate, but their position remains to be seen.

It’s therefore critical that New Yorkers get involved with the process.  But South Villagers have a particular stake in ensuring these rezoning plans are not adopted.

Why?  Because we have been fighting to get much of the South Village rezoned with height limits to prevent inappropriate, out-of-scale new development.  If ZQA passes, those height limits we are seeking would be weakened.

Through ZQA, the Mayor wants to change the rules for all “contextual” zoning districts – those that currently exist, as well as any that might be added in the future.  Contextual zoning districts, unlike regular zoning districts, have height limits and other controls governing new development, designed to ensure new construction fits in with the character of its surroundings.

South Village rezoning map

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GVSHP is seeking contextual zoning for the South Village, especially the areas south of Houston Street and elsewhere which don’t currently have landmark protections.  Under the existing zoning, in those areas, towers of up to 300 feet in height could be built.

Under our rezoning proposal, which is supported by the local Community Board, elected officials, and local community groups – pretty much everyone except the Mayor, who must support it for it to move ahead – height limits of no more than 75 or 80 feet would be put in place for new development in the area (we’d ideally like even lower height limits, but under our current zoning system anything lower would be virtually impossible).

But if the Mayor’s ZQA plan goes through, some of the zoning districts we are seeking would have their height limits bumped up by 5 feet – not a huge amount, but greater than the height limits we are seeking, and even farther above the height of most buildings currently in the area.  If an affordable housing component is added in, the height would jump even further – by 25 feet – making new development potentially even more out of scale under a “contextual” rezoning (under current contextual zoning, affordable housing developments must abide by the same height limits as all other developments).

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Image showing potential development in South Village, south side of Houston Street between Thompson and Sullivan Streets, under existing zoning.

Want to help?  Attend the City Council public hearings at City Hall on Tuesday February 9 or Wednesday February 10 starting at 9:30 am, and send letters to city officials in opposition here (letters can also be used as sample testimony; testimony must be no more than four minutes, but 20 copies of written testimony of any length can be submitted).  More information on how to testify, track when you will be called to speak etc. can be found here and here.

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Andrew Berman

Andrew Berman has been the Executive Director of GVSHP since 2002.

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