Modified West Harlem Rezoning Plan on its Way to Council Vote [Update: Plan Approved by Full Council]

Map of West Harlem rezoning area. Credit: DCP.

See below for update.

Council Member Jackson obtains compromise between City’s proposal and community concerns. On October 25, 2012, the City Council’s Land Use Committee approved a modified version of the Department of City Planning’s West Harlem Rezoning proposal. The proposal would impact 90 blocks generally bounded by West 155th Street to the north, West 126th Street to the south, Bradhurst Avenue to the east, and Riverside Drive to the west. The rezoning would generally replace the area’s majority R8 and R7-2 zoning with a contextual mix of R6A, R7A, R8, and R8A districts. The plan would also make portions of West Harlem eligible for the City’s Inclusionary Housing Program.

Manhattan Community Board 9 broadly supported the proposal, but expressed concern over a proposed R8A district on West 145th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. The Community Board feared that existing federally subsidized, rent-regulated housing would be redeveloped, and urged the Planning Commission to modify that portion of the proposal to R7A. The City Planning Commission on September 5, 2012 approved the proposal without accepting the Community Board’s suggestion, leading Commissioner Michelle R. de la Uz to vote “No.” (See CityLand’s past coverage here).

At the Council’s October 3, 2012 Zoning & Franchises Subcommittee hearing, a representative of the Community Board reiterated its concerns and again asked that a portion of West 145th Street be rezoned to R7A in order to protect the existing affordable housing. Laveen Naidu, Executive Director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, testified that the theatre owns a 6,700 square foot lot on the corner of 152nd Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, where it planned to develop a community use space. He urged the Council to preserve the original zoning because the proposed downzoning would lead to a loss of “over 20,000 sq.ft. of developable property.” Under the original R7-2 regulations for this area, a community facility development can take advantage of a floor area ratio of 6.50. City Planning’s proposed R6A zoning provides for a lower community facility FAR of 3.00.

Original proposed rezoning map. Credit: DCP

The Subcommittee reconvened on October 23, 2012. Council Member Robert Jackson announced two area-specific modifications in response to the community’s concerns, and asked that his colleagues approve the rezoning plan as modified. The first modification changed the City Planning’s proposed R8A district to an R7D district on West 145th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. This modification set a maximum building height and floor area ratio between City Planning’s proposed zoning and the Community Board’s requested zoning. R7D districts were created as part of the Bedford-Stuyvesant South Rezoning. The second modification changed City Planning’s proposed R6A zoning to an R7A district along St. Nicholas Avenue between 152nd and 153rd Streets, which incorporated the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s site. The Subcommittee unanimously approved the modified proposal.

The Land Use committee voted in favor of the modified proposal on October 25, 2012, by a vote of 18-1-1. Council Member Charles Barron voted “No” on the proposal and expressed that members of the local clergy were concerned over the proposal’s lack of a commitment to economic development. Council Member James Sanders, Jr. abstained from the vote in response to Council Member Barron’s reaction. Council Member Jackson responded to Council Member Barron’s statements, stating that the clergy had “very legitimate concerns” that may be addressed on an ongoing basis, but that this “zoning is about preservation” of the West Harlem community.

City Planning heard the modifications during its review session on November 5, 2012 and determined that the modifications were within the scope of the original action. The full Council is expected to vote on the rezoning at its stated meeting on November 14, 2012.

Council: West Harlem Rezoning and Text Amendment (C 120309 ZMM – rezoning); (N 120310 ZRM – text amendment) (October 25, 2012).

Update (11/14/2012) – On November 13, 2012, the full City Council approved the proposal by a vote of 41-1-0. Council Member Charles Barron voted against the proposal.

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