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Chinatown rezoning talks met with both outrage and applause

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Many feel like the plan will only serve to divide the close-knit community

The beginning of a Chinatown rezoning initiative put forth by the Department of City Planning, local officials, and Community Board 3 was met with both outrage and praise at a recent land use committee meeting, reports the Lo-Down. Community members were briefed on the upcoming neighborhood engagement process set to kick off later this year.

While some neighborhood activists were happy to see the city finally move forward with an eight-year long discussion to rezone Chinatown, others feel that it might actually tear the community apart while undermining the work of the Chinatown Working Group (CWG), a group that has been working since 2008 to devise a comprehensive plan that crafted a rezoning blueprint of its own. However, that plan was rejected by City Planning.

A protest led by the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side resulted in chaos as members of the group were barred from the meeting for being disruptive before a statement was read on their behalf. "This carving up of our community is continuing a legacy of discrimination and racist exclusion of the Lower East Side, pitting people of color against each other to fight for crumbs," the statement declared.

When asked why the plan put forth by the CWG was rejected, DCP Manhattan office director Edith Hsu-Chen said, "We don’t have another eight to nine years to implement a plan," echoing the agency’s earlier statements of the plan being too expansive.

There will likely be several more controversial community meetings before the planning process officially begins. For now, the committee will seek members to serve on the rezoning steering committee. That in itself, will be an interesting quest, given the mix of intense emotions.