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East Harlem rezoning is one vote from being approved

The full City Council will now vote on this sweeping rezoning proposal on November 30

City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced on Tuesday that the city had reached an agreement on a sweeping plan to rezone East Harlem. After spending months in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), and after several meetings with local residents and community stakeholders, the rezoning plan is now different from when it first entered the city’s winding approvals process earlier this year.

Overall the city agreed to reduce the density and the height limits on buildings throughout the 96-block stretch of the rezoned area. Along Park Avenue, north of 118th Street, building heights will be limited to 275 feet, except for on 125th Street, and city-owned sites. Height limits and FAR have also been reduced along Lexington, Third, and Second Avenues. The City Council’s website has the full breakdown.

“From expanding affordable housing and providing substantial and unprecedented investments in our neighborhood’s public housing stock to boosting employment in local businesses and revitalizing La Marqueta, this rezoning plan presents a comprehensive vision for our community’s future,” said Mark-Viverito, in a statement.

The rezoning agreement is accompanied by several neighborhood-revitalizing initiatives, aside from the residential component. They include $50 million towards improving the neighborhood’s NYCHA stock, developing new affordable housing on city-owned sites, a new waterfront park between 125th to 132nd Street that will be built at a cost of $101 million, creating a no harassment program to deter tenant harassment, and a $25 million investment to revamp the historic La Marqueta, among several other features. A full list of these community improvements is on the Council’s website.

“The East Harlem plan before the Council today is a significant improvement over what was first put forward by the administration, thanks to the work of Speaker Mark-Viverito and the community members who worked with us to craft and fight for the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, in a statement.

The rezoning has ensured that at least 20 to 25 percent of new units built in the neighborhood will be affordable, and the Council estimates that this rezoning will lead to the creation of 1,288 affordable apartments.

The lead up to the announcement today had been fraught with divisiveness with many local residents opposed to the rezoning even last month. The proposal now has the backing of the local community board, and several community groups in the neighborhood. But some groups like the Movement for Justice in El Barrio are still opposed to the rezoning in its current form.

“The agreement reached on the East Harlem rezoning plan benefits developers, not the low-income residents of El Barrio,” said Maria Rodriguez, a member of the group. “As soon as it is approved, the real estate industry will be celebrating its passage because of the profits they will generate off this luxury housing plan.”

The City Council’s subcommittees on zoning & franchises, and land use, unanimously approved the rezoning on Tuesday, which now leaves the full City Council to vote on it on November 30. Tuesday’s decision on East Harlem was also accompanied by a verdict to allow the Sendero Verde project to move forward. The development will bring 680 affordable apartments to a large site located between East 111th and 112th Streets, and Park and Madison Avenues. The project will also create a charter school, a new YMCA, and recreate the community gardens that will de displaced by the development.