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East Harlem rezoning faces mounting public opposition

The plan received overwhelmingly negative feedback at a recent Planning Commission meeting

While winding its way through the city review process, the East Harlem rezoning plan came before the City Planning Commission this week, and the community feedback, yet again, was not positive.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer had already expressed reservations about the plan in its current state earlier this month, and she did the same at the City Planning meeting, DNAinfo reports. In her testimony, she bemoaned the fact that the city hadn’t taken local residents’ feedback into account.

The City Planning meeting went on for five hours, and most of the people who testified spoke in opposition to the project, according to City Limits. Local residents’ primary complaints have to do with the fact that the current plan would allow for buildings as tall as 35-stories along Park and Third Avenue, a scale of development unheard of in East Harlem.

Residents expressed concerns that the new projects would rapidly escalate rents and eventually displace them from the neighborhood. Others argued that the rezoning did not build on the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan, which locals had spent two years crafting.

Those who did speak in favor of the project, were mostly heads of various city agencies, DNAinfo pointed out.

For instance, the Commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Maria Torres-Springer, argued that the rezoning would actually ensure that affordable housing is protected in the neighborhood. She said that the rents were already on the rise in the neighborhood, and that doing nothing may worsen the situation.

The Planning Commission will now review all the public testimony. Those who weren’t able to testify have until September 5 to submit written testimony. The Planning Commission is likely to impose some height limits in its recommendations including limiting the buildings to 21 stories, according to City Limits.

City Planning hasn’t yet announced a date for when it will vote on this proposal, but the Commission does need to make a decision one way or the other before October 2. If it is approved, it will go up for debate before the City Council next.