Earlier this month, Mayor de Blasio’s contested plan to rezone parts of Inwood to allow for 5,000 new apartments, received approval from City Council and it’s now awaiting the mayor to sign it into law. While many Inwood residents continue to oppose the rezoning in fear of gentrification and displacement, the recent approval is a win for developers.
According to the Wall Street Journal, housing developers spent tens of thousands of dollars lobbying the city’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez to get the rezoning passed. Lobbying records show that Taconic Investment Partners, who is set to create at least 550 units of affordable housing at 410 West 207th Street, where a Pathmark supermarket once stood in Inwood, spent at least $85,000 in 2017 pushing to get the rezoning passed and another $45,000 in 2018.
Taconic Investment Partners weren’t the only ones pushing for the rezoning. Per the WSJ, Jorge Madruga of Madd Equities spent $30,000 this year lobbying city and elected officials to approve the rezoning, while the company spent more than $90,000 in 2017 to have Inwood, along with areas in Brooklyn and Manhattan rezoned. Madruga has been developing low-income housing since the 1990s, however, in 1998 he plead guilty to fraud charges related to a Medicare scheme in Florida and was sentenced to 18 months in prison and 10 years probation. A rep for Madruga told Curbed that Madruga never actually served any jail time since his sentence was reduced and a judge determined that “restitution was the more appropriate solution,” while also reducing probation to six years.
Nevertheless, some say the lobbying is needed to get these things moving and that the city needs developers to build new housing so it’s a give-and-take relationship. “The city can’t do it all,” said longtime developer a board member for the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City in a statement to the WSJ. “They depend on developers to actually build the real estate. Real estate firms aren’t charities and need to make some profit.”
Though he ultimately voted in favor of the Inwood rezoning, City Council member Francisco Moya of Queens has called for a task force to address community concerns about how the rezoning will affect residents of the neighborhood. In a, Moya states that the De Blasio administration has pitted organized labor against low- and middle-class New Yorkers while “propping up a system that enriches developers.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated that Jorge Madruga spent 18 months in prison fraud-related charges. Curbed received information regarding that sentence and the article has been updated to reflect those changes.