State legislators urged City Council members to say no to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to up-develop SoHo — claiming his proposal would destroy the neighborhood’s longtime identity as an artist haven and drive out middle- and working-class residents.
De Blasio has painted the proposal as a way to bring “racial justice” to SoHo in the wake of the George Floyd protests by providing 3,500 new apartments including 900 affordable ones for lower income and minority tenants.
But at a City Council hearing Tuesday, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan) said there aren’t enough protections for existing rent-regulated tenants and artists.
“This is a plan for thousands of luxury units, an audacious giveaway to luxury development guaranteeing a less diverse and more wealthy enclave while undermining an important and existing arts community,” Glick said.
“And it’s completely contrary to their rhetoric,” Glick said, noting a vague arts program that’s part of the plan.
She urged council members at the hearing to vote no on the plan.
“Particularly in the waning days of the most unpopular mayoralty that exists in my memory,” the longtime legislator said.
State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) agreed saying the administration didn’t listen to his advice to rework the proposal to make it more popular.
Hoylman said the plan didn’t do enough to guarantee affordable housing, relies on the demolition of buildings that currently provide discounted housing through rent regulation, and would invite an influx of big box stores.
“Reject the plan as it’s currently proposed and attempt a fresh start in the next city administration,” Hoylman urged.
Local Council members Margaret Chin and Carlina Rivera have expressed concerns about the plan but did not say how they’d vote during the hearing.
Proponents of the project argue that rent-regulated buildings are protected by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and other laws. They say that the city needs cheaper apartments and wealthier neighborhoods like Soho must contribute to that effort.
“We’ve done a tremendous amount of work to address the risks that rent stabilized tenants face as a result of rising values,” said tenant advocate Cea Weaver with the Upstate-Downstate Housing Alliance.
“One of the reasons that we fixed the rent laws is so the city can add housing without displacing tenants,” said Weaver, who supports the plan.
The council is expected to vote on the plan before the end of the year.