Espaillat’s Walking Tour of Inwood

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer with Congressman Adriano Espaillat on March 18. (Screen shot from video by Sherry Mazzocchi and Michael Scully via Manhattan Times)

Just a few days before CB 12 approved a resolution proposing several changes in the city’s plans for a rezoning of Inwood – a topic which has generated much debate within the community – Congressman Adriano Espaillat on March 18 took about 40 community members and some politicians on a walking tour of Inwood, pointing out vacant lots that he said could reasonably be developed as “100% affordable housing.” Sherry Mazzocchi of Manhattan Times was on the tour.

As a congressman, Espaillat’s role in the rezoning is purely advisory – but he noted that, as an Inwood resident, “this is personal for me.” And he pointed out that it’s not just Inwood, but also neighboring Washington Heights, that will be affected by the direction rezoning and development in the area take.

Espaillat said Washington Heights must also be considered in Inwood’s rezoning. Each of Northern Manhattan’s four zip codes contain about 3000 apartments with preferential rent riders. If hundreds of new, market rate apartments are added to the area, the overall rents will likely rise. That will create strong incentives for landlords to revoke existing preferential rents and demand market rates instead.

“This has the potential to dramatically change our neighborhood in a way we don’t want,” Espaillat said.

Espaillat said that there were at least 14 sites in both Washington Heights and Inwood and 52 vacant lots that could be transformed into 100 percent affordable housing. Among the Inwood sites he noted on the tour were a Con Edison site at 204th Street and 10th Avenue that he said was promised to the community after the 1999 blackout, a Department of Transportation (DOT) parking lot and a parking lot at 218th St.

On the tour was Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who said she had spoken to all of the business owners along the Commercial U district and the auto repair businesses on 10th Avenue.

“No place else in Manhattan do they exist,” said.

She is concerned that mom-and-pop small businesses stay in place. Financiers of new buildings often maintain that only “credit worthy” tenants can rent commercial space.  “Before you know it, you have a chain store,” she said.

Brewer will be weighing in on the CB12 rezoning resolution that was approved March 21  and incorporated community input. View a video by Sherry Mazzocchi and Michael Scully of Espaillat’s walking tour here.

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