Residents’ Pressure Stop Sherman Plaza Rezoning Project

Neighbors near Sherman Avenue. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Neighbors near Sherman Avenue. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

On Wednesday, the New York City Council turned its back on the Sherman Plaza rezoning project, a controversial plan to erect a 15-story luxury building in an Upper Manhattan area where buildings are not taller than six stories.

After hundreds of Washington Heights and Inwood residents expressed their dissatisfaction with this urban development plan citing that it would jeopardize rental prices in the area and bring about the displacement of lower income families, the Council said no to the proposal.

Council member Ydanis Rodríguez, who represents the area, voted against the proposal and made it clear that he stands with his community and that he does not favor the interests of developers who do not promote housing for the poor.

“I was responding to the concerns of my community regarding the rezoning of Sherman and Broadway when I voted against this project,” said Rodríguez. “This was a reflexive process in which I took into account the voices in favor and against but, at the end of the day, I did not feel that it benefited the neighborhood’s best interests.”

Assemblyman Guillermo Linares shared this opinion, and said that he would only support projects guaranteeing 100 percent affordable housing in his community.

“This is a very important win for the Inwood community, a great win for our democracy, but we must remain united and vigilant to win the war,” he said. “We must turn our backs to the construction of this luxury housing in working class neighborhoods that displace people who can no longer afford to live there.”

Although the project was presented as a boost for affordable housing by offering 20 percent of its apartments to families with incomes below $31,000, the percentage was not only too low but also left out 27 percent of the area’s residents, who earn less than $24,000 per year.

Mayor de Blasio’s administration also applauded the Council’s decision to reject the plan.

“We believe a project with 50 percent affordable housing would better serve this community than a project that is 100 percent luxury,” said City Hall spokesman Austin Finan.

It is expected that, as a result of the Council’s decision, Sherman Plaza developers will try to prevent the project from falling through by making changes, including offering 50 percent of affordable housing units.

 

[Below are excerpts from a previous story by El Diario’s Edwin Martínez in which residents expressed their disapproval of the project]

Sherman Plaza, a 370-apartment residential complex planned for Broadway, near 207th Street in Manhattan, has become the bone of contention. Only a few hours before the City Council decides its future, residents of the area feel that the project is a direct threat to the poor families who live there.

María Toledo, a Dominican living in Washington Heights for the past 27 years, shares the sentiment and has no doubt that, if a rezoning plan is approved, which would green-light the project, it will hurt them in the long run.

“The problem is not just that there are already few apartments there that people can afford, but that this would make the neighborhood more expensive,” she said. “That will surely attract people who are able to pay $3,000 or $4,000, but what about us? We will continue to live in old, rat-infested places.”

Seeking to put pressure on the area’s council member, Ydanis Rodríguez, to defend the rights of his constituency, activists with the Northern Manhattan is Not for Sale campaign protested in front of the politician’s office, claiming that authorizing this project is a leap into the void.

“It would allow urban developers to build a 15-story tower in the middle of a Latino, working class neighborhood with six-story buildings, which would increase rents, increase prices and displace people,” said a spokeswoman for the campaign via press release. “This is a threat to the last affordable area left in Manhattan for the working class.”

While many residents believe that Council member Rodríguez has not done enough to defend their interests, Costa Rica-born Clífor Anglin said that it would be naïve to think that the building will not be constructed, adding that the political representative will not be able to do much to prevent it.

“He is good and helps people a lot, but when stronger groups make a decision like that, he can’t do anything about it,” said Anglin.

(…)

“De Blasio said that there would be many slots for us poor people in every building they construct from now on. All we ask is that he keeps his promise and for Ydanis not to back down,” said Colombia native José Zamora.

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