A Legal Challenge to the Inwood Rezoning

Protesters at hearings earlier this year on the Inwood rezoning. (Photo by Abigail Savitch-Lew via City Limits)

Inwood residents, activists and some politicians this week filed suit challenging the city’s process for evaluating the impact of the northern Manhattan neighborhood’s rezoning and requesting that the City Council’s August approval of the rezoning be overturned, reports Sadef Ali Kully in City Limits. “Specifically,” he writes, “the challenge contends the Inwood rezoning’s environmental impact study missed important factors such as the impact on preferential rent leases, racial displacement, and minority- and women-owned businesses.” Critics of the plan also state that the city “failed to take a hard look at critical and likely impacts” of rezoning, including such things as the impact on the community of the closure of the local library, which will be temporarily replaced by a mobile unit until a new library is completed.

More than a dozen plaintiffs, including community organizations like Northern Manhattan is Not for Sale held a press conference outside the steps of the Manhattan Supreme Court. The were joined by Rep. Adriano Espaillat and state Sen.-elect Robert Jackson.

“We feel very strongly that the Inwood rezoning will result in the massive displacement of working class people in northern Manhattan,” said Espaillat. “It will further contribute to segregating this city along income lines. And mandatory inclusionary zoning contributes to that zoning and so this lawsuit is based on the concept that people of color and working class people will be disportionately displaced by building high towers in a neighborhood.” Mandatory inclusionary zoning is a policy adopted by the de Blasio administration that requires developers who take advantage of new density created by rezonings set aside a number of income-targeted apartments. Critics say the income levels of those units are out of step with neighborhood needs.

Espaillat said that the rezoning’s impact on over 12,000 preferential rent leases in Washington Heights and Inwood (including the displacement in nearby neighborhoods extending all the way to Marble Hill) were never even considered as part of the environmental study. “The mayor complains and other people complain that our school system is one of the most segregated school system in the country that is happening because neighborhoods are segregated across ethnic and income lines,” he said.

Go to City Limits to read why one small business owner and plaintiff, Ivan Young, worries that rezoning will boost real estate taxes, which in turn will be passed on to businesses in the form of higher rents. Development, reports City Limits, already appears to be taking off.

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