Inwood rezoning opponents take their battle to court

A busy intersection in Inwood, Manhattan is shown with cars zipping through. A train passes on the above ground subway over the intersection. A row of apartment buildings are in the background.The
City Council approved a rezoning of Inwood in 2018. Critics
continue their fight against it a year later. | Craig Ruttle/AP
Photo

A year later, critics argued in court that the city’s rezoning
is “illegally adopted”

A lawsuit that seeks to block the de Blasio administration’s
fiercely contested Inwood rezoning pushed forward in Manhattan
Supreme Court, more than a year after the City Council green-lit
the proposal.

The suit’s plaintiffs, Inwood group Northern Manhattan Is Not
For Sale and a coalition of community advocates, argue that the
city did not conduct a proper environmental review of zoning
changes that target 59 blocks in Inwood for greater density.
Attorney Michael Sussman argued in Manhattan Supreme Court Tuesday
that the city failed to fully study how the rezoning will impact
that neighborhood by not exploring the racial breakdown on
residential displacement, the impact on minority- and women-owned
businesses, the temporary loss of the neighborhood’s library, and
the glut of congestion the rezoning could spur.

“We’re supposed to have policy study and understand the
consequences before the rezoning occurs, not after,” Sussman said
in court.

That improper environmental impact study, not the actual
findings of the review, are grounds for Supreme Court Justice Verna
Saunders to annul the City Council’s 2018 approval of the
rezoning, Sussman charges. The plantiffs’ attorney also noted
that the Council voted on the plan two months before the city
produced what is known as a finding statement, a document meant to
aid in the decision-making process.

But the city’s lawyers say the de Blasio administration’s
review complied with city and state legal standards, arguing that
there is no precedent that requires the city study rezoning impacts
by race, ethnicity, or national origin. Lawyers for the city
stressed that a thorough analysis of several impacts were conducted
and that community advocates merely don’t agree with their
findings.

“They can’t say that no analysis was done. They simply
don’t agree with the analysis that was done,” charged Amy
McCamphill, senior counsel in the environmental law division of the
city’s Law Department.

Ayisha Oglivie, the chair of health and human services committee
for Community Board 12 and a member of Northern Manhattan Is Not
For Sale and Inwood Legal Action, called the city’s arguments
“nonsense.” She objected to the city’s argument that it is
not required to study the concerns raised by locals and that the
rezoning was a response to concerns about preserving the
community.

“I was appalled that that was an argument they would even
make,” said Oglivie. “That they would argue that we asked for
this rezoning is nonsense. It’s nonsense.”

Billed by the de Blasio administration as a means to preserve
the community by creating affordable housing, the rezoning would
predominantly affect two large swaths of land east of Tenth Avenue,
where the low-rise landscape of one- and two- story warehouses can
now be replaced by commercial developments and residential towers
can soar up to 30 stories.

Under the plan, the city aims to create at least 1,600 new
affordable apartments. At least 925 would be constructed on
city-owned land, and some 675 on private land as part of the
city’s Mandatory Inclusion Housing program, which requires
developers include a certain number of affordable units in
market-rate developments. The administration contends that another
2,500 units will be preserved and protected though the
rezoning.

The city has not backed down from its support of the approvals
process.

“The City stands by the approvals it made authorizing this
important initiative,” said Law Department spokesperson Christian
Madrid. “We remain committed to delivering the investments this
community needs, which includes the preservation and development of
affordable homes, restoration and creation of waterfront parks, new
jobs, educational resources and small business support.”

Justice Saunders will release her decision on the case in the
coming months.

Source: FS – NYC Real Estate
Inwood rezoning opponents take their battle to court