On July 10, 2018 the New York City Council held a public hearing on the Inwood Rezoning, including the redevelopment of the Inwood Library, a major planning initiative that has been proposed by Mayor de Blasio. The Council heard presentations on the rezoning from the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation and the commissioners of the Department of Small Business Services and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The development team of the Inwood Library also gave a presentation. Additionally, 87 members of the public testified regarding the proposed rezoning. The Council is currently reviewing the testimony and considering modifications to the proposal.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has proposed the rezoning of most of the Inwood neighborhood north of Thayer Street to accomplish several goals: promote the development of thousands of affordable apartments; encourage economic development that benefits the local community; facilitate the development of open space along the Harlem River; and preserve community character west of 10th Avenue. To accomplish these goals the de Blasio administration, via EDC, has proposed a set of land use actions, described below. Additionally, the de Blasio administration has proposed major investments in the community, though these have not been finalized.

Inwood is represented by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who represents the 10th Council District. Council Member Rodriguez has been heavily involved in the planning process and is currently carefully reviewing the EDC proposal to make sure that the final plan is the best one possible for his district.

What specific land use actions is the City Council reviewing?

The Charter gives the Council the power to approve, modify, or disapprove certain land use actions contained within the proposal. However, any changes made by the City Council must be “within scope,” which means that any proposed changes have to be within the boundaries of what was publicly proposed during the public review process and what was studied in the Environmental Impact Statement.

Here are the land use actions that are being reviewed by the Council:

  • Zoning map amendment to allow for significantly more residential density. East of 10th Avenue and south of 208th Street in the “Sherman Creek” area, north of 207th Street along 10th Ave, and north of 218th Street in the “Tip of Manhattan” area this zoning change would allow significant residential development where it is not allowed today. West of 10th Avenue this zoning change would rezone the most of the old R7-2 districts, which do not have a height limit, to R7A, which has a height limit and a requires a contextual building. Along portions of Dyckman Street, Broadway, and 207th Street (the “Commercial U”), the proposal would increase residential and/or commercial density to promote mixed-use development that would require affordable housing.
    • This plan also establishes mixed-use districts so that manufacturing and residential uses can be developed within the same zoning districts to facilitate the continued existence of businesses in the Sherman Creek area.
  • Zoning Text Amendments
    • A Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Area would be mapped in the portions of the rezoning area that would have significant increases in residential density. Such zoning would require the development of affordable housing for all new residential buildings above a certain minimum threshold.
      • The Council may select different options for complying with this zoning. As an example, a new building could comply with Option 1 (setting as 25% of housing at average of 60% AMI with 10% set aside for 40% AMI). See the Council page on Mandatory Inclusionary Housing for more information.
    • The Special Inwood District is proposed for areas that would be allowed increased residential density and would be likely to see new development. This is customized zoning that would modify the proposed zoning for the unique conditions found in Inwood. Below are the most significant aspects of this proposed special district:
      • This zoning would require non-residential (and 50% commercial along parts of Dyckman and 207th Streets) ground floors for new development as well as transparent ground floor facades (i.e. glass storefronts) along commercial corridors. Additionally, certain commercial corridors would be protected from curb cuts, and banks would be limited to 25’ of frontage along the most vibrant commercial sections of Dyckman and 207th Streets.
      • New hotels would need a special permit, gyms would be as-of-right, and educational and health uses would be as-of-right in the Tip of Manhattan area.
      • Height limits would be relaxed by 20’ and minimum base heights would be lowered to 25’ near elevated rail lines to promote the movement of residential units away from the rail lines, and height limits would be relaxed by 10’ for parcels adjacent to existing buildings with windows near lot lines if developers allow additional space between the new building and those existing windows. Of note, these two provisions are not additive (i.e. 20’ is the maximum increase in height even if the parcel is both near a rail line and has adjacent lot-line windows).
      • The development of waterfront open space would be promoted. Developers could move floor area off of certain waterfront parcels if publicly accessible open space is built. The zoning also would grant additional floor area if developers combine parcels and comply with waterfront open space requirements.
      • New buildings adjacent to subway stations would need to preserve a portion of the building for future subway entrances to facilitate access by the disabled and better subway access generally.
    • A Waterfront Access Plan would be established to supplement standard waterfront zoning to require the construction of publicly-accessible walkways and open space along the Harlem River waterfront.
  • Urban Development Action Area designation and project approval to accomplish the following:
    • Allow the redevelopment of the Inwood Public Library and certain Department of Education land as a new building with 175 units of affordable housing, a pre-Kindergarten facility, a social services delivery center, and a new public library.
  • Acquisitions/Dispositions of City-owned land. Such actions would accomplish the following:
    • Facilitate the development of open space along the Harlem River, as some land could be disposed of to private developers provided it is developed as open space, and some land would be acquired by the City to be developed as open space.
    • Allow the City to engage in a land exchange to develop a mixed-use building with hundreds of units of affordable housing at the corner of 9th Avenue and 219th Street.
  • De-map certain streets to facilitate the creation of waterfront open space and a new parking facility for Con Edison, allowing the company to consolidate operations and free up land for new uses.

What is happening to the library?

As stated above, the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) has proposed the redevelopment of the Inwood Public Library as a new mixed-use apartment building with 175 units of affordable housing, a pre-Kindergarten facility, a social services delivery center, and a new public library that would be 10% larger than the old library (20,000 square feet instead of 18,000 square feet). This project would take advantage of a $5 million grant from the Robin Hood Foundation to fund 50% of the new library space. HPD has awarded the project to a development team that includes the Community League of the Heights (CLOTH), a local not-for-profit community development organization. HPD will require the development team to provide a temporary space nearby for the Inwood Public Library during construction.

What other affordable housing is in the plan?

In addition to the Inwood Library project, the City would engage in a land exchange east of 9th Avenue between 218th and 220th Streets. At present, the City owns the waterfront half of the land but does not have street access. The land swap with Charter Communications would give the City a parcel with street and waterfront access where it could build a new affordable housing building that could potentially include a community economic development component. This project could have hundreds of units of affordable housing.

Also, Maddd Equities has proposed developing the vacant lot at the northeast corner of 207th Street and 9th Avenue as a mixed-use, 100% affordable building with approximately 600 apartments and a local retail component. Other property owners are also in conversations with HPD regarding potential affordable housing commitments.

Beyond these specific sites the proposed Mandatory Inclusionary Housing would require at least 25% of the new apartments be affordable at an average of 60% of Area Median Income (AMI) with a set-aside of 10% at 40% of AMI. The Final Environmental Impact Statement estimates that almost 4,400 new apartments would be built as a result of the plan, at least 25% of which would be affordable as a result of MIH.

Beyond the new affordable housing, the plan includes major commitments by City agencies to work aggressively to preserve rent-stabilized housing and protect rent-stabilized tenants in the community. This type of work involves increased outreach by the Tenant Support Unit, a pilot of the Certification of No Harassment program, enhanced tenant legal services, the Landlord Ambassadors Program to enroll existing buildings in affordable housing programs, and other potential commitments.

What kind of investments would there be?

Council Member Rodriguez has been in regular discussions with community groups, local experts, academics, and City agencies to identify and advocate for the appropriate investments in the community, to address a broad range of needs. The priorities that have emerged from these discussions include significant investment in local small business development and support, local Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education, efforts to get the local community involved in healthcare and technology careers, and investment in cultural facilities. Additionally, the plan will likely include major investments in local open space, playing fields, and playgrounds.

During the course of the years-long planning process the City made certain investments in the community, including a new Workforce 1 center, a Neighborhood 360 grant to the Washington Heights Business Improvement District to extend small business services to Inwood, a cultural capacity grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs, a new legal services center at 5030 Broadway, and investments in Inwood parks.

Community Board, Borough President, and City Planning Commission Feedback

Manhattan Community Board 12 Recommendation (March 2018)

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer Recommendation (April 2018)

City Planning Commission Report (June 2018)

Environmental Review

Final Environmental Impact Statement

The City’s Land Use Review Process

Certain changes in land use require a public review process called the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The ULURP process provides an opportunity for the public to consider the impact that land use changes, such as a rezoning, may have on the surrounding neighborhood and provide feedback. It also sets a mandated timeline for the local Community Board, Borough President, City Planning Commission and City Council to review, host hearings and vote on the proposed land use change.

Learn more about ULURP from the City Council and in this guide (PDF) from the Department of City Planning.