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Plan Would Transform Swath of Inwood Into Tech and Health-Care Hub

 Ydanis Rodriguez answered questions about the proposal at a preview of his state of the district address on Monday.
Ydanis Rodriguez answered questions about the proposal at a preview of his state of the district address on Monday.
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DNAinfo/Lindsay Armstrong

INWOOD — An Uptown politician wants to plug Northern Manhattan into the city’s growing tech sector. 

City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez plans to announce a proposal to redevelop a large swath of land in the easternmost part of Inwood into a hub for the technology and health care sectors.

The project, which he plans to announce in his state of the district speech this Sunday, would also create thousands of units of new housing, much of which would be affordable, Rodriguez said.

Under the proposal, which has already earned initial support from the mayor's office, the city would rezone 100 acres of land that sits between 10th Avenue and the Harlem River, from 201st to 220th streets for a mixed-use residential development. The area is currently zoned for manufacturing and includes auto-repair shops, warehouses and several nightclubs.

Rodriguez envisions replacing some of this with a development that approaches technology on multiple levels. He described a space that could include a tech incubator, as well as labs for local institutions such as Columbia University, Manhattan College and CUNY to partner on advanced research. The councilman highlighted the educational and job-training opportunities a development like this could create.

"I want to build a tech community within our community,” he told DNAinfo New York. “To put together a space where Apple or Google can say, ‘We can come teach coding in this community,’ so people can get that $60K a year job.”

Rodriguez sees the development as part of the solution to several problems affecting the district, including high unemployment, a lack of affordable housing and struggling schools.

He explained that he would fight to ensure a significant portion of any new housing included in the development would be affordable to the working-class families who already live in his district.

In addition, Rodriguez sees an opportunity to link his economic development proposal to increased educational programming that will focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in local schools. 

The councilman also mentioned the possibility of the development including space for a secondary school linked to the technology or health sectors. 

“We don’t have a high school that attracts the level-three-and-four students in District 6,” he said of the students who score highest on state exams. “We need to build that school.”

A spokeswoman from Rodriguez’s office said that the proposal is still in the very early stages, noting that the councilman has already met with Mayor de Blasio’s office, as well as City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, other local officials and the city’s Economic Development Corporation. 

“It’s been great,” said spokeswoman Carmen de la Rosa. “Right now everyone is just discussing the vision, but so far everyone has been on board with the idea.”

A spokesman for the mayor confirmed that he is supportive of Rodriguez's plan.

“We applaud Council Member Rodriguez’s leadership," said Wiley Norvell, the mayor's deputy press secretary. "We look forward to working with his office and the community to bring much-needed affordable housing and economic development opportunities to this vibrant neighborhood.”

Robin Levine, a spokeswoman for Mark-Viverito, said the speaker also supports proposals to improve employment and housing.

"The Speaker looks forward to working with Council Members and communities across New York City — including Council Member Rodriguez in Upper Manhattan — to create jobs, build new housing and preserve existing affordable housing."

Rodriguez plans to offer more details of the proposal and get feedback from residents at his State of the District address on March 22.

“So many in our community have called for a responsible rezoning plan to revitalize our district and address the serious lack of quality housing,” he said. “I am proud to announce that the de Blasio administration, working with us, has heard our community’s call and will move to rezone this area.” 

Residents are invited to attend Rodriguez's State of the District address at 2 p.m. on March 22 at George Washington High School.