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Inwood Rezoning Proposal Meant to Spur Development Mulled by Locals

By Carolina Pichardo | December 17, 2015 5:49pm
 Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez welcomes Inwood residents to the neighborhood rezoning meeting on Mon., Dec. 14.
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez welcomes Inwood residents to the neighborhood rezoning meeting on Mon., Dec. 14.
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DNAinfo/Carolina Pichardo

INWOOD — A proposed rezoning of Inwood to encourage development could breathe new life into underused areas of the neighborhood through new retail stores, improved streetscapes and a better waterfront experience along the Harlem River, city officials said this week.

The rezoning — which would roughly cover the area from north of Dyckman Street, to east of Broadway and up to the tip of Manhattan — was first proposed by Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez earlier this year and has been discussed at a handful of public meetings and workshops with the community.

Approximately 80 people attended a rezoning workshop at J.H.S. 52 on Academy Street Monday night to learn more about the plan and offer opinions about what should result from the proposal. 

Attendees were provided with maps and images of all the distinctive structures within the study area, including the Inwood branch of the New York Public Library, the MTA rail yard, the Dyckman Job Center and the five parks along the Harlem River. 

The Department of City Planning said the area's current zoning, which has remained unchanged in Inwood since 1961, has encouraged buildings limited to five and seven stories, as well as low-rise industrial and commercial lots. 

The city presentation focused on a handful of areas in the neighborhood, including 10th Avenue, Ninth Avenue, Broadway, 207th Street and Dyckman Street.

The area between Ninth and 10th avenues below the rail yard, which City Planning senior advisor Edwin Marshall said serves as the "spine of the community," currently includes a smattering of warehouses, several Con Edison power structures, a large supermarket and handful of nightspots, as well as some residential buildings.

A potential rezoning of these streets would allow for the construction of bigger buildings that could include everything from new retail spaces and cultural institutions to improved street lighting, pathways and a more vibrant waterfront, City Planning officials said.

The area along Broadway, between 208th and 215th street, counts several auto shops with few commercial spaces that could also benefit new development under the rezoning, officials said.

Those streets, however, are a far cry from the foot traffic and activity along the retail spaces, restaurants and nightclubs on 207th and Dyckman streets nestled between the A and 1 subway lines.

City Planning did not say specifically how any rezoning would impact these more bustling streets, leaving it to attendees to debate potential outcomes. Officials stressed that the process is still in the exploratory stage.

Some at the meeting worried about the effect the rezoning would have on Ninth Avenue's existing beer and candy warehouses, which they said serve many small businesses in the community. 

"What will happen to those stores?" one resident asked in a break-out group discussing the plan. "There has to be a way to keep them."  

Rodriguez said during his opening remarks that he wants to "keep the face of Inwood" and preserve housing, while also allowing for developers to build only if there's a certain amount of affordable housing included in the plans.

"We want to make sure Inwood maintains its character," said Russell Murphy, the councilman's press aide, after the meeting. "But this is an area that has not been paid attention to — parking lots, a waterfront that has been run down for several decades — and we want to take the opportunity under this mayor."

Community workshops on the proposal will be held on Thursday, Jan. 14, with a second housing and zoning workshop on Saturday, Jan. 23. Click here for more information and location details.