WASHINGTON HEIGHTS – A Community Board 12 meeting spiraled into chaos Tuesday night after opponents of a controversial rezoning proposal shouted down the board chairman and tried to tell the city's Economic Development Corporation to butt out of the community.
Dozens of Inwood residents with fliers and posters with “Save Uptown” emblazoned on it gathered at a meeting hosted by CB12 at 530 West 166th St. to discuss the city's uptown rezoning proposal, which could increase height restrictions for new properties along 10th Avenue.
Opponents have spoken out against the plan, saying they're concerned it could exacerbate rising rents and displacement and accusing local elected officials and the city of a "lack of transparency."
“What is it going to take to get you out? We don't want you here,” Ana Rosario, 31, told the NYCEDC representatives, as she teared up while describing how she and her partner, Josmar Rojas, 37, were recently displaced from their longtime apartment on Vermilyea Ave. after a drawn-out battle with their landlord.
Jose Torres, 35, from Post Avenue, said he doesn’t understand how this project has been underway for several months, seeing as this was the first time he was made aware of the proposal.
“If I don't know about this, there are more people that don't know about it, and I'm against this," Torres said, adding that he's always lived on Post Avenue and despite graduating this year with a Master's degree he can't afford to move within the community.
Shah Ally, Chair of CB12, told those assembled "This energy is very helpful... I wish we had this turnout for every meeting,” before being shouted down by the crowd.
"There has been no action to the board about this proposal yet. It's not a question that's come before the board, so we're learning as you're learning," he added, explaining why CB12 has not taken a position on the city's proposal.
Ally added that CB12 — which is technically on summer break until after Labor Day — will look into the possibility of reverting a separate resolution they passed in May to allow a different rezoning proposal, the Sherman Plaza high-rise, to move forward. Residents are also opposed to that proposal and have launched a petition against it.
Several representative of the city's EDC emphasized that the planning process is still underway, and that the community will still have a chance to voice their concerns in the coming months.
The next public open house will be held on Thursday, July 28, at 6:30 p.m. at the Manhattan Bible Church, 401 W. 205th St. It will be followed up, the representatives said, with a public scoping hearing in the early fall and finally the ULURP process for the project, which will begin at the end of 2016 and run until early next year.
The project would have to go through the Manhattan Borough President, the City Planning Commission and finally to the City Council before being approved.