EAST HARLEM — A small coalition of local community groups held a press conference Monday to call on mayor Bill de Blasio to halt his proposed rezoning of the neighborhood.
Community activists say the city's plan to rezone a swath of the neighborhood between East 104th and 132nd streets from Park to Second avenues, and between East 126th and 132nd streets between Madison and Fifth avenues to allow high-density development will hasten gentrification and displace working-class families in the neighborhood.
“What benefit does it do for a community that makes less than $32,000?” said Roger Hernandez, one of the leaders of El Barrio Unite, which organized the event with East Harlem Preservation and The South Bronx Community Congress.
“We’re not against development, we just want to be involved in whatever comes up.”
But Thomas Angotti, a professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College, who came to speak to the group, said the community has reason to be wary of the administration's promises.
“They’re following the same pattern as billionaire Bloomberg,” said Angotti, who is also the author of “New York For Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate.”
“What’s being passed off as community relations is not, it’s public relations.”
The press conference also served as a way for local residents and community activists to mobilize opposition in advance of the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan Community Forum this Thursday, where city officials will again present the rezoning plan to the community.
The city has not been able to say how much affordable housing would be created under the plan — which would apply to both residential and commercial areas in the neighborhood and would allow new buildings as high as 35 stories— or how they planned to calculate the levels of affordability for the housing.
Hernandez said it’s disappointing that the community is a part of a plan that they say doesn’t offer anything for the community.
Marina Ortiz, of East Harlem Preservation, called for a citywide moratorium on rezoning.
“Their promises of affordable housing are meaningless,” she said.
The group also targeted Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who in the past championed more community input. They say she should oppose the proposed 35-story buildings and call for deeper levels of affordable housing, the group said.
A rep for Mark-Viverito said the neighborhood plan includes recommendations from the community.
“This administration is keenly focused on preserving and creating affordable housing in East Harlem, and continues to work hand-in-hand with a well-engaged community that demands exactly that," said Melissa Grace, a spokeswoman for the mayor's office.
"Together, we are working build homes our families so desperately need."