INWOOD — The latest meeting to discuss the city's controversial Inwood rezoning plan drew such a large crowd that city officials were forced to hold an impromptu workshop outside the space to accommodate those turned away — angering those who said the community board should have planned ahead.
The meeting at the Allen Hospital on 5141 Broadway at 220th Street, organized by Community Board 12 and featuring officials from the city's Economic Development Corporation, was filled to capacity after hundreds of residents — including several with protest signs.
“I’m feeling very discouraged, because first of all, I feel there was a deliberate intent to create a process that was chaotic, that we’re packed into a room that’s way too small and the acoustic are horrible,” said Inwood resident Nancy Bruning. “It’s very difficult for any kind of orderly information to be exchanged here.”
Residents said the meeting was so packed Wednesday night that it made it difficult to process the new information from the city's Economic Development Corporation, which is overseeing the rezoning study.
Residents who weren't able to get inside the original meeting room were accommodated outside the hospital lobby to discuss the same information that was shared inside the meeting room.
Shah Ally, the chair for Community Board 12, who helped pen a letter as part of the Barack Obama Democratic Club of Upper Manhattan in April requesting that EDC return to the community to complete the study, said there was no deliberate intent to exclude anyone.
“Never did we go in there thinking that we’re going to make people uncomfortable,” Ally said on Thursday.
"Yesterday was unfortunate, but also symbolic," Ally added. "We hear the complaints. We're learning from each event and doing things in progression."
Ally said the frequency of the meetings and the increase in the number of people attending the meetings made it difficult to find adequate meeting spaces to fit large crowds of people.
The neighborhood planning study meeting, which follows two years of meetings with the community, discussing the expanded parameters of the project, which now encompass the entire island north of Dyckman Street.
Previously, when the city announced it would be studying a rezoning area, it focused on the strip of Inwood that fell east of 10th Avenue from Dyckman Street to 218th Street.
EDC said it increased the rezoning area last month “in response to feedback from CB12, community groups, and elected officials,” after the Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez penned a letter to the city.
Brewer and Rodriguez sent their letter asking the city to “pursue a contextual rezoning of Inwood west of 10th Avenue that would complement our efforts to create a holistic framework for development east of 10th Avenue.”
EDC officials said it would review the community’s feedback from Wednesday's meeting and implement the information into the neighborhood study.
"We welcome the opportunity to discuss this initiative, provide information and listen to the community's input,” said EDC spokeswoman Stephanie Baez.
“We look forward to continuing this conversation with Community Board 12, residents and stakeholders in order to inform a plan that will bring affordable housing, jobs and waterfront access to Inwood residents, while preserving the neighborhood's distinct character."