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Board Upholds 'No' Vote on East Harlem Rezoning After Contentious Meetings

By Teddy Grant | June 28, 2017 3:50pm
 Protestors raised signs as Community Board 11 members spoke at the meeting Tuesday.
Protestors raised signs as Community Board 11 members spoke at the meeting Tuesday.
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DNAinfo/Teddy Grant

EAST HARLEM — The local community board officially voted Tuesday not to support a controversial rezoning proposal for the neighborhood unless the city agrees to certain provisions — ratifying the same decision last week that opponents blasted for not representing an outright rejection of the plan.

Tensions ran high at the Community Board 11 meeting, which had to be rescheduled after the original June 20 vote descended into chaos, with protestors storming the stage over the board agreeing to endorse the plan only if the provisions were included.

Board chairwoman Dina Collier opened up the Tuesday meeting addressing last week’s events, warning the public that any disruption could have them removed by NYPD officers, who stood positioned at the room’s entrance.

During the three-and-a-half-hour meeting, residents sang, hissed and held up signs reading “No to racist rezoning,” as the board went through its agenda, ultimately agreeing to ratify its vote from last week. 

The rezoning — which would allow for higher density in residential and commercial areas, with new buildings permitted to rise as tall as 35 stories — will not be acceptable to CB11 unless the city makes buildings constructed on public land 100 percent affordable, demands that any new buildings be contextual with surrounding structures, and leaves a playground and hospital out of the plan, among other stipulations, they said.

Some called for the vote to be invalidated because members used paper ballots to make their decisions last week, a departure from the usual roll-call vote.

“You cannot ratify an illegal vote,” said Marina Ortiz, from East Harlem Preservation. “We shut down [last week's] meeting intentionally. That’s what civil disobedience is about.”

Ortiz is opposed to the rezoning because she believes it will push out low-income households.

“Decent and permanently affordable housing is an international human right,” she said.

Despite a back-and-forth between Collier and attendees, she expressed relief there weren't any altercations at Tuesday's meeting following the flare-ups from last week.

“They were a lot more respectful tonight,” Collier said. “Everybody is entitled to their opinion.”

After the vote, many attendees continued to express their displeasure, but chose to leave rather than risk another fight with board members.

Members also wanted to make it clear that they rejected the rezoning, even though opponents didn't see it that way.

“It’s a no,” Collier said. “It does not come back to us.”