INWOOD — Housing advocates fear a proposed rezoning of a stretch Seaman Avenue for project planned at the site of two beloved houses will have negative consequences for other properties on the block.
The owner of the houses at 112-114 Seaman Ave. — Mike Saab, of Saab Associates LP — plans to demolish the buildings and filed a rezoning application so that any new properties on the block can rise 10 to 12 stories, instead of the current limit of five to seven stories.
The rezoning plan would also apply to buildings at 110 Seaman Ave., 116 Seaman Ave. and the condominiums on 175 Payson Ave., which are not owned by Saab, according to the Department of City Planning application currently on file.
“The applicant is proposing a zoning designation that would bring these buildings into compliance and may be more reflective of the neighborhood’s current density, while allowing additional residential development on the former rowhouse lots,” a City Planning spokesman said.
Saab originally planned to construct an 11-story, 40-units building at the site of the two houses, with 10 to 12 units affordable under the city's mandatory inclusionary housing, the application shows.
But he said he's now looking to build a nine-story building with 32 to 35 units, of which approximately 30 percent will be affordable. Under the current zoning, the site allows for an approximately six-story building made up of market-rate units, he said.
Saab plans to show the exact details of his new proposal at a town hall meeting next week hosted by Community Board 12, though the application had not been amended as of Monday afternoon.
Residents of 110 and 116 Seaman Aves. are concerned with what the rezoning could mean for their rent-regulated units, said Graham Ciraulo, who organized a meeting last week on behalf of the tenants of each property.
Ciraulo said residents are concerned that if an application is approved, their rezoned sites could be torn down or even sold for more money.
Ciraulo said tenants of 110 Seaman Ave., in particular, have been struggling with their current owner and fear this will only exacerbate their situation.
“This is a perfect example of using affordable housing to mask a really horrible project,” said Ciraulo. “They’re always making it seems like we’re against affordable housing, but it’s quite the opposite. We just know a bad project when we see one.”
Saab, whose family owns the C-Town Supermarket on 4918 Broadway and has been living in the community for 34 years, said he's not just trying to "make a buck" with the project.
"I don't want to set a precedent. I don't want anyone to ever say, 'That's the building that changed Inwood,'" he said.
This is the second ULURP application submitted to upzone a site in Inwood. The first — the Sherman Plaza application on 4650 Broadway — was shot down when it reached the City Council.
The groups Met Council and Northern Manhattan Is Not 4 Sale are planning on having more informational sessions and launch a petition against the project in the days leading up to the town hall, Ciraulo said.
The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 13, at the Russ Berrie Pavilion at 1150 St. Nicholas Ave., 168th Street, at 7 p.m.