The SoHo, NoHo & Chinatown Rezoning
The rezoning plan originated in 2018-19 with the goals of legalizing the existing residential and street-level retail uses and improving residents' quality of life.
In 2020, the plan was taken over by the de Blasio administration and repurposed as a mixed-use up-zoning with high commercial densities, with stated goals of affordable housing and inclusion.
Analysis of the plan suggests commercial uses will squeeze out any potential affordable housing, and will not enhance diversity.
The rezoning ignored the needs of the residents of SoHo and NoHo, most of whom remain non-conforming in their homes, with no real path to legalize their residence.
On November 9, 2021, former Council Member Margaret Chin introduced a penalty scheme that would have levied onerous fines on the existing residents. The law was approved by the City Council without discussion or dissent and would have taken effect on June 22nd, 2022.
Following an extensive effort by our Coalition, Mayor Eric Adams vetoed the penalties legislation. We are grateful to Mayor Adams for his decisive action, as well as Council Member Christopher Marte and other elected officials who supported this much necessary veto.
The veto, however, did not resolve the main issues in the rezoning. In particular, the residents of SoHo and NoHo still have no real path to conforming ownership, and are still subject to fines and confiscatory fees.
Conversion Fees & Impositions
One of the major faults of the rushed rezoning is that, despite multiple promises by City Planning, non-conforming homeowners of JLWQA apartments were not legalized. Instead, the City created a plan for JLWQA owners to “voluntarily” convert their homes to residential, with unprecedented and onerous upfront payments, just to keep their homes.
The promised “seamless path” to legalizing existing uses did not materialize. In fact, the rezoning plan requires a very onerous and expensive process:
A non-refundable, non-guaranteed upfront payment of $100/sq ft (e.g., 2500 sq ft loft pays $250,000) to an “Arts Fund”. This fee is imposed only on existing JLWQA residents, not on retail uses that were legalized, and not on new commercial or luxury residential development. Nowhere else in NYC are residential conversions subject to this fee.
In addition to the upfront fee, each homeowner will be required to go through a full Department of Buildings process of converting JLWQA apartments that are approx. 120 years old to 2014 construction code– in many cases either very expensive or impossible. The actual cost to convert a single JLWQA building could reach tens of millions of dollars– an expense that is completely unnecessary as the homeowners are living in safe homes today.
Moreover, the conversion may require residents to temporarily or permanently vacate their homes to allow for very disruptive construction of light wells, patios, staircases, and other changes required by NYC most recent construction code.
The "Arts Fund" that will be funded by the conversion free will siphon funds out of SoHo and NoHo and into an area more than 20x the size. But only the existing residents will carry the burden of the Arts Fund.