Written Statement to Community Board 12M

It was gratifying to see the standing room only crowd at the public hearing at I.S. 52 last night, in spite of the opaque public notice of the hearing, to discuss various ULURP application numbers.   People turned out en masse to resist a plan that puts neighborhood residents and small businesses last as developers plan to profit off the largely unexploited northernmost section of Manhattan island.   150 people signed up to speak to a boisterous crowd, many of whom held signs that said things like “La Gente Antes de Lucro” (“People Before Profits”).  The rest of us were told we had a few days to submit a written statement for the record.  I had a chance to review a few of the hundreds of pages of dense bureaucratic documents prior to the meeting.  There are some devilish details in there.   I’m determined to write a cogent, one page statement for the Public Hearing Record today, to wit:

I submit this comment as part of the public record of the 2/22/18 Public Hearing on the Inwood Rezoning Proposal.

Inwood is a small, fairly quiet working class community, with old residential buildings and a large, beautiful, well-used park.  It is no mystery why it would be so desirable for real estate developers.   The unique charms of the NYC neighborhood I’ve called home for more than forty years are currently protected by zoning laws that have largely prevented it from being overrun by developers like the ones hatching the current plan under discussion.   

The lack of transparency of the Inwood Rezoning Proposal is striking — the meeting was called for a public hearing to discuss ULURP applications identified by number only.  No plain English/Spanish abstract of the proposal was made available for consideration before the public hearing.   The details of the ambitious rezoning plan must be gleaned from a few hundred pages of bureaucratic text, some of which I was able to ​read (CEQR No. 17DMEOO7M) at the doomed Inwood Public library prior to the public meeting.  The details that follow come from that report.

New affordable housing:  25-30% percent of the proposed construction, meaning 75% would be “market” or luxury units, radically changing the character of this stable, ​working class neighborhood.  The building of 3,804,435 sq. feet of residential space would increase the population of this small area by more than 12,000.   An additional 50 tons of solid waste per week would be generated by this increased population.  50+ passenger car equivalents per project peak hour on already crowded mass transit would be required to transport commuters.  The A train is already one of the worst running​, and most crowded, in the city, there are often no seats on the train at eleven pm.   Air quality:  “proposed actions generate vehicle traffic exceeding emissions threshold.”   

The rezoning plan would quietly make the Inwood Public Library “collateral damage” depriving us all of a valuable public resource.  The children of our community would be denied a place to get books, to do research and study, in a neighborhood whose schools have already closed their libraries.  The representative from the Economic Development Corporation spun the planned demolition of the neighborhood’s library (“the library project”) unconvincingly:  “the library project creates more than 100 affordable housing units”.   No plan for an interim library was presented.  Presumably the rebuilt library would be housed on the first floor of the large, 75% market/luxury high-rise to be placed on the library’s current footprint and that of the adjacent property.  There are provisions in the plan for the construction of a private school and a “community center”, presumably for the benefit of the some of the 12,000 new Inwood residents.

We read that because the commercial/residential mix would not “directly displace 500 or more residents” many disclosures in the application can be skipped. Shadows longer than 50 feet would be cast by new construction made possible by the rezoning, removing sunlight from streets, necessitating the inclusion of more bureaucratic language in CEQR No. 17DMEOO7M.  Proposed “sidewalk widening” is no answer to severe crowding, noise, pollution, increased sewage flowing into an old, overtaxed sewage system.   We don’t need pedestrian malls or doublewide sidewalks in Inwood, we have a beautiful park for strolling in.   We particularly don’t need this constriction of our streets if vehicle traffic is expected to become much worse under the plan.

This is a plan that puts the interests of wealthy real estate developers first, local residents and business people of Inwood last.   City Councilman Ydanis Rodriquez tried to spin the question as largely a matter of perception: fear of gentrification, perhaps fear of progress.   There is often something irrational about fear, although we have all seen such “progress” all over the city.   It benefits the rich while hurting everybody else.   This is a plan I’d expect from Bloomberg’s real estate cronies, or Trump’s.   It must not be allowed to happen in Northern Manhattan.  Please vote “No” on the Inwood Rezoning Proposal. 

NOTE:  crap, forgot to attach this document  much referred to by many of last night’s speakers!

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