Inwood residents voice outrage over controversial neighborhood rezoning initiative

INWOOD, Manhattan — Residents of an upper Manhattan community voiced their outrage Tuesday night over a controversial neighborhood-wide rezoning initiative undergoing public review.

A community meeting was held inside I.S. 218. Hundreds packed the auditorium for the event that lasted hours.

People held signs like “Northern Manhattan is not for sale” and “Affordable Housing is a Scam.”

Balloons spelled out “VOTE NO.”

Inwood residents say they fear getting priced out with rezoning.

Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer hosted the hearing. A representative from the city’s Economic Development Corp., which is overseeing the rezoning, was also present to lay out the plan.

The meeting was open to public discussion and each person had two minutes to speak.

Right now, Inwood has the city's greatest number of rent-regulated housing. But critics of the rezoning say it will drive up housing costs, push out tenants and change the neighborhood’s existing character.

“If you’re going to build 80 percent market-rate apartments in a community of low-income, no one is going to be able to afford it so what you’re doing is you’re building a segregatory plan,” said Lena Melendez.

Melendez has lived in Inwood her entire life.

“It will go the route of Williamsburg, Long Island City, East Harlem and the Bronx. People are getting priced out.”

It’s an ambitious plan by the city calling for the rezoning of roughly 60 blocks in Inwood. The plan calls for creating public open spaces along the Harlem River waterfront.

There will be new housing east of 10th Avenue. Where many auto shops now exist, rezoning will create the potential for over 1,300 affordable housing units. The rezoning regulations will limit the height of building and set other guidelines.

Most of the crowd Tuesday night are against the plan. But one man who works in Inwood is open to the plan and is considering the benefits.

“A lot of people are interested in seeing these desolate blocks develop,” said Peter Psathas, who works in the neighborhood and whose family owns a local business in Inwood. “People already being priced out now because there’s no supply all these new developments will have an affordable component.”

Psathas says gentrification is already happening. At least with EDC’s proposed plan, things will be organized and controlled. “It will incentivize land owners to develop residential real estate, a portion of that is affordable.”

Brewer has until April 25 to give her recommendation. The plan still has to be reviewed by the city planning commission and then the City Council.