Immediately before the City Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises’ hearing on the city’s recently submitted Inwood rezoning proposal, dozens of protesters from at least 15 different labor and activist groups gathered on the steps of New York City Hall to protest the City Planning Commission’s latest rezoning approval. Chants of “Come out and face us! Don’t displace us!” and “De Blasio, Escucha! Estamos en la Lucha!” reverberated off the columns of city hall.
Among the organizers of the protest were groups such as Northern Manhattan Is Not For Sale, the Inwood Small Business Coalition and Inwood Preservation.
The protest comes on the heels of the City Planning Commission’s approval of the city’s rezoning proposal. Inwood is the fifth neighborhood rezoning project sponsored by the de Blasio administration, which believes that rezoning efforts are necessary to spur economic growth and development throughout the city.
Activists and community members present were insistent that rezoning efforts merely served to expedite gentrification and the displacement of local residents. Concerns about rising rent costs and encroaching commercial districts dominated the testimonies and chants of the attendees.
United States House Representative Adriano Espaillat attended the event and offered support to the protestors. He recounted a history of housing issues across the city and was critical of Mayor de Blasio’s policies. He said, “My DNA is in Northern Manhattan, I know these communities. And that is why I urge the city to say no to this proposal!
“The mayor brags that he will build 300,000 units of affordable housing. Well, give us five to 10, eliminate the commercial district and allow for the community to grow itself.”
Organizations present in solidarity readily offered their own policy proposals for economic development and community preservation. Honoring legacy rent control contracts, the investment in local businesses already present in the Inwood neighborhood and increasing public services for the local inhabitants all featured prominently.
“If we’re going to have rezoning, real rezoning, we should have labor standards. And labor standards means that we should have local hire,” said Anthony Williamson, political director of 100 Black Construction Workers, to applause. “We should have apprenticeship training to the labor trades.”
Monday, July 9, a day ahead of the hearing, Inwood’s City Council Representative Ydanis Rodriguez released a list of priorities for the city’s rezoning proposal for the neighborhood. Key policy points include the creation of affordable housing units, developing an anti-displacement strategy and developing affordable commercial space offering minimum 10-year leases. The Councilman, however, still hasn’t publicly taken a stand for or against the proposal.
Inwood’s community board and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer have opposed the plan, but the decision will be made by the full City Council in August.
“I know that my people of Inwood are not so foolish to think that change isn’t important—that’s why we’re here because we want change,” said Rich Perez, a pastor at Christ Crucified Fellowship.
“But the tragedy of the city’s plan is not that they’re bringing change, the tragedy of the plan seems to be that in their plan there seems to be a lack of compassion and thoughtfulness and even foresight to what our neighborhood needs.”