A controversial city plan to rezone parts of Inwood can now move forward after the state's highest court declined to hear a request from opponents to jumpstart their legal fight to stop the rezoning.
The decision by the New York Court of Appeals on Monday morning reaffirmed the appellate court's ruling in July that overturned the state Supreme Court's decision that unexpectedly voided the rezoning.
The City Council approved the Inwood rezoning plan back in August 2018 following a contentious public review process. Under the plan, the de Blasio administration will seek to create or preserve 4,100 units of affordable housing across the low-income, northern Manhattan neighborhood by 2032. In response to community protests, city officials also promised an unprecedented $200 million in investments. The neighborhood is deemed the last bastion of affordability in a city that's become increasingly out of reach for working class New Yorkers.
The current median monthly asking rent in Inwood is just under $2,000 compared to roughly $3,000 for Manhattan overall, according to a Streeteasy report.
The latest approval adds to a slew of rezoning plans that de Blasio has pushed across New York City, including East New York in Brooklyn, Downtown Far Rockaway in Queens, East Harlem in Manhattan, and a large swath of Jerome Avenue in the Bronx.
Inwood Legal Action, a housing activity group which filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf of a community coalition called Northern Manhattan is Not for Sale, had argued that the city's environmental review of the Inwood rezoning proposal disregarded the eventual displacement of Black and Hispanic residents who currently make up the neighborhood.
"De Blasio's predatory rezonings of working neighborhoods of color are Bloomberg 2.0 of zonings that push minorities and minority-owned businesses out for the profit of luxury developers," Karla Fisk, co-chair of Inwood Legal Action's communications committee, told Gothamist/WNYC. "And that's not a bug, it's a feature."
In a separate statement, Cheryl Pahaham, the other chair of Inwood Legal Action, said, "With all that has been going on recently— police murders of Black and Brown people, the massive mobilization of Black Lives Matter, and a President who supports and mobilizes White supremacists—we had some expectation that the judges would be thinking about inequality and what it might mean in the context of the Inwood rezoning."
The city's Corporation Counsel James Johnson called it "a win for New Yorkers." In a statement, he argued that while opponents raised important issues of equity, "this case was not the place for them to be resolved."
"It is an important moment to move forward and dramatically address a housing shortage that overwhelms many families in this city," he added.
With the approval of the rezoning, developers can now build large properties in the neighborhood, including a 611-unit apartment building at 3875 Ninth Avenue by Eli Weiss, through a partnership with Madd Equities. In an interview with the Real Deal, Weiss said the rezoning comes as the city needs to generate more economic activity.
"“It is very important that there is foreseeability in development in New York,” Weiss told the outlet. “This ruling reaffirms that the city conducted the rezoning appropriately.”
There have been calls by housing activists for the city to incorporate racial impact studies as part of the public review process for rezonings. Inwood Legal Action said it was mulling a federal lawsuit to impose such a measure.
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams last year introduced a bill that would require any rezoning to undergo a racial impact study. Only 16 councilmembers have backed the plan to date.