Public meeting on Soho rezoning plan devolves into chaos

A public meeting to address Mayor Bill de Blasio’s controversial Soho rezoning plan devolved into chaos on Wednesday night with constant interruptions from opposing locals.

Tensions were high before the 6:30 p.m. meeting ever started, as local community groups joined together for a press conference and railed against the plan that would create 3,500 new apartments, including 900 affordable units to the upscale area.

“Falsely framing the SoHo/NoHo Rezoning as a ‘social justice’ plan, the mayor is doing injustice to communities of color in Chinatown and the LES,” said Zishun Zing, of the Chinatown Working Group, outside of St. Anthony of Padua Church on Sullivan Street.

The highly-anticipated in-person meeting comes after the City Planning Commission officially kicked off its public review process last month. 

In the basement of the church, the meeting’s location, many among the crowd of hundreds shouted over and booed a representative from the Department of City Planning as she tried to present the rezoning plans.

“Lies!,” one person yelled. “Leave!” screamed another.

The hostile crowd holding up signs at the Soho rezoning meeting on June 23, 2021.
The hostile crowd holding up signs at the Soho rezoning meeting on June 23, 2021.
Elizabeth Rosner

De Blasio’s rezoning plan has continued on, despite a lawsuit against the city filed by the SoHo Alliance and Broadway Residents Coalition.

The groups have argued the process should be delayed until in-person hearings resumed.

They also feel the plan will blight the low-slung, historic neighborhood with towers and box stores.

During the public comment period on Wednesday, many locals pointed out the area already has enough high-end housing.

“We do not need additional luxury housing that puts pressure on our schools, sanitation and the neighborhood,” fumed one man.

“SoHo doesn’t need more luxury housing! Build 100% affordable housing,” another person said.

Speakers who supported the plan were met with speculation, as people shouted “Where do you live?”

Upset residents packed the basement of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Soho for the meeting.
Upset residents packed the basement of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Soho for the meeting.
Elizabeth Rosner

The new housing in the plan would be built on vacant lots and by converting existing non-residential buildings.

A real estate company with ties to the mayor is also expected to profit off the rezoning — a point brought up several times on Wednesday.

“Mayor de Blasio’s sham rezoning plan is a giant giveaway to his developer friends and cronies,” said Andrew Berman before the meeting started.

According to a community email sent out by the Soho Alliance ahead of the meeting, the plan would also permit New York University dorms to expand into the area.

The local community board still has to vote on the proposal. Then it goes to Borough President Gale Brewer for review.

The residents shouted things like “Leave!” and “Lies” to the Department of City Planning representative.
William C. Lopez/NYPOST

Brewer, who was present at Wednesday’s meeting, has not decided whether she supports the plan.

City Council candidate Christopher Marte, who has a comfortable lead in the primary race for a district that covers the rezoning plan, was also present and voiced opposition to the plan.

“If we really want to talk about affordable housing, we should not let developers get away with development without actually committing to development,” said Marte.

“That’s what this plan does.”

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