Morningside Heights Demands Rezoning
On February 7, close to 200 people braved the cold and driving rain and poured in to Corpus Christi Church to demand that the City begin the long-overdue process of rezoning Morningside Heights. As Councilmember Mark Levine, a strong supporter of the Morningside Heights Community Coalition (MHCC), said: “Other people all over the city are canceling events and you have a packed house!”
At the meeting, Barry Weinberg of MHCC presented a visually striking, block-by-block plan to implement contextual development and provide desperately-needed affordable housing for our community. Over the past two years the Department of City Planning has met with MHCC several times, but has failed to take meaningful steps to begin the rezoning process. In the absence of rezoning, developers, whose primary concern is maximizing profit, are building out-of-context luxury towers that provide housing (or perhaps pied-a-terres) for the very rich. The pressure on the local real estate market generated by these towers threatens the diversity and vibrancy of our community, potentially displacing residential tenants and small businesses.
The MHCC zoning plan unveiled last week allows for increased density on the avenues while mostly limiting heights on side streets. New affordable housing will be built while preserving Morningside Heights’ unique character.
Community residents asked provocative questions and cheered Weinberg’s presentation. Councilmember Levine, Borough President Gale Brewer and State Senator Brian Benjamin, all spoke in support of rezoning the neighborhood. Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell (a stalwart champion of MHCC), Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer, sent representatives to the meeting. Also attending were other supporters of MHCC–Community Board 9, construction unions (MHCC strongly backs union labor in construction), PALANTE Harlem (which is working to prevent displacement in Morningside Heights and Manhattanville), Riverside Church Men’s Class, and some students from the seminaries whose sale of air rights and property has spawned both the troubling recent construction and intense community opposition.
While MHCC is working on rezoning for the long-term, we are working equally hard to hold developers and institutions accountable. We seek to ensure transparency and safety in the construction process and to convince entities profiting from the new buildings to give back to the community to at least partially mitigate the harmful impact of their new projects.