Posted on Mar 10, 2016
The East Harlem Neighborhood Plan has been released! After almost 10 months of working on a community based plan to inform a proposed rezoning of the neighborhood, Community Voices Heard, the City Council Speaker, the Manhattan Borough President, and Manhattan Community Board 11 are excited to step into the next phase of our work around affordable housing development, public housing improvements, and job creation.
In East Harlem, since May 2015, we have been working to create a plan for the long-term development of El Barrio. We held numerous visioning sessions where attendance varied from 100 to 200 people, but the kick off of the process and the final forum both had over 400 stakeholders in attendance! The recommendations in the plan, to be submitted to the city, were developed from concerns and solutions gathered at the visioning sessions, to sub-committees drafting language for the recommendations, to a 21 member steering committee ultimately voting on the final recommendation.
At the final forum on January 27th at El Museo del Barrio, the community was presented with zoning and affordable housing production recommendations. Participants were also able to prioritize all of the recommendations in the plan.
This participatory process gave residents and stakeholders the opportunity to become aware of what rezoning is and why it is being proposed in the community ahead of certification of a plan and Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). This process gave residents and stakeholders an avenue to determine what a rezoning plan should look like if it moves ahead. This was unique because these decisions are typically made behind closed doors in City Hall, a top-down approach.
CVH members prioritized housing and jobs within the rezoning. The plan included recommendations around the preservation of affordable housing, strengthening the policies that protect tenants in adequate housing, building at deeper levels of affordability, improving public housing, and linking New York City residents to apprenticeship programs in the construction industry, so that people can have access to good paying, safe, quality jobs. These are great victories and have set a foundation for which to start from moving forward. We voted down some recommendations and some we still believe need to go even further in addressing inequality in housing, community amenities, and access to good jobs. But our fight does not stop here. We will continue to organize and build power around the future of the community.
CVH participated because we see the need to capture community benefits in the future development of the community. Our membership does not see rezoning as the ultimate solution to the housing crisis but a tool, if used carefully, to have a voice in development. From this point, we look forward to working with our project partners to move the recommendations into implementation of policy.
"What we need is real affordable housing and the kind of housing that is actually inclusive- housing that we can afford to pay for with our wages that are fairly low. We also need jobs that will allow us to get into the new housing built. Affordable is getting to the point where the word affordable doesn't mean anything! With some of the jobs people have you can hardly afford to pay for this so called housing that is supposed to be affordable. It would be unacceptable to put more luxury housing in this neighborhood [El Barrio] when no one that lives here or that was raised here can afford to live in. I can't afford to live in the luxury housing across from East River Houses and NYCHA hasn't been able to keep up with the repairs that a building this old needs. It’s taken them 7 to 8 months to a year for them to come to appointments that they made with me to make repairs. That includes plastering, painting, a kitchen cabinet is falling out of the wall, toxic mold, and they have made no in roads on any of these apartments even though it is the law. This is a major health problem! Some people here are paying thousands of dollars a month and they [NYCHA] can't maintain them. This is outside the security problems we have to deal with,” said Lydia Guerrero-Barlow, CVH Member-Leader and resident of East River Houses.