The New York City Planning Commission voted on Wednesday to rezone the eastern portion of 125th Street, helping to pave the way for a 1.7 million- square-foot, mixed-use complex.
City officials spent months working with community activists on the plan, which is to include stores, restaurants, offices and housing. However, strains began emerging in March because the city opted to start to rezone the parcel before selecting a developer.
In fact, on Wednesday one commissioner, Karen Phillips, voted against the zoning changes because a developer hasn’t yet been selected, according to a spokesperson for the City Planning Commission. Ms. Phillips didn’t immediately return a call for comment.
Vornado Realty Trust, Thor Equities and General Growth Properties confirmed they are going to bid on the project.
Proceeding with a rezoning without a developer is not unprecedented, but it is unusual. Some community activists argue that rezoning without a designated developer weakens the city’s bargaining position as it seeks to extract benefits for the neighborhood. But city officials counter that delaying a selection extends the competition and increases the potential benefits for the community.
A developer will be chosen before the City Council votes on the rezoning proposal in October. It is likely that the Council will approve the proposal because members usually vote in accordance with the member that represents the district, and Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito backs the plan.
The city owns the majority of the land that will house the development. But some of the other landowners have complained that the city has not made them offers on their property, and they fear their land will be acquired through eminent domain.
“The vote is horrible,” says Damon Bae, who owns three parcels in the proposed zone, which is roughly six acres and extends from East 125th to East 127th streets, between Second and Third Avenues. “It paves the way for eminent domain. It means the city is going to condemn my property and not negotiate fairly.”
But Ms. Mark-Viverito said the city has reached out to the landowners and that they are being treated fairly and respectfully through the process.
By Theresa Agivino for Crains NY