July 11, 2018
NYC City Council etiquette demands silence from visiting members of the public and suggests using hand gestures in lieu of the prohibited boos and woots which would otherwise ring out. Hands up and wagging subs for applause, and thumbs down for, well, thumbs down. And there were plenty of the latter at Tuesday’s public hearing on the Inwood Rezoning Plan. And in observing these pantomime gestures, the game of charades came to mind.
Back in April a remarkably similar dynamic played out uptown at I.S. 218, only with audible feedback aplenty that time. The school’s auditorium was filled to the rafters with community members opposed to the proposed plan. A litany of criticisms and objections was delivered that evening by a seemingly endless stream of community residents. That Town Hall followed the plan’s earlier conditional disapprovals by CB12 and preceded that of the Manhattan Boro President. And yet, Inwood rezoning continues moving steadily along the ULURP path toward its goalpost: an up or down vote by the City Council next month. So are all these stops along the way really just a charade? Can a plan so consistently panned by stakeholders in the target community actually make it across the finish line? A Council source told the Gazette that passage was pretty likely, albeit after some more tweeks.
Maggie Clarke of Inwood Preservation told the Gazette that an environmental review showed that of 45 intersections here most will earn a grade of F under this scheme. Some will be at 10x capacity and cause delays that ricochet into mass transit up and down the island.
U.S. Representative Adriano Espaillat addressed the group at a press conference outside City Hall before the hearing began. “I’m against the rezoning. If this goes through as is it’s jet fuel for hyper-gentrification, unless affordable housing is addressed.” He also favors getting rid of the commercial U and including dedicated housing for seniors. He pointed out that those who stuck it out during the ultraviolent crack era, when there were a hundred murders a month in NYC, are precisely the folks who will be displaced now that it’s a great neighborhood to live in.
Ray Rogers of StopREBNYbullies.org was onhand to remind folks that not everybody is against Inwood rezoning.
Anthony Williamson from Local 79 popped by to express solidarity. “We say no to rezoning because nothing in it will help the working class. We’re gonna stand up and fight with you!”
Longtime resident and District 6 Community Education Councillor Johanna Garcia said, “when my kids move out it should be because they want to, not because they were pushed out.”
Lena Melendez of NMN4S was born in CPMC and grew up in the Heights. When her Mom passed the landlord tried to kick her out of their apartment. “Time after time the City Council caves to REBNY. It stops today!” Name checking Alexandria Ocasio Cortez she echoed the summer’s newest political superstar by saying that nobody should be too poor to live in our country.
An earlier NYCHA hearing ran late, so rally participants waited in the shade and sang songs to pass the time. Finally they were allowed in. Up the stairs they climbed and soon filled the hearing room to capacity. At 1 o’clock Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez appeared outside the chamber, where he chatted with several people before entering for the proceedings.
“We’re here to listen to you,” he announced. “We want to make Inwood, Washington Heights, and Marble hill a role model.” A panel of experts made presentations that elicited frequent eruptions of thumbs down, and occasional hand wags of approval in the oddly quiet setting. Two and a half hours later they were still going, as the community patiently awaited their turn to speak for two minutes apiece. According to NMN4S’s Twitter, the testimonies ran until nightfall.
Here are some more scenes from the day: