Press Releases

For Immediate Release
April 24, 2017

Rachaele Raynoff, Joe Marvilli - (212) 720-3471


Proposed Zoning Would Promote New Affordable Housing and Job Creation, Foster Preservation

Responds to Community-Led East Harlem Neighborhood Plan

Sendero Verde, A One Hundred Percent Affordable, 655-Unit East Harlem Development Also Begins Public Review

April 24, 2017 - The City’s East Harlem Initiative took a major step forward as the land use portion of this multi-pronged initiative began the formal public review process today, City Planning Commission Chair Marisa Lago announced. Covering key streets in a 96-block area, the zoning changes are designed to spur the development of as many as 3,500 units of housing, a significant proportion of which must be permanently affordable under the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) program. The zoning would strengthen the role of East Harlem as a major transit hub and job center by promoting creation of new job-generating commercial and industrial space. It would also preserve the neighborhood character of existing mid-scale residential areas. These zoning changes build on recommendations of the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan (EHNP), an intensive community-driven planning effort convened by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.  In tandem with these zoning changes, City agencies are working with the East Harlem Steering Committee to address key infrastructure, economic development, workforce and community wellness concerns that were identified in the EHNP. This approach is consistent with Housing New York principles, which call for investments in communities where new housing growth is planned.

“I am delighted that this comprehensive plan for East Harlem is now starting its formal public review. It represents one more link in a chain of community engagement and activism in East Harlem, aimed at ensuring that a much beloved neighborhood remains affordable, vibrant and livable, and provides economic opportunity to its residents. This milestone is a testament to the hard work over the past years by neighborhood stakeholders and their elected leaders,” City Planning Commission Chair Marisa Lago said. “These proposed changes will require affordable housing which is not required by the current zoning. They will also reserve space for job generating uses. Together these changes will help bring the community’s vision to fruition.”

“Through the East Harlem Initiative, we will work on multiple fronts not just to invest in affordable housing, but also to safeguard affordability, empower residents and drive economic opportunity,” said Commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Maria Torres-Springer. “This will continue to be a community-driven process, building on the foundation of the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan, to bring needed improvements to the neighborhood and opportunities for its residents. HPD is committed to redoubling our preservation efforts, while looking to develop City-owned land for affordable housing that meets the varied needs of the community. I want to thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her fierce leadership and look forward to our continued work with the community to expand affordability, grow the local economy, and ensure East Harlem thrives for generations to come.”

The zoning changes cover an area generally bounded by East 104th Street to the south, East 132nd Street to the north, Park Avenue to the west, and Second Avenue to the east. They would direct growth along major north-south streets, as well as on East 116th Street. Higher densities would be on Third Avenue and on Park Avenue near the 125th Street regional transit hub, to accommodate both new commercial opportunities and residential development.

Over the next 10 years, the zoning changes are projected to spur an estimated 122,000 square feet of stores and restaurants, and 275,000 square feet of office and industrial space. The zoning changes also support the construction of stations in the next phase of the Second Avenue Subway, by planning for needed elevators, station access and ventilation facilities.

New development will be required to include active ground floor uses along sections of East 125th Street, East 116th Street, Third Avenue, Second Avenue and Park Avenue. This will produce a more vibrant pedestrian environment. The zoning changes encourage redevelopment of vacant lots and parking lots fronting on Park Avenue, where the Metro North viaduct slices through the neighborhood and the streetscape for pedestrians is currently dark and uninviting. Urban design controls will require that new Park Avenue buildings be set back at the height of the viaduct to enliven the sidewalk and enhance walkability.

To promote economic development and job opportunities in the neighborhood, the zoning changes promote non-residential uses on the lower floors of buildings in key areas, with a mix of uses allowed above. This will ensure that residential development is accompanied by new job-generating uses areas along these portions of Park Avenue with good transit access.

The zoning changes eliminate residential parking requirements for new housing. On lower scale residential midblocks, which are largely in the northern portion of East Harlem, zoning changes support the retention of existing buildings and promote new development that is consistent with the physical character of these blocks.

Affordable Housing
The EHNP expressed concern that the trend toward new market rate development under existing zoning could change the character of East Harlem and erode opportunities for affordability. Although roughly 75 percent of East Harlem homes are rent regulated or under other regulatory restrictions, the neighborhood’s current zoning does not require or incentivize affordable housing. The zoning changes advance a shared affordable housing goal of the EHNP and Housing New York by increasing the amount of housing allowed on major streets while simultaneously requiring that between 20 and 30 percent of this new housing be permanently affordable. Deeper levels of affordability could be achieved on public sites and through the use of City subsidies.

Concurrently with the area-wide zoning changes proposed for East Harlem, Sendero Verde, a mixed use development with 100 percent affordable housing on East 111th Street, is also beginning public review. The full-block development will provide 655 units of housing, at least 20 percent of which will serve households earning less than $25,000 for a family of three and nearly 60 percent of which will serve low-income households earning less than $49,000 for a family of three. The development will also include 79 affordable apartments for seniors. Sendero Verde would be the nation’s largest Passive House, and exemplifies the City’s commitment to prioritize the development of affordable homes on East Harlem public land. 

In addition, HPD, along with the City’s Tenant Support Unit, is leading efforts to keep existing tenants in place through coordinated preservation and enforcement strategies, including extensive outreach and education, technical assistance for targeted building owners, comprehensive surveys and rehabilitation financing plans. This work complements the City’s robust efforts to protect tenants from landlord harassment. Through the Joint City and State Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force and expanded funding for civil legal services for low-income New Yorkers, the City is committed to using every tool to ensure that all New Yorkers have a safe and stable place to call home.

Since the start of Housing New York in January 2014, the City has already financed the preservation and new construction of over 3,000 units of affordable housing in East Harlem. Over 850 of those units serve households making less than $41,000 for a family of three, and over 70 percent serve low-income New Yorkers. 

Next Steps
Manhattan Community Board 11 now has 60 days to review the East Harlem zoning proposal, after which it will go to the Borough President, the City Planning Commission and the City Council as part of the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). For additional details on the zoning proposal or the ULURP time table, please visit the DCP website.

The East Harlem Initiative is more than just zoning. To respond to community goals highlighted in the EHNP, the Department of City Planning and other agencies are identifying and prioritizing new, expanded programs and services, and capital investments that will benefit the community and enable it to thrive. More information will be posted on our web page as it becomes