See our current website on the SoHo/NoHo rezoning: https://emergency-soho.surge.sh/
Given the Washington Street Advocacy Group’s attentiveness to how historic sections of New York City have the potential to be fully demolished without determined preservationist effort, it is especially attuned to threats in the surrounding area. In 2019, we attended several meetings for the Envision SoHo/NoHo process, which promised to update this important historic district’s zoning in close collaboration with the local community. While preservation advocates were concerned that the Mayor’s Office might push for a large upzoning that would imperil important buildings in the SoHo historic district, there were signs that the City wanted to achieve more practical aims in their initial action.
After promising SoHo/NoHo residents and local historians that a potential rezoning would be mostly focused on manufacturing rules and retail and then likely delayed because of its complexity, in October 2020 during the COVID-19 crisis, the Mayor's Office made a surprising announcement. Referencing the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, it claimed that subsidizing the development of taller luxury towers in SoHo would lead to additional “affordable housing,” as an act of social justice through its Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning program. The proposal, opposed by the Community Board and most local organizations, was a complete upzoning of most of SoHo/NoHo.
Although many people believe this action was a transparent bailout of leveraged real estate firms, the media and some of the candidates most friendly to the Real Estate Board of New York are playing along. This promises to be one of the most important political issues of 2021 and a major issue in the mayor’s race, since Mayor Bill de Blasio seeks to complete this plan as one of his last major acts. Over the coming months, it will depend on New Yorkers and people around the world to make the case for SoHo/NoHo’s historic fabric and to show the harm to world heritage that mass demolitions and luxury skyscrapers will do.
While many preservation organizations are working on this issue, the Washington Street Advocacy Group is focusing on a straightforward demand, that any rezoning include a broad preservation survey for new individual landmarks. The SoHo historic district in the rezoning area holds over 600 sites, yet currently only contains two individual landmarks, the E. V. Haughwout Building and the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse. We believe if the Mayor’s Office and the Department of City Planning are serious about the rezoning of SoHo, this preservation survey should be one of the largest preservation projects in years and needs to have a defined budget, coordination with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, a pipeline for designation, and involvement of leading outside experts in architecture and history. This team of experts should also be empowered to develop the promised contextual standards that will apply to new construction and alterations.
The Washington Street Advocacy Group seeks to gather the data and the documentation that can support such a survey and ensure that the key historic buildings of SoHo/NoHo are protected as landmarks that can never be demolished.
As a result, it has launched an app in the Google Play store where admirers of the historic district can help take photographs that will be used to support this preservation campaign.
It has also created a separate website where photographs and information about every single building in the proposed rezoning areas can be stored.
We seek volunteers and technical support to advance this campaign. Please message us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to help.