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Harlem rezoning plan faces opposition


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Harlem rezoning plan faces opposition



Thursday, January 31st 2008



B. Smith for News

Pedro Llanos of Harlem speaks at City

Planning Commission hearing on 125th St.

rezoning plan held at CCNY's Aaron Davis

Auditiorium Wednesday.

[/float]Aplan torezone 125th St. that would bring thousands of new apartments to Harlem's business and entertainment hub faced detailed opposition at a public hearing Wednesday.


Hundreds of people filled a City College auditorium for the City Planning Commission hearing, many voicing criticism that the plan would change the character of an iconic African-American locale with chain stores, luxury housing and out-of-scale high-rises.


"We feel that the change will have a negative impact on central Harlem and on all of those who revere 125th St.," said Frank Perry, chairman of Community Board 10, which opposes the plan.


"The majority of any 125th St. residential development will not be within the financial reach of the average Harlemite."


The city Planning Department has spent four years organizing a mix of uses, heights and incentives along 125th St. between Broadway and Second Ave.


It includes incentives for "arts and entertainment uses" such as galleries, theaters and museums; discourages big bank lobbies, pawn shops and roll-down metal gates, and will impose a 290-foot height limit - the first ever along the street.



B. Smith for News

Commission Chairwoman Amanda Burden

[/float]Planning Commission Chairwoman Amanda Burden told the Daily News that the plan has something for everyone.


"We feel very confident and excited about this plan," Burden said. "It really recognizes the cultural history of 125th St. as Harlem's main street."


The height limit could jeopardize a 330-foot office tower set for construction at Park Ave., developer Derek Johnson said.


Some neighbors and community groups, though, want the height limits lowered - fearing they will open the door to luxury apartment towers that would warp the street's small-scale retail character while flooding the area with apartments that longtime residents can't afford.


The plan also could squeeze out 71 small neighborhood businesses, according to city estimates - which City Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito (D-East Harlem) said would send exactly the wrong message.


"I'm not interested in living in a generic neighborhood in which every corner is a bank, in which every corner is a Duane Reade," Viverito said to applause.


Councilwoman Inez Dickens (D-Harlem), who said the height limit should be lowered to match the 160-foot Hotel Theresa, nevertheless said Harlem needs standards to guide its growth.


"This is not an upzoning, nor is eminent domain a part of it," Dickens said. "This is the only opportunity that our community has to ensure appropriate protections for future development."


The Planning Commission has until March 10 to vote on the proposal, which would still require City Council approval.

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