NYU challenges constitutionality of SoHo rezoning

In May, neighborhood activist group Village Preservation said the rezoning “includes a huge, terrible new element: It would allow NYU…to build and move into these neighborhoods.”

“NYU has been trying to get into NoHo and SoHo for years, but current zoning prohibits it,” the group wrote on its website. “The city plan would open the doors wide to the university” and allow developers to avoid building affordable housing in neighborhoods.

According to the university, the law violates the Cornell Doctrine, a case law that establishes that the complete exclusion of educational or religious institutions from historic residential neighborhoods is unconstitutional.

At this time, the Greenwich Village-based university has no plans to build any new facilities in the area, spokesman John Beckman said in a statement.

“But New York’s zoning laws generally stay in place for decades until they’re updated, and it’s impossible to predict how things will change and what circumstances New York, NYU, or other colleges or universities in proximity could be faced over this long period,” added Beckman.

NYU – the 10th largest landowner in the city, according to a 2018 study real deal study – currently owns four buildings in the newly rezoned area: 20 Cooper Square, 726 Broadway, 383 Lafayette St. and 404 Lafayette St., as well as an office condo at 14 E. 4th St. It also leases space at 8 -10 Astor pl. and 411 Lafayette St.

Other last-minute changes made by the council included reducing density and lowering the maximum height of buildings in several parts of the rezoned area, limiting the size of new restaurants and bars.

City officials estimate the rezoning will bring up to 3,500 new homes to the neighborhood, 900 of which will be affordable.

Critics of the rezoning, including Village Preservation, say the plan will not create enough affordable housing and is essentially a giveaway to developers.

The Coalition for Fairness in SoHo and NoHo, a nonprofit organization of area residents, filed a lawsuit against the city in February that also challenges the constitutionality of the rezoning.

The coalition claimed in its lawsuit that the rezoning would threaten to displace thousands of tenants and landlords, including those of existing affordable housing.

Nicholas Paolucci, spokesman for the city’s legal department, said the lawsuit would be carefully considered.

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