Comment: The rededication of the listed, historic SoHo to make room for affordable housing is a bad idea

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Instead of a world-class city for everyone with a variety of quarters that reflect the architectural, cultural and economic history of the city, the one-size-fits-all want to make us all poorer by opening SoHo to affordable housing.

A rich architectural heritage

Does the Commission’s vote mean that some of the landmark’s historic cast iron buildings will be converted from their current use into affordable housing? No. It means reallocating the community so that builders are “encouraged” to build exceptional buildings with affordable, mixed-use housing in one of New York’s last architectural gems. At a troubled time in New York City, it’s hard to believe that there aren’t any more pressing land use and planning issues than SoHo doing its part to provide affordable housing.

We all agree that inequality is bad. Still, the battle for affordable housing in SoHo is a classic case of the city cutting off its nose once more to defy its face. It is true that many wealthy people now live in the artist’s cave, which was affordable a long time ago. It is also a landmark that should be preserved for its architectural heritage and historical importance.

With dozens, if not hundreds, of high-traffic office buildings gasping for air as residential conversions, the city should be the last to disguise a beautiful new Manhattan neighborhood. The neighborhood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a National Historic Landmark with cast-iron architectural elements that nobody builds with anymore.

SoHo is not specifically set up to cater to low-income residents. It’s not easy to get to by transit. Yes, there are subway stations, bus stops, and Citi bike docks, but not compared to large parts of Midtown and the Financial District, which are largely empty due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The subway stops serving SoHo are, by and large, small, narrow train stations with no elevators that would make them ADA-accessible.

SoHo is also a poor park community, crowded with bridge and tunnel commuters and tourists polluting the air with their cars. Affordable grocery shopping? Not unless you want to go to Chinatown. Public schools in the neighborhood? If I’ve counted correctly, there are only a few.


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