East Harlem Residents Help Plan For Revitalization

Video: Michael Scotto from Vimeo

Residents are submitting their own plan for the East Harlem rezoning, through an effort led by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

The rezoning process, part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Affordable Housing Plan, raised a few alarms after its announcement. Recent controversies over gentrification and redistricting caused some to view the project with a wary eye. Nevertheless, the municipality has striven to include East Harlem residents’ voices in the development, through a series of “Community Visioning Workshops,” including one this week.

Another event for public feedback will take place on March 9th, at the Bonifacio Senior Center on 116th Street.

Several offices have overseen the process thus far, most notably Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito and also Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who have played a direct role in the community vision workshops. They have worked in conjunction with the Department of Housing Preservation & Development, and the NYC Department of City Planning.

Mayor de Blasio hopes the East Harlem rezoning will prove the first of several throughout NYC. Under the Affordable Housing Plan, East Harlem, and four other low-income neighborhoods, will receive these redesigns.

The plans will do more than just make housing cheaper. In addition to providing homes for low-income residents, the rezoning will serve to revitalize these communities. The efforts aim to include, among other items, open spaces, community gardens and improved, more efficient infrastructure. Though the stewards of the initiative have outlined these topics in the East Harlem Plan, specific courses of action remain up for debate.

Thus far, the workshops have allowed the planners to construct a comprehensive list of needs for several different pertinent topics. These subjects include Open Space & Recreation, Culture & Arts, Schools & Education, New York City Housing Authority, Affordable Housing Preservation, Small Business, Economic & Workforce Development, Health & Seniors and Safety.

Among other items, the workshop on Open Space & Recreation found that the rezoning process should strategically preserve and create open space, restore ailing parks, utilize City-own land for public use, integrate stormwater management practices and provide greater accessibility for par lands. The plan includes over 20 recommendations on how to reach these goals, but specifics will develop in the coming months.