Sorry! Brewer, Chin on chaotic Soho/Noho rezoning meeting

Jonathan Martin of BFJ Planning was in the eye of the chaotic storm at the rezoning meeting. Photos by Gabe Herman

BY GABE HERMAN | At the first public meeting of the Soho/Noho rezoning process on Feb. 6, there was general consensus that the event started out chaotic and unorganized.

Jonathan Martin of BFJ Planning stood in the middle of a room with no microphone and tried to explain the public feedback process, as he was continually interrupted and shouted at by skeptical attendees.

On Feb. 11, the officials who organized the process and meeting said they were sorry for how the meeting turned out.

Feedback, in the form of scrawled notes, at the rezoning meeting.

In a message titled “An open letter to the Soho/Noho Community,” from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Councilmember Margaret Chin and the Department of City Planning, they wrote, “We apologize for being unprepared for the tremendous turnout.”

Nothing that more than 250 people attended, they said, “We’ll do better for the next public meeting in February.”

Much of the anger expressed by those in attendance was over not knowing what the motives were behind the process, and whether locals would really have a say in potential zoning changes in residential or retail areas.

“To be clear, the intent of the Soho/Noho planning process is to collaborate with all those who care about the challenges our neighborhoods face,” the letter stated. “The purpose of our public meetings is to gather ideas and input well before pen is put to paper and proposals are created.”

Trying to make some sense of it all.

People at the meeting, held in P.S. 130 at 143 Baxter St., wrote 211 comments on paper slips provided at various stations, according to the letter. People were able to give feedback in different areas, including living, working, creating and visiting the neighborhood.

Despite the chaos that they chalked up to a larger-than-expected crowd, the officials wrote that it was, in fact, a good start.

“Because of that turnout,” they said, “we obtained a significant amount of feedback on where our planning process should start and what the community wants us to focus on.”

The letter promised that every item of feedback in the process would be read, adding that there are several ways to offer input, including at, and by e-mailing

The next public meeting is scheduled for Thurs., Feb. 28, and is being called a “Thematic Public Workshop.” The letter said details of that event, including its format and topic, would be sent out by Feb. 25.

10 Responses to Sorry! Brewer, Chin on chaotic Soho/Noho rezoning meeting

  1. You can be sure they have their plans already

  2. Why must Brewer and Chin continue to lie to us? One day they say they are not going to rezone, the next day they say soho/noho is going to be rezoned. They say they are listening to us but the community has made it clear that we are happy with the zoning the way it is. We who attended this meeting made that clear. It is real estate speculators who are pushing to change it, a group called Fix SoHo/NoHo Zoning. It is City Planning who is repeating this line, saying the zoning is "broken and needs fixed."
    If the City Planning commission cannot even plan a simple community meeting, can you imagine how they'll screw up this rezoning?

  3. Jonathan Martin and BFJ Planning must be replaced. Their reputation cannot be recovered. Any process going forward will have no credibility, and the outcome will be nothing more than a waste of time…. everyone's. I'll bet that Mr. Martin knows the importance of Trust in such processes, and BFJ has none now. They only scared people who now feel that their skepticism was duly warranted. He should do the only thing that can help at this point and withdraw his company from this mess.

  4. Borough President Gale Brewer, Councilmember Margaret Chin and Department of City Planning Chair Marisa Lago, I have no doubt, are working hand in hand to run interference to assure REBNY's (Real Estate Board of New York) upzoning / spot zoning / rezoning plans for Soho/Noho are fully implemented.

    Marisa Lago is a key player in carrying out REBNY's/Mayor de Blasio's rezoning plans, many of which have been catastrophic to so many residents and small businesses throughout NYC.

    Commissioner Lago, appointed by Mayor de Blasio, began serving as Director of the Department of City Planning and Chair of the City Planning Commission in March 2017. Her background says a lot about why she represents the financial elite and will take orders from the Mayor, who is directed by REBNY, on what NYC's rezoning and land use policies will be. She marches to the orders of the political leaders serving super wealthy interests at the expense of society at large.

    Immediately before joining New York State government, Ms. Lago spent five years as the Global Head of Compliance for Citigroup’s corporate and investment bank. Before that she headed the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's Office of International Affairs overseen by Brooklyn born SEC Chair Arthur Levitt who later became a $900 an hour consultant. Prior to serving in the Obama Administration as the Treasury Department's Assistant Secretary for International Markets and Development, Lago served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Empire State Development and from 1990 to 1994, she was General Counsel of New York City’s Economic Development Corporation.

    With respect to the open letter of apology to the Soho/Noho community from Brewer, Chin and the City Department of Planning the article's author quoted, rest assured Brewer, Chin and Lago are just buying time to figure out how do they give REBNY and the Mayor everything they want with the least amount of delay and political damage.

    Residents and small businesses of New York, if you don't target and rise up against REBNY, which is the driving economic and political force behind hyper-gentrification, business as usual will continue. That scenario is bad not just for the Lower East Side and Greenwich Village, but for residents and small businesses throughout the five boroughs! Please visit…Ray Rogers, Director, Campaign to Stop REBNY Bullies/Corporate Campaign…

  5. The time's come. There's no putting it off any longer. Ray Rogers is right on. What nerve, what utter contempt for
    our intelligence even suggesting that Soho/Noho needs rezoning. These are outstanding neighborhood desperate for
    preservation, not blind, greedy destruction. Ms Brewer, Ms Chin, Ms Lago, hey, get the picture already! New Yorkers have had it with your real estate schemes. That ugly game's coming to an end. Witness what happened with Amazon and Long Island city. You had two hundred and fifty angry citizen at that shameful meeting of your. I believe that's just the beginning. We just have to fight now heart and soul for what's left of our beloved city.

  6. When will Brewer and Chin (and the others) recollect that they are responsible to the

    citizens of New York, not to the real estate industry? What will take? Angry citizens storming

    their offices, wave after wave….Persons whose first and foremost interest is love of the City ought

    to the ones yielding power, not these besmirched electeds, they who not-so-secretly work

    for the real estate industry.

    It’s been a quarter of century since Soho was interesting: They want to make it worse?? Don’t

    give them an inch, residents of Downtown, not an inch opening of that door to the destruction of your

    neighborhood. How easily and quickly Amazon went poof! Take courage from that, fight Chin

    and Brewer and those for whom they are fronting, the real estate biggies of the city. They are unqualified

    for the citizens’ job of city planning.

  7. A long-time observer

    I can't wait until all the Chin and Brewer haters replace them with whomever. And they will find whomever totally perfect, able to solve every problem, never cause a furrow to their brow, magically make the city "theirs" again. Honestly, the vitriol against Chin and now Brewer is getting really really old. And strangely only appears here. Letter writers in other local papers have much much kinder things to say about these two. For years, the writers here screamed they weren't getting "town Halls" now they get offered an open meeting and it's over-crowded and not fully resolved with all the answers at ones fingertips. Well, wait for "whomever" . I'm sure you will be totally happy and gripe free. Ha!

  8. The rezoning process for East Harlem started the same way. In our instance, the concern was for increased participation for low income households elidgibility for the greater number of available housing units our City Councilwoman promised through the Mayor’s Manditory Inclusionary Housing Program (MIH) in larger apartment buildings. Throughout the process; in numerous charettes and presentation and hearings, the community’s concern for increased available affordable apts grew. In the end what we got was nothing more than the cuurent allowable exisiting percentage (20%) of the total units developed with low income participation thresehold established at the same old exisisting level of 80% of the area median income (AMI) for NYC which meant non exisistent apts for households earning less than $ 80,000.00 in buildings now rezoned in heights to 3x higher then allowed in 2000. This entire process fueled speculation never before imagined in East Harlem real estate with low income redidents now being displaced with the assitance of this exisisting front of political tools of the NYREB. Thanks for nothing. Ray Rogers is correct- beware of geeks bearing gifts.

  9. You clearly have not been watching the other rezoning presentation. East Harlem and Inwood and Chinatown and the Lower East Side have been fighting the Mayor’s racist rezoning (gentrification) schemes for quite a while. You will be hard pressed to find giddy participants at any of these fake “hearings.” No one wants to be displaced. Rezoning is not the answer because the problem (high rents, warehoused properties) is caused by the very industry the city would now reward. REBNY runs City Hall, and Chin and Brewer know what’s up. They are spineless careerists plotting their next move while pretending to care about our neighborhoods.

  10. Great job, beautiful blog with great informational content. This is a really interesting and informative post.

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