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Years of work culminated in 2005 with the rezonings of Manhattan’s West Chelsea and Hudson Yards, then the most extensive rezonings in New York City history. The two rezonings provided for thousands of new residential dwelling units and as much commercial space as was found in Seattle or Minneapolis. They also, for the first time, mandated the creation or preservation of affordable housing units alongside new market rate housing.
In addition, the West Chelsea rezoning enabled the preservation of an abandoned elevated rail line that had been slated for demolition while the Hudson Yards rezoning precluded the siting of a football stadium on prime property overlooking the Hudson River. These outcomes were highly desired by the community but were opposed by a combination of government and commercial interests.
Throughout the rezoning process Manhattan Community Board 4 (MCB4) served as the community’s voice and representative in negotiations with New York City, New York State and private developers. We will explore how New York City land use works and how MCB4, composed of “ordinary citizens,” was able to “fight city hall” to achieve the community’s goals. MCB4 and the community did not win everything they sought, but their work resulted in a far more livable community. Their accomplishments truly were the triumph of the community.
Instructor: Lee Compton
Lee Compton served as a member of MCB4 for sixteen years. During this period he was chair of the board’s Chelsea Land Use committee and a member of the Clinton/Hell's Kitchen committee except for the two years he served as MCB4 chair. He led the board’s work on the West Chelsea rezoning, including the development of the mechanism that saved the rail line from demolition. Today, the High Line, as it is called, has become one of the city’s most popular attractions, both with residents and tourists.
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