The Future of Wealthy SoHo

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Like much of Lower Manhattan, SoHo used to be a mostly affordable neighborhood of artists, musicians and other bohemians.

In recent decades, it became a wealthy, mostly white area, full of art galleries, chic stores and multimillion-dollar lofts.

But this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan that could change the neighborhood: He wants to rezone SoHo to accommodate new affordable housing.

[Will SoHo be the site of New York City’s next battle over development?]

The potential rezoning would come after some residents fled SoHo for second homes, and amid a steep decrease in foot traffic that hurt the businesses lining the neighborhood’s main thoroughfares and cobblestone side streets.

Mr. de Blasio wants to allow about 3,200 housing units to be built in an area between Houston and Canal Streets, bordered by Sixth Avenue to the west and Lafayette Street to the east. Zoning rules could also be changed in nearby NoHo, between Houston Street and Astor Place.

About 25 percent of the new units would need to be affordable, though the City Council could decide on specific rules for each neighborhood. Mr. de Blasio has committed to creating at least 300,000 affordable homes in the city by 2026.

Rezoning efforts in New York City usually target less affluent neighborhoods, drawing charges of gentrification from their longtime residents.

The decision by Mr. de Blasio’s administration may signal that wealthy neighborhoods are no longer off limits to such developments. The idea has been gaining traction with other city officials, including Comptroller Scott M. Stringer and Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, who both support rezoning SoHo.

Mr. de Blasio’s plan drew an immediate outcry from a preservation group in SoHo, which said rezoning would detract from the area’s character.

“This upzoning approach of super luxury towers with a small set-aside for affordable units is bad for New York City, bad for our neighborhoods, and bad for affordability,” Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said in a statement.

Proposed developments in neighborhoods like Inwood in Manhattan, and Brooklyn’s Bushwick and Industry City, have all met fierce opposition, largely from progressive groups and politicians. The resistance to the Industry City plan, which could have created 20,000 jobs, led to the project’s cancellation.

Still, Vicki Been, the deputy mayor of housing, told my colleague Emma G. Fitzsimmons that the economic destruction caused by the pandemic made the housing issue more urgent.

A grandmother pulled her 7-year-old grandson from a moving S.U.V. as a carjacker sped away with the vehicle in Queens. [New York Post]

A “guerrilla garden” is growing at the Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing development in the country. [Gothamist]

The Times’s Troy Closson writes:

Three years ago, Molly Clark’s subway train was stalled underground in Manhattan. During the delay, she said, she began to panic and eventually passed out.

The ordeal led Ms. Clark, now 23, to become anxious when on the train. Seeking to overcome that feeling, she decided to “partner comedy with my fears” and spoofed a subway announcer in a packed elevator at New York University: “This is a northbound elevator with connections on two, three, four,” she said in a robotic voice, as someone filmed her and fellow riders stifled laughs.

She posted that two-year-old video on TikTok a few weeks ago. It has since racked up more than 670,000 views and inspired joy among New Yorkers — many of whom have abandoned the subway, and even the city itself, during the pandemic.

“So many of the comments I’ve gotten have been like, ‘This makes me cry. I haven’t been in New York since March, and I missed this,’” said Ms. Clark, who is a writer and comedian.

The viral video reached several people who recorded train announcements. First, Charlie Pellett, whose deep voice is perhaps the most recognizable in New York, messaged her on Instagram, saying he enjoyed the video.

Ms. Clark asked him to record one of his well-known phrases. He obliged with “stand clear of the closing doors, please,” and she posted his response to TikTok.

Soon, two other people who had recorded subway announcements — Bernie Wagenblast and Jessica Ettinger — sent voice memos for her to share on the social media app.

“So many people haven’t been on the subway for so long,” Mr. Wagenblast said. “Hearing those announcements in a different context than normal gives you a kick when so much time has passed.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority then invited Ms. Clark to record her own round of announcements. The agency says it will play one telling riders to wear a mask — at the 14th Street station that serves the 1, 2 and 3 lines — for a limited time.

“This has all made me feel like New York is way more of a community than I ever thought,” she said.

It’s Thursday — please be careful of the gap between the platform and the train.

Dear Diary:

In 1982, not long after my friend Al and I were hired at Gouverneur Hospital on the Lower East Side, we began to explore our new neighborhood.

One day, Al brought a pair of shoes to a local shoemaker to have new heels put on.

The shoemaker said he could pick them up on Thursday.

“Don’t I get a ticket?” Al said.

“I’ve been on this corner for 30 years,” the shoemaker said. “That’s your ticket.”

— Henry Rosenberg

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