Press Releases

For Immediate Release
March 13, 2019

Rachaele Raynoff, Joe Marvilli – (212) 720-3471

City Planning, Manhattan Borough President Brewer and Council Member Chin Announce Public Workshop in SoHo and NoHo Public Engagement Process Focused on Residential Aspects of the Neighborhoods

Third event in six-month series of public meetings and consultation with local stakeholders to outline a vision for the future of SoHo and NoHo neighborhoods

NEW YORK - Department of City Planning (DCP) Director Marisa Lago, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Margaret Chin today announced that the third public engagement session for visioning the future of SoHo and NoHo will take place on Wednesday, March 20, beginning at 6 p.m. at the 1 Centre Street North mezzanine.

After the initial Open House on February 6 (a summary of public input available here) and the first public workshop on February 28 (more information and video available here), the coming session will be the second of four thematic workshops and focus on residential aspects of SoHo and NoHo, including Joint Living Work Quarters for Artists, housing affordability, and opportunities and challenges of living in mixed-use neighborhoods.

“While SoHo and NoHo streets hum with the energy of workers and shoppers, it’s the residents who are the heart of these vibrant neighborhoods. Whether you’re an artist in live/work quarters, a New Yorker looking for affordable housing, or a recent transplant, we want your voices to be heard. Please join us for this brainstorming session and share your concerns and ideas on housing. Let’s work together to keep SoHo and NoHo livable for all,” said DCP Director Marisa Lago.

"Residents of SoHo and NoHo should attend this public session to ensure their views on how their neighborhoods should evolve in the years ahead are included in the SoHo-NoHo plan," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer.

“As the backbone of the SoHo and NoHo communities, residents are an integral part of any conversation regarding the future of these iconic neighborhoods. I am encouraged by the attendance of residents at past meetings, and I look forward to hearing from even more live/work artists, renters and owners at next week’s workshop,” said Council Member Margaret Chin.

Format/agenda of March 20 thematic workshop, 6 to 8:15 PM:

  • 6 — 6:15 PM: Community members arrive and mingle with SoHo/NoHo Process sponsors, Manhattan Borough President Brewer, Council Member Chin, City Planning Director Lago, their staff, and engagement facilitator, Jonathan Martin.
  • 6:15 — 6:40 PM: Presentation by staff about the engagement process, what to expect at this session, and research findings about the residential and live/work landscape in SoHo and NoHo today.
  • 6:40 — 7:40 PM: Breakout groups and facilitated discussions focused on live/work, housing, affordability and other aspects of living in SoHo and NoHo.
  • 7:40 — 8:10 PM: Workshop participants regroup, share highlights of their breakout discussion and feedback and Q&A.

The purpose of the engagement process, and “why now?”

SoHo and NoHo are dynamic mixed-use neighborhoods with an established residential population, strong office markets with growing creative firms, and one of the city’s biggest retail centers. At the same time, the existing zoning, established nearly five decades ago to balance the needs of a declining manufacturing sector and a growing artist community, presents challenges to the continued vitality of these historic neighborhoods.

This map shows the number special permit applications in SoHo and NoHo since around 1974 and compared to surrounding neighborhoods. Since 2000, the City has granted over 90 City Planning Commission special permits in SoHo and NoHo, the majority of which were to allow or legalize retail and residential uses. Within the same timeframe, the number of special permits granted in adjacent Manhattan neighborhoods were significantly fewer: 21 in Community District 3, and 51 in Community District 1.

Source: NYC Department of City Planning, Zoning Application Portal (ZAP) Search (Disclaimer: Given limitations on data visualization, multiple special permit applications on the same block and lot may be shown on the map with a single dot at this scale.)
Source: NYC Department of City Planning, Zoning Application Portal (ZAP) Search (Disclaimer: Given limitations on data visualization, multiple special permit applications on the same block and lot may be shown on the map with a single dot at this scale.)

The large number of variance applications and approvals is the result of a dynamic local economy that has outgrown 1970s era-zoning rules.

The intent of the SoHo/NoHo public engagement process is to strategize and collaborate on crafting ideas that address on-the-ground challenges faced by businesses and residents of these two historic Manhattan neighborhoods, while enhancing and preserving neighborhood assets.

SoHo is generally bounded by Houston Street to the north, Canal Street to the south, West Broadway and Avenue of the Americas to the west, and Lafayette, Centre and Baxter Streets to the east. NoHo is generally bounded by Astor Place to the north, Houston Street to the south, Broadway to the west, and Bowery to the east. Today, the two neighborhoods are: 

  • Home to about 8,000 New Yorkers, representing a more significant residential presence than in typical manufacturing districts;
  • Home to more than 51,000 jobs principally in office, retail, accommodation, food, and other non-industrial sectors;
  • Major creative centers: over 25% of total jobs in the creative industries;
  • Major economic drivers: SoHo’s retail sector ranks second citywide in annual sales, and 10th nationally.

Highlights of the second public engagement session (first of four workshops) held on February 28:

  • Over 200 attendees participating in breakout group discussions
  • Input gathered from the Workshop include:
    • The need to better understand who lives in SoHo and NoHo and how many artists there are
    • Address quality of life issues, including better maintenance of historic streets, adding more street lighting, addressing congestion, loading noise and air population, trash collection
    • A more balanced retail mix (i.e. need for more local retail such as convenience stores, affordable groceries, small artisanal retail; less focus on destination retail and chain stores)
    • Concerns for storefront vacancies and ideas for how to utilize vacancy spaces
    • The need for more community space and facilities, including open space, pre-schools and senior centers
    • The need for a more focused discussion on how existing regulations affect residential and commercial property owners, as well as business owners
  • If you missed the workshop, you can view the presentation online, and share your comments and ideas in an online survey, or through an online mapping tool.

Highlights of the first public engagement session, an Open House held February 6:

  • Over 200 attendees.
  • Key themes include:
    • The need to focus on SoHo/NoHo’s history, creativity and iconic character
    • Better manage the public realm, including loading, pedestrian and vehicular traffic, trash collection and vendors
    • Preserve and create housing, including affordable housing
    • Support for small businesses and focus on retail character
    • Enforce zoning rules

For more information on the planning process, please visit our website.

Earlier press releases on this topic are available: February 22, 2019 and January 11, 2019.