Mahfar Withdraws East Houston Street Rezoning Proposal (Updated)

255 East Houston St.
255 East Houston St.
255 East Houston St.

Lower East Side developer Samy Mahfar has withdrawn a controversial application to rezone a two-and-a-half block stretch of East Houston Street. The City Council’s subcommittee on zoning and franchises was scheduled to vote on the proposal today.

Mahfar is demolishing a former preschool building at 255 East Houston St. and putting up a 13-story residential complex on a parcel that borders both East Houston and Suffolk streets. The City Planning Commission approved an application July 13 that would have mapped a C2-5 commercial overlay in the residential (R8) district. The change would have allowed Mahfar to install a restaurant or bar in the new building’s ground floor commercial space. As it stands, zoning only permits community facilities in this area.

In a letter dated Sept. 6 (yesterday), Mahfar told City Planning Director Carl Weisbrod that he was withdrawing the application. He did not give a reason. We have contacted Mahfar for additional information and will update this story if we hear back.

During a public hearing earlier this month, City Council member Rosie Mendez opposed the application, saying that it contradicted the community-driven rezoning of the Lower East Side in 2008. Community Board 3 and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer also opposed the application.

You can read our earlier coverage coverage here and here.

UPDATE 1:30 p.m. Here’s a statement from Samy Mahfar:

Although City Planning approved our rezoning application, we were unable to reach an agreement with the Council Member despite best efforts on both sides. We will continue to work towards creating a space on the ground floor of the new development that benefits both the neighborhood and the project.

UPDATED 9/9/2016 Here’s a statement we received from City Council member Rosie Mendez:

The application to rezone Houston Street and add a commercial overlay in my district did not move forward at the City Council. While a vote was scheduled to take place on September 8th, I did not feel that moving forward with the proposed commercial overlay was in the best interests of the community and the applicant withdrew their application. In 2008, my office worked closely with Community Board 3, the Department of City Planning, advocacy groups, residents, and businesses to address out-of-scale development happening across the Lower East Side and East Village. The selection of residential contextual districts was done in a purposeful manner which would allow for new development but protected the residential character of the community. The planning efforts completed in 2008 was the community’s self-determination for its future. It was the result of a transparent process that involved comprehensive thinking about the entire area. Continuing that tradition, the community board, and my staff evaluated the change in zoning and felt that only community facility or residential uses are the most appropriate uses in this area. In addition, the significant interest of area community facility providers leads me to believe that there is a high demand for the community facility space that will be offered at 255 East Houston Street. I remain open to helping to place 4,000 square feet of a non-profit or community oriented community facility at the location.