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From Yvonne Stennett: The Future of Inwood Relies on Us

Jul 13 2016

Dear Neighbor,

As the Executive Director of the Community League of the Heights (CLOTH), a community development organization dedicated to supporting and empowering all residents in Inwood and Washington Heights, I actively work on addressing an array of community needs, from finding affordable housing to getting better education, from providing health and youth services to revitalizing our neighborhood. CLOTH’s simple philosophy is that our doors are always open to neighbors in need and Inwood is one of our core areas of focus.

Inwood is a hidden treasure, with amazing parks and cultural assets, as well as many existing affordable rental units. Over the years, CLOTH has worked directly on a number of affordable housing projects in the neighborhood that focus mainly on preservation. However, as rents continue to rise and the city’s population continues to grow, there is a tremendous need for the development of new affordable housing options to serve our community.

The Inwood NYC Planning Initiative, spearheaded by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and our Council Member Ydanis Rodríguez, is an opportunity to influence the future of our neighborhood by directly addressing our concerns about housing affordability, unemployment, livability and other challenges.

We need to work together to preserve the affordable housing we have and create new affordable housing for the future. We also need to invest in our community and improve the quality of life, ensuring that there are adequate amenities and services for youth, seniors and all community residents.

To ensure robust community engagement and input in this initiative, NYCEDC is engaging community leaders, like me, to take an active role in the process. To date, over 1,700 residents and community stakeholders have participated through various outreach efforts led by NYCEDC and the City team. The responses and input received will help form the next steps in the process and inform strategies for preserving and creating affordable housing, making targeted public investments in infrastructure, improving opportunities for job training and career pathways and more. This is more than a rezoning – this is a neighborhood plan.

Inwood’s zoning has remained largely unchanged since the 1960s. This has led to the underutilization of large swaths of the community east of 10th Avenue, inciting minimal public investment and hindering economic development that could benefit local residents and businesses in meaningful ways. The Inwood NYC planning initiative would rezone this area to improve the quality of life for residents by:

  • Creating new mixed-use districts with permanently affordable housing, jobs, businesses, and community facilities
  • Preserving existing affordable housing and protecting tenants
  • Reclaiming access to the waterfront for recreational use
  • Improving streets and connectivity to make them safer and easier to navigate for pedestrians and cyclists
  • Providing workforce development opportunities and supporting small businesses Supporting arts & culture, youth programming, community health and more

This planning initiative provides us with a unique chance to have a real, active voice in how our wonderful community moves into the future. There’s a sense of urgency for us to be proactive and to take charge. To do nothing is not an option. It’s got to be us. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” – or in this case, in Inwood.

Peace and Blessings,

Yvonne Stennett

Executive Director of the Community League of the Heights, Inc. (CLOTH)
Serving the Washington Heights Community Since 1952