In Wake of SoHo Rezoning, Development Divides a Manhattan Assembly Race

With New York City mired in a historic affordability crisis, the Lower Manhattan Assembly race between Deborah Glick and challenger Ryder Kessler appears to be a microcosm of a broader debate among Democrats when it comes to development and housing: where to build, how much to build and how to make more units affordable.

Darren McGee / Office of Governor Kathy Hochul; Courtesy of Ryder Kessler’s campaign

Deborah Glick, left, is facing a challenge from tech entrepreneur Ryder Kessler.

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She’s a veteran incumbent who fiercely opposed a neighborhood-scale rezoning that will add thousands of apartments to SoHo and NoHo. He’s a tech entrepreneur backed by the pro-development group Open New York who has called for more housing in his district and wealthy neighborhoods across the five boroughs.

With New York City mired in a historic affordability crisis, the Lower Manhattan Assembly race between Deborah Glick and challenger Ryder Kessler appears to be a microcosm of a broader debate among Democrats when it comes to housing and development: where to build, how much to build and how to make more units affordable.

Glick wants new residential buildings in New York City, but says they should go up outside the congested district she has represented since 1991. Kessler says the “high-opportunity” neighborhoods that make up Assembly District 66 — like the West Village, Tribeca, SoHo , NoHo and pieces of Battery Park City and the Meatpacking District — are prime locations for more mixed-income housing.

But both candidates opposed the notion that the race is a referendum on the SoHo rezoning and new housing development overall.

“I do not think this is the only issue. I think my opponent may think it is, but I believe there are a wide range of issues that I’m known for, ”said Glick, the first openly gay candidate elected to the state legislature and a champion for abortion rights.

Kessler, a Manhattan Community Board 2 member who founded a digital platform to make charitable contributions by credit card easier, also disagreed with that characterization of the contest.

“I would object to the framing that it’s some referendum or some example of a battle between ideologies,” he said. “I think it’s about the status quo that’s not working and has led to rising rents, more evictions and more homelessness.”

The race is one of several state Assembly races across the city where first-time candidates are targeting veteran Democrats they say have failed to adequately address New York’s affordability crunch. Coming on the heels of the December Council vote to approve the SoHo-NoHo upzoning, the race may be the clearest example of the divide.

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