The City Charter, the document that lays out the rules of city government, has traditionally been the domain of municipal lawyers and few others. Its pages are a tangle of esoteric language and run-on sentences.
But in a decision born of desperation and perhaps a touch of naïveté, a former male model, a human rights lawyer and two law school students plunged headlong into the document on a recent Friday evening as part of an effort to oppose the proposed rezoning of 125th Street in Harlem.
Fighting a New 125th St., Using a 110-Year-Old Law
To wit, Page 74, Section 200, Subsection 3 of the City Charter says, in so many words, that if signatures opposing a rezoning are obtained from the owners of 20 percent of the property, as determined by square footage, in one of three different areas — the area to be rezoned, the area adjacent to the property being rezoned, or the area “opposite” the property (for example, across the street) — then the City Council must approve the rezoning by a three-fourths vote, instead of by a simple majority.
And the four who found the subsection, members of a group called Voices of the Everyday People, are hopeful that they can prevent the Council from reaching that three-quarters majority on the rezoning.
Since their discovery, the members of the Voices group have been going door to door seeking the signatures of property owners.