Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Strategic error: last chance for the Bowery

CB3 is planning a new zoning study for the Bowery. Once it is finished, they will draw up a zoning proposal for City Planning. It'll all take about a year and who knows how long before the City responds if ever. To further this plan, they intend now to speak to DCP privately to ascertain what the City will consider for the Bowery.

This strategy, though well-meaning, is both strategically misguided and destined to produce too little too late.

By not publicly questioning the City on the Bowery, and by starting a new plan for the Bowery, the CB is taking on the burden of responsibility for the future of the Bowery and taking it off the City. That's an egregious strategic error. It means the City won't have to answer for anything, even though it's the City alone that has created this problem by leaving the Bowery out of the rezoning.

By the time the CB has a plan to present to the City for the Bowery, the Bowery will already have been developed and the City will blame the CB for it. And the City will be right.

Fortunately, the CB can still act strategically.
LESRRD, the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors (BAN) and the Coalition to Save the East Village all asked at City Planning's Scoping Session that the Bowery be included in the rezoning. These public record requests give the CB leverage now. A public letter to the Borough President -- indicating that without a rezoning now, the City is handing over the Bowery to developers -- will place the burden of public responsibility on the City for not including the Bowery in the rezoning plan. The City will be compelled either to take action or to accept responsibility for hotel development.

The reasons CB3 gives not to fight to get the Bowery returned to the zoning area do not hold up under scrutiny. CB3 has said that it's useless to fight to get the Bowery in the rezoning because:
1) the City doesn't want to rezone the Bowery
(if that's the reason then why has CB3 begun to work on a rezoning plan for the Bowery now?);

2) the west side of the Bowery is in a different district and DCP doesn't zone one side of a street
(DCP zones single sides of streets all the time; DCP Deputy Director for Manhattan has plainly told me that one-side-of-the-street- zoning is and was never a problem for them);

3) DCP does whatever it wants
(if that's so, why has the CB been working for a full year on a rezoning of 3rd & 4th Avenues, an area the City has openly refused to rezone?).

CB3 should stop stalling and ask publicly, now: what does the City want for the Bowery?
No rezoning now=huge luxury hotels


Courtney said...

Yes, but it may well be the case anyway, since the developers are rushing to complete their projects in advance of the new zoning being passed. The wrangling may have simply increased the speed with which they're pushing these projects through. Or is that a misunderstanding on my part?

robCUNY said...

You're exactly right. The rezoning has created a frenzy of buy-ups south of Houston where hotels can be built. Once the foundation is dug, the building gets in under the old zoning.

That's why I see the Bowery at risk. Right now it's not prime, but wait until the rezoning goes through. Then the frenzy will turn to the Bowery. But if the City can be coerced to include the Bowery in the current rezoning, it'll be entirely saved south of Houston where there hasn't been any hotel development yet. It's a long shot, but surely worth every effort. I don't get why the CB isn't throwing itself into this. The main players on the Board have refused to sign the petition to save the Bowery, giving every sort of lame excuse you could think of.