Last night at the debate, candidate Jennifer Rajkumar cited this article at City and State. Chin responded by dismissing it as "just a blog."
The piece explains that the "affordable commercial space" that First American International Bank promised Chin in exchange for de-landmarking 135 Bowery is a fiction. There's no category of "affordable commercial space" in law or city zoning or land use or regulation or legislation.
But we already knew that. When FAIB and Chin presented to the City Council this promise of affordable commercial space they produced no contract, no written agreement, no letter, no email, no paper trail, no evidence, no document whatsoever. And, btw, the Council Committee, chaired by Brad Lander, didn't even ask about it. In other words, this was a favor to the councilmember that the council members all understood as a favor to the bank -- best not ask questions, just look away and nod assent.
And what contract could there be? How could it be enforced? What measure of affordability? How much under market-rate? How do you negotiate a give-back without getting an enforceable contract? Or even any contract?? The whole transaction was a fabric of malfeasance and cronyism.
Barron's article describes FAIB as a "Chinatown bank." But as I recall, when the bank demolished 135 Bowery, its headquarters were located in Queens, not in Manhattan's Chinatown. At a moment when Chinatown is threatened by outside capital, that's an important detail. The fact that FAIB is moving into Chinatown should not deceive anyone into thinking that they are now integral to the community. Having promoted and won the Chinatown BID and now begun developing in Chinatown, FAIB looks like the spearhead of Chinatown gentrification, an outsider preying upon the built neighborhood and its community.
It always annoys me to hear challenger-candidates mouth the empty promise formulas "If you elect me..." or "You need a councilmember who will...". I mean, after you explain how the incumbent has failed to negotiate effectively, mouthing these formulas are kind of an insult to the audience's intelligence. But in this case, it really is true that Margaret did such a poor job negotiating this deal, that you want to hear someone say, "I know how to negotiate, and I will negotiate for you."
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