Monday, December 31, 2007

Jane Jacobs at MAS

The Municipal Arts Society's free exhibit, Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York (at 475 Madison Avenue & 51st Street), has been extended through January 26.

I urge you to go see it. No exhibit in the city is as relevant or important to New Yorkers.

It is not an in-depth treatment of Jacobs or her legacy. Rather, it is a summary of her achievement in New York and, most important, a loud and clear call to action.

After highlighting Jacobs' decisive successes in protecting her community from broad government plans that would have destroyed it, the exhibit then focuses on Jacobs' notion of community, culling examples of urban successes and failures from New York today. The argument of the exhibit is transparent: Jacobs identified basic principles conducive to successful urban community life; ordinary people can and must protect their community from the administrative and market forces that hold no regard for those principles.

Go see it.

It's a small exhibit with limited historical background, so it may be useful to consider the broader context of urban planning in the last century:

The twentieth century began with a modernist movement bent on eradicating class differences through functional architecture and rational urban design. Modernists replaced the lavish, opulent, classist Beaux Arts façades of the latter 19th century with plain, unadorned, egalitarian working-class mass residences surrounded by grass. Businesses would be segregated into districts away from the quiet residential districts. If it sounds like projects and malls, that's exactly their utopian idea.

Jacobs wisely caught the flaw in their theoretical approach. Their principles had no empirical basis. If you want to know what kind of urban environment works for people, look at successful neighborhoods.

Jacobs immediately observed the importance of street-life to the vitality of urban community. She identified four principles of successful urban planning: mixed uses (residences with storefronts for small businesses like delis, restaurants, hardware stores, clothing stores, even small manufacturing); varied building types (old buildings with new, tall with short, all on small lots to maximize variety); short blocks to enhance freedom of movement; population density. These foster vital communities in contrast with the monolithism, segregation, sterility and oppression of modernism.

The elements that create community are fragile and depend on preservation -- protecting the old from the new, the small from the large, the mom and pop from the chain. Without preservation, the variety and small scale essential to community are swallowed up by market forces of big money, big businesses, big chains, big developers. And so, Jacobs also came to understand the importance of getting involved in saving urban community: she coordinated the effort to save Greenwich Village from Robert Moses' plan to rip it apart with a highway.

Moses himself belonged to a modernist age of optimistic futurism. He concocted a grand scheme to create a megalopolis of infrastructure linking city to suburb with concourses, parkways and bridges. In his success lay an unanticipated failure. The bridges and highways enabled white flight into the suburbs which eroded the city's tax base leading to municipal abandonment of the inner city, degraded services and programs, more white flight, including industrial and business flight to the suburbs and the eventual bankrupting of the city in 1975.

The city did not fully recover until the boom of the '90's which brought us the rampant gentrification we are living with today. The cure is worse than the disease: where Moses had a plan, our current city administration simply gives swaths of the city over to developers out for the quickest buck, with no plan at all, no infrastructure to support their projects, no thought of community impact, no thought of sustainability, no thought of the future of the city. Just money.

What we most desperately need in this big-money-market free-for-all is a plan -- not the kind of top-down, half-baked, grandiose futurism of a Moses, but the empirically informed, humanist observation of Jane Jacobs.

The exhibit extols Jacobs' battle with Moses and then focuses on her vision of urban community by contrasting "good" streets with "bad" streets in today's New York. "Good" streets have a mix of buildings of varied ages and heights, mostly one-lot in size, full of what I like to call the three st's: storefronts, stoops and street-life. The "bad" streets have one huge street wall with no entry points, just an oppressive wall to keep people out and walking past. The exhibit uses, among others, the Avalon building (Whole Foods on Bowery and Houston) as a paradigmatic example of urban design that fails to meet the basic virtues Jacobs identified for urban community.

Today, Avalon style is everywhere. Look at the Chase Bank on Astor Place. It's as if Jane Jacobs never lived: one long glass wall; nothing to do there, nothing to see. A friend from City Lore/Place Matters says it served the community better when it was a parking lot because then at least you could walk through it.

Let's face it, there is no plan for the future of housing in this city. Since the "triumph" of capitalism, government sees only the developer, and the developer sees only as far as his pocket. Ordinary people's social needs play no role, only their money. And community is not in this picture at all.

I recently came across a brief bio of Julia Richman -- she has a school named after her near Hunter College. Sy Brody writes, "Julia Richman was the first woman district superintendent of schools in the City of New York. Her innovations, leadership and curriculum brought an entire new dimension to public school education at the beginning of the twentieth century." She chose the Lower East Side as her district where "she started ... special schools for delinquents, chronic absentees and above average pupils."

I am struck by her story. She was one of many reformers in an age of social reform -- from Jacob Riis and Lillian Wald to Clara Lemlich and Dorothy Day. But Richman was in government: school district superintendent. A reformer holding a government post? Can you imagine such a reformer in a government post today? Today our commissioners and city administrators are all toadies. "Toad" seems to be one of the qualifications for the job, perhaps the sole qualification.

To celebrate Jacobs' success in getting Washington Square closed to all vehicular traffic, a car was burned at the arch. The Times reports that "Mrs. Roosevelt" was present at the burning along with Jane.

Such a celebration seems unimaginable today.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Can't say it better

Reprinted from a letter to the NY Sun, written by local LES resident, Rima Finzi-Strauss:

"I believe that Manhattan dies a little each time middle and working class housing is lost to planned luxury condominium development. Without diversity, which has always made New York special, Manhattan will shortly become a dull sprawling bedroom community for celebrities, Wall Street financiers, rich out-of-towners, and foreign investors. The transformation, unfortunately, seems almost complete."

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Holiday news

Friends and neighbors,

Get ready for more development: Streit's Matzohs is selling its four-lot factory on Rivington Street for $25 million. If the buyer digs his foundation before the new zoning of the LES, he can use the community facility bonus to increase the size by over 40%. Fortunately, it's not in the LES commercial zone, so it won't be another huge hotel. But the site is next-door to ABC No Rio and the block is lined with one architectural gem after another, some of the oldest in the city.

Some holiday presents
As we watch history disappear around us, artists have turned to a mode older than scripture: the lament. Photographers publish their work on blogs with names like Lost New York, Vanishing New York, Lost City:

To see the real LES, don't miss the inside, underside photo chronicle

There's a documentary just out too, New York Lost. For a limited time you can view it here:
(Well say, is that developer Sion Misrahi waxing poetic about the inevitability of change? He doesn't mention that change means hundreds of millions in profit for him. Could it be that's why contemplating change moves him so profoundly? I know change is a necessary law of the universe, that change is time itself. I didn't know that glass towers, yuppie invasions, banks and chain stores were a law of the universe or that the end of community and neighborhood were universally necessary. Must all change be for the worse? Misrahi, couldn't you find a way of filling your pockets that doesn't entail destroying neighborhood communities, killing their arts, culture, character and history? What happened to the time when "change" meant approaching a better future for all, not just bulldozing the past for one man's profit?)

New Yorkers seem to have given up on all the cherished utopian dreams that motivated movements and held us to a hopeful future that might someday reflect our deepest and most heartfelt aspirations. We've settled for Whole Foods instead.

For the record, I haven't spent a penny at Whole Foods and I don't see any reason why I would. Its glass wall, extending the entire length of the block, prevents any street life from gathering. The place is an affront to any vision of urban improvement, urban life, urban culture, urban activity, urban taste.

Greatest city in the world? You've got to be kidding. There are dozens of cities in newly industrialized, developing countries all over the world that do the oppressive glass wall just as well or better. New York is becoming just a cold Singapore with chewing gum freckles.

Years ago, Jane Jacobs explained to us what was wrong with modernism: communities need street-life, storefronts, stoops. Community is folks hanging out in their neighborhood. That's what stoops, storefronts and street-life give you -- community.

Yuppies from the suburbs haven't got a clue what a neighborhood community is, never having experienced one outside the window of their SUV. But here they come, imposing the suburban mall on the one place in the world where the cure for mall-aise grows indigenously. Like the rain forest, once you raze the urban neighborhood you lose all the unique species of urban character. And once you replace it with glass and steel, you can't grow it back again. Instead of great corned beef and kielbasa you get banks that smell like stale disinfectant. Stomach that with your Starbucks.

The holidays afford us reflection on the past and a moment looking toward the future -- a briefly hopeful moment, before that future is upon us and we turn again to mourning. Why can't we take that moment to renew our utopian dreams and envision the kind of city we'd like New York to be?

The future doesn't have to be just for Misrahi. It can be about us and for us.

A joyful holiday to you and yours,


Thursday, December 20, 2007

The effects of deregulation

In case you think deregulation of housing will bring rental prices down by a general leveling of the market, here's what's actually happening as a result of deregulation (from Liz Peek, NY Sun, of all places):

"According to a report from the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies, the stock of what is considered low-cost rentals in America fell by 1.2 million units between 1993 and 2003. For a variety of reasons, "affordable" rental units have been disappearing, causing prices for the remaining properties to rise. In 2005, according to the MacArthur Foundation, almost 9 million middle- and low-income Americans spent more than half of their income on housing, an all-time record.

"According to a study by the Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy, median rents in New York have risen considerably faster than incomes. It says the number of rental units "affordable to low and moderate income households in the city fell significantly" between 2002 and 2005. During that period, the report says, the total number of rental units in New York grew by only 0.4%, while the number of condos and other owned units grew by 3.5%. Adding to the problems of low-income citizens, the new housing stock shifted significantly upmarket, with higher-priced units growing by almost 25%. These trends are also in place across the country."

In other words, the effect of deregulation is not a leveling of the market. The effect is more upscale housing in the city, more of the labor force moving out of the city. No leveling, just up or out.

Same thing happened in Boston when they deregulated housing there: no leveling, just more upscaling and gentrification. Even the conservative Manhattan Institute's study couldn't find any beneficial effect on rents in Boston's deregulation.

Why do you think regulations were created in the first place?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Testify on landlord harassment!

City Council Hearing on a Landlord Harassment Bill
City Council Chambers, City Hall
Monday Dec. 17, 10am
(Arrive early -- the line will be long -- or late in the afternoon, after many have left.)

This Monday, the City Council will hold a hearing on legislation to protect tenants from landlord harassment. This hearing affords tenants the opportunity to testify
on the increasing problem of landlord harassment,
on the difficulty of bringing harassment charges against a landlord under current law,
on the lack of anti-harassment enforcement and investigation by government agencies charged with tenant protection,
and on the ineffectiveness of fines against large corporate landlords.

Under current law, "harassment" does not include landlords repeatedly filing baseless law suits against tenants, and all harassment charges against a landlord must be initiated by the tenant and filed not in housing court but through the state by a difficult and often ineffective process. The Council is considering a bill which will allow tenants who are being taken to court by a landlord on a baseless, frivolous suit, to charge the landlord in housing court with harassment.

Unfortunately, the bill's penalties for harassment are meager fines -- only up to $5,000, an insignificant sum, especially for large corporate landlords. No jail sentences are being considered, nor surrender of premises, even for repeat offenders.

Of course, the ideal solution would be for city agencies to investigate and prosecute landlords themselves, rather than rely on harassed tenants to file charges. But while the Bloomberg administration continues to defund the agencies responsible for protecting tenants, this bill is a needed protection.

(The Council is also considering a bill that would allow landlords to sue tenants who file frivolous suits against the landlord, but this pro-landlord bill appears to be dead. It was introduced under the pretense of "fairness," but when you consider that tenants have no economic incentive to harass landlords (a bankrupted landlord can't provide services), while landlords have strong economic incentive to harass and bankrupt tenants out of stabilized apartments, it's quite clear that the "fairness" argument is misapplied and disguises a subversive strategy: to prevent tenants from filing any kind of suit against a landlord who could retaliate with a corporate legal team charging the tenant with harassing the landlord. The sponsors of this pro-landlord bill, Maria Baez and Joel Rivera, have been appropriately exposed and excoriated in the press.)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Rally Monday

The statement below impressed on me the scale of the destructive impact the Cooper Square Hotel will have. The rally: this Monday, 6pm, 5th & Bowery.

I'm Stuart Zamsky, a longtime resident of East Fifth Street between 2-3rd Aves., and a retail merchant on Fifth Street between 1-2nd Aves. I am writing to entreat you to attend a Rally Against the Cooper Square Hotel this Monday, December 10th at the Corner of 5th Street & The Bowery, and to attend the subsequent Community Board 3's SLA Meeting at the same location.

You may or may not be inclined towards community meetings and rallies. I have never been, but when I heard about the plans the hotel had for it's outdoor spaces; Large areas (some just 30 inches from existing resident's windows!), Open Late with huge capacities, a Door to this Beer Garden exiting directly on to Quiet Fifth Street, I realized that if ever there was a time to act, to help rouse neighbors, and get the Cooper Square Hotel to behave as a reasonable, considerate neighbor, it was now. This hotel has the potential to impact our neighborhood in the manner that the Maritime Hotel,the Gansevort, or the Hotel Rivington has forever changed their neighborhoods, turning them into the loudest of scenes, Bourbon Street Theme Parks.

And so, I beseech you to consider your schedule Monday night, and put your body where it will really make a difference...a strong show of neighborhood support and passion is our biggest asset, if you have kids BRING THEM, TELL a neighbor or Friend, Forward this e to someone who might be interested, and if you ARE active in the Bowery Political Scene and are affiliated with a group PLEASE let them know...The Cooper Square Neighborhood needs their support.

All the best,
Stuart Zamsky, 5th Street Block Association, CSH Task Force


Los Angeles luxury developers Peck/Moss want to turn the Bowery into Bourbon Street with the Cooper Square Hotel.

Peck/Moss demands that the state liquor authority give them everything they want and ignore their neighbors.

Peck/Moss demands approval for 3 indoor bars plus an outdoor bar/restaurant that abuts 10 apartments and is feet from about 50 others.

Peck/Moss demands a door on 5th Street that will disturb the JASA Home for the Elderly and Disabled.





200 EAST 5th Street (5th & Bowery)
PLEASE attend the subsequent Community Board 3 State Liquor Authority Committee Meeting afterwards and speak out.

"Dubai on the Bowery"--New York Magazine

“We’re going to put Cooper Square on the map.” —Developer Gregory Peck

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sign the letter on the Bowery

I've got about ninety signatures and counting. To sign, just send me your name and zip code. I'll attach the signature when I print out to send it to the elected officials. My e-mail:

November 1, 2007

To the Honorable Borough President Stringer, State Senator Connor, State Assembly Speaker Silver and Assemblymembers Glick and Kavanagh and City Councilmembers Gerson and Mendez,

The Department of City Planning has removed the Bowery from the Lower East Side rezoning plan, exposing the Bowery to out-of-scale hotel development. If the current LES rezoning is approved, prohibiting large-scale development to the east of the Bowery, the pressure to develop hotels on the Bowery will be irresistible. Such upscale development extending south to Canal Street will also transform Chinatown beyond recognition.

New York is losing its ethnic, historic neighborhoods to overdevelopment and gentrification. Chinatown and the Bowery are still lined with many of New York's unique and historically significant structures. The area is thriving, busy, socially and economically successful, full of lively, commercial and residential street life and commercial activity that serves local low-income residents among human-scale mixed-use structures. These low-income neighborhoods are safe, viable, vibrant and community-oriented. They do not need gentrification or development and they will not benefit by gentrification or development.

Rather, overdevelopment will eliminate the street life, the small commercial operations and the local community orientation. Chain stores and commercial and residential displacement follow upscale development. Landlord harassment, already on the rise in the Lower East Side and East Village, will spread throughout the rest of Community District 3. Local businesses and residents will be driven out. Upscale nightlife will replace ethnic eateries. The unique character of Chinatown will be lost.

Is this City Planning's intent for the Bowery and Chinatown?

If this is the City's plan, then all New Yorkers deserve to know it.

Will you ask the city administration and DCP to announce publicly their plans for the Bowery and Chinatown? Will you ask DCP and the Mayor:

1. Does the City intend the Bowery to be lined with out-of-scale hotels?

2. If the City does not intend the Bowery to be lined with out-of-scale hotels, what immediate action will the City take to avert hotel development along the Bowery?

3. Will DCP include the Bowery in the current LES/EV rezoning to save the Bowery from destruction?

The people of this city urgently need to know if their government intends to rob them of their history, of their ethnic variety, of their favorite neighborhoods and of the character and beauty of their city, to replace these with revenue-generating glass-and-steel anonymity, banks, Duane Reades and chain stores, devoid of community, of street life, of human interaction, of stability, of community commitment, of any character that could be called New York's.


(zip code)
Alice Abell 10002
Alyssa Adams 10009
Teri Ananda 10003
Deanna Anderson 10012
James Battaglia 10128
Martin Brown 10009
Gwendolyn Bucci 10012
Brent Buell 10012
Keefe Butler 10002
Ed Cahill 10009
Elizabeth Capelle 10011
Barbara Caporale 10009
Janice Cline 10012
Carol Conway 10012
Ellin Crane 10009
Eve Cusson 10009
Martha Danziger 10003
Wendy Davidson 10003
Philip DePaolo 11211
Lou Dembrow LES Girls Club 10003
Udo Drescher 10009
Susannah Driver 10280
Nancy English 10012
Eric Ferrara 10003
Zeke Finkelstein 10009
Martha Fishkin 10009
Eden Fromberg 10009
Meghan Gille 10009
Christabel Gough 10014
Frances Goldin 10003
Mark Hatalak 10003
Rob Hollander 10009
Joseph Iberti 10003
Elissa Iberti 10003
Rafael A. Jaquez 10009
Sarah Johnson 10009
Zella Jones 10012
Virginia Kaycoff 10003
Weiwen Ke 10003
Susan Ko 10002
Bill Koehnlein 10003
Diana Lakis
Ronald Latigano 10009
Marilyn Leong 10002
Linda Levit 10012
Adriana Lopez 10003
Iris Lopez 10009
Jennifer Lynch 10009
Don MacPherson 10013
William Manfredi 10012
Michael Mauriel 10003
Marilyn Mccall 10002
John McDermott 10002
Matt Metzgar 10009
Louise Millmann 10003
Maria Muentes 10002
David Mulkins 10003
Cate Nailor 10009
MaryBeth O'Hara 10009
Michele O'Neal 10009
Bob Ortiz 10003
Tom Ostoyich 10009
Gilda Pervin 10013
Kenny Petricig 10009
Daniel Peckham 10011
Anthony Piantieri 10003
Marie-Claire Picher 10003
Don Pollock 10009
Kathryn Posin 10012
Gayle Raskin 10009
Quinn Raymond 10003
Ephraim Rosenbaum 10002
Felice Rosser 10009
Elizabeth Ruf 10009
Elissa Sampson 10009
John Schmerling 10012
Roberto Serrini 10003
Monte P. Schapiro 10009
Joelle Shefts 10012
David Sheldon 10025
Bonnie Sue Stein 10003
Dr. Harlan and Rima Strauss 10002
Dean Clarke Taylor 10003
Ed Torres 10009
Michelle Vergara 10003
George Wachtel 10012
Max Weissberg 10002
Sue Williams 10012
Katharine B. Wolpe 10003
Philip Van Aver 10009

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Letting the city get away with it again

For the last three months I've been asking Community Board 3 to demand that the Department of City Planning (DCP) state publicly its intentions for the Bowery so that
a) all the the people of New York will know what DCP has planned for the Bowery, and, by extension, Chinatown, and
b) DCP can face public scrutiny.

In response, the CB has written a letter to the Department of City Planning telling them that the community wants DCP to preserve the context of the Bowery.

While it is great to see the CB go on record in support of preserving the Bowery, it's hard to see what this letter is intended to accomplish:

1. DCP already knows the CB wants to preserve the Bowery: the CB included the Bowery in its original contextual rezoning plan two years ago.

2. DCP clearly doesn't care what the CB wants: it removed the Bowery from the rezoning area.

3. The letter was neither public nor demanded a public response.

This letter, though well-intentioned, doesn't say anything new or compel any response from DCP.

It's like calling up your landlord, telling him you want heat, after he's purposely cut off your heat to harass you out of your apartment. Why call him? He already knows you want heat. Calling him doesn't help you. You need outside help -- from HPD, from the courts, from the media.

So, once again, I ask the CB to push this issue into the public realm. The current city administration has been supporting development, gentrification and displacement throughout the city. All the old communities where real New Yorkers live, all the ethnic neighborhoods that make New York interesting and beautiful are threatened, from Harlem to Williamsburg to Fort Greene to Chinatown. This is an issue for ALL New Yorkers. It is not a local issue.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A victory

The Shalom Tenants Alliance won a long-fought battle to prevent their landlord from illegally converting their lower floors into a restaurant on a street that has become an unrestrained nightlife hell.

The Board of Standards and Appeals, the city agency that grants variances to allow commercial uses in residential spaces, ruled that the landlord did not need relief from hardship, the common ground for a variance. The landlord, the Shalom family, owners of several buildings around town, claimed that they tried to rent the basement as office space but had failed, and so they needed a restaurant. The BSA didn't buy that pretense: the family repeatedly refused the Board's request for evidence of having tried to rent it as office space.

Anticipating commercial use, the landlord had already removed the stoop of the building, damaging the façade, which he never bothered to repair. It's quite an eyesore. This is what happens in a city where landlords expect to get away with anything. The Shaloms were no doubt expecting a restaurant tenant to fix up the façade for them. Now they are stuck with a mess of their own making.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Next city-wide tenants union meeting

The city-wide tenants union UNYTE will meet
Monday, October 15, 7pm at the
6th Street Community Center, 638 East 6th Street
between Avenues B&C.

On the agenda: planning our
City-wide Town Hall Symposium & Speak Out
on New York's out-of-control rents,
out-of-control development,
out-of-control landlords,
out-of-control city agencies,
out-of-control harassment and displacement
and the loss of tenants' rights and protections.

We're growing. Join us.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Look what's goin' down

For real estate speculators, the destabilization of regulated apartments is an investment strategy.

Normandy Real Estate recently bought a building here for $6.4 million, up from $4.5 million, for which the building sold in March 2006. The City of New York got a hefty $167,952.83 in real property transfer taxes for this transaction; the State of New York got another $25,594.00.

Who is Normandy? They are located in New Jersey and hold properties all over the East Coast. Their expressed goal here is to turn stabilized apartments into market-rate apartments.

From their website:
"This portfolio of primarily rent-stabilized apartments is strategically located in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Upper Manhattan. The investment strategy is to capitalize on the strength of the local economy and New York City rental market as well as the increased institutional appetite for New York City rent stabilized housing transactions. There is a near-term opportunity to increase cash flow by converting rent stabilized apartments to market rate as tenants vacate units."

On the East Village, from their website:
"This newly-gentrified area ... has exceptional potential for growth. There is an opportunity to increase rental income at the properties by renovating units and releasing at market rate."

Investors profit from deregulation; the city profits from investors. The fix is in.

Check out their website

These folks are big:
"Normandy Real Estate Partners, LLC is a fully integrated real estate investment management firm based in Morristown, NJ with offices in New York, Boston, and Washington, DC. Normandy has invested over $1 billion of equity totaling approximately $4 billion in asset value. Normandy recently closed on its current discretionary real estate fund, Normandy Real Estate Fund, L.P., with projected total purchasing power of approximately $1.8 billion. Targeting the northeast and mid-Atlantic markets of Boston, Metro New York City, Northern New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Metro Washington D.C., ..."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Columbia expansion and our future

Last week, Borough President Scott Stringer endorsed Columbia University's expansion plan despite community opposition. Susi Schropp has expressed the implications clearly:

"the department of city planning (= mayor bloomberg) has developed systems of up-zoning that guarantee displacement of low and moderate income citizens. bloomberg's dream of the "island of luxury," manhattan, is being implemented at an increased pace...what happens with columbia will have a profound impact on plans in other areas (nyu, fordham, atlantic yards, husdon yards, the rezoning of the lower east side, jamaica, queens, west harlem, eminent domain abuse to further profit of private entities, etc.)."

Tomorrow (Wednesday) City Planning will hold a Hearing on the
197-a Community Plan and Columbia's 197-c,
at City College's Aaron Davis Hall,
135th Street and Convent Avenue
(one block east of Amsterdam Avenue).
Doors open at 8:30am. CB 9 and Columbia will present first, followed by elected officials. Then ordinary citizens may speak.

Registration to speak is only in person at the hearing. Testimony will be heard as late as 11:00 P.M. if there is no break in the speakers. If there are no speakers signed up and ready to speak, the commission will terminate the hearing. So if you can attend during the day, you will be helping to extend the hearing into the evening when working people will be able to attend.

Persons who cannot testify on October 3 may submit written testimony to City Planning Commission, Calendar Information Office, 22 Reade Street - Room 2E, New York, New York 10007-1216.

For details of community opposition, visit

For additional information contact:
Coalition to Preserve Community (CPC)
(212) 234-5005,
o se habla espanol: (212) 234-3002)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Open letter to Community Board 3

Esteemed members of Community Board 3,

Time is running out to save the oldest avenue in New York, the Bowery. Once the City's LES rezoning prohibits out-of-scale hotels east of the Bowery, developers will dig up the Bowery, edging development and displacement toward Chinatown.

The CB3 197 Zoning Task Force plans to propose a new zoning plan for the east side of the Bowery (the side in CD3), pending the funding and execution of a study of the area, a lengthy process. By the time the City implements such a plan two years or more from now, the Bowery will likely have been overrun with hotels. Such a new zoning plan will face a fait accompli of development.

There is, however, a means for CB3 to save its side of the Bowery from becoming the next target of hotel development:

LESRRD, the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors and the Coalition to Save the East Village all asked the City to include the Bowery in the City's current LES rezoning. These Scoping Hearing public record requests give the CB leverage now. A public letter to the Borough President and City Planning indicating that without a rezoning now, the City is handing over the Bowery to developers, will place the burden of responsibility on the City for not including the Bowery in the rezoning plan. The City will be compelled either to take action or accept responsibility for hotel development.

The Community Board must ask City Planning publicly what it intends for the Bowery.

The question must be put publicly , not privately. The goal is not to gather information but to put the case openly that if no rezoning=huge hotels then the City must take responsibility for abandoning the Bowery to hotels or act now. If the City doesn't respond to the public question, then the City is admitting its intention to open the Bowery to luxury hotels.

The City's position on the Bowery should be a matter of public record, and CB3 should not allow the City to get away with hiding its intentions any longer.

In lieu of a clear, public position from the City, the CB Task Force has been speculating 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 the CB3 Task Force begun to work on a separate, new 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. (But 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 CB3 Task Force been working for a full year on a rezoning of 3rd & 4th Avenues, an area the City has publicly and insistently refused to rezone?)

The CB has no reason not to ask publicly, now:

What does the City want for the Bowery?
City delay = huge luxury hotels.

A separate zoning plan will be completed too late.
Please ask DCP publicly now!

Respectfully yours,
Rob Hollander
LESRRD (LES Residents for Responsible Development)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Phil DePaolo tells it like it is

Mayor Bloomberg, Second Mayoral Debate, November 1 , 2005:
“This is an expensive city; it always has been, probably always will be.”

We have seen first hand the devastating effects of the New York City housing boom on the residents of our city, mainly low income people who cannot afford to live in their apartments with all the rent increases applied to rent stabilized apartments.

In the 1970s, when no one was developing, the 421a program was a wonderful plan. The original intent of the law establishing the 421-a tax abatement was to encourage housing development in an area where market rate development was not occurring and would not occur without the tax abatement. In return a developer could expect that by the time the full tax on the building had phased in, tenants would be paying rents that were high enough to cover the higher tax bill. But now the incentive is used as nothing more than a come on to entice prospective buyers of luxury units. The abatement is a crutch for developers that costs the city millions in tax revenue, dollars badly needed to fund affordable housing and improve the city's increasingly overloaded infrastructure.
The 421-a program has subsidized over 100,000 housing units since the program’s inception. However, according to a 2003 report by the Independent Budget Office, only about 8% of the units were affordable to low or moderate income families. The cost of the program to the City of New York has grown 150% in the last four years. Another report by the Pratt Center for Community Development also found that while the 421-a program did subsidize the building of more than 100,000 units since 1971, again only 8 percent of them were actually affordable for low and moderate income residents and with soaring rents and record numbers of homeless the city and state must continue to do what they can to fill the void.

A huge problem we see is that affordable housing is calculated off of the HUD AMI charts, which groups all of NYC together, so that the median income for a family of four is 70,900, and 80% of AMI is considered low income. With a community AMI of $30,000 and average renter wages of under $14.00 an hour even at 60% of AMI most residents in Williamsburg and Greenpoint Brooklyn will not be able to afford the units proposed under Chairman Lopez's Bill. We also worry about the fine print in the new HDC programs, which now has affordable housing rent to income ratios going all the way up to 35%, when the entire country uses 30% as a standard. It seems like it might not be much, but if you do the math, that extra 5% really squeezes working families!

The current zoning incentives are not working, Inclusionary Zoning is not working and expanding the 421a program with the use of IZ will not stabilize low and middle income neighborhoods. It will kill them!

It's very important to focus on the luxury units which invariably change the economic demographics of less affluent communities and have the effect of forcing out the less affluent. The wealthy residents that move in have larger incomes putting pressures on local retail outlets to change the mix of amenities. Instead of hardware stores, affordable supermarkets and Laundromats, the commercial core changes to noisier bars, expensive restaurants, boutique food markets and so on. Stores offering less expensive goods can no longer pay the cost per square foot of the gentrified neighborhood.

While some affordable units are built, there's a larger net loss of affordable housing in the surrounding areas as real estate values and rents rise. With the loss of protections and enforcement of any meaningful rent regulation, surrounding neighborhoods are being torn apart.

I reject the idea that private developers need to have hefty 421a tax incentives to provide construction where the majority of the new units are market rate. Such developments are destroying low and working class neighborhoods, and the home to generations of immigrants are becoming unrecognizable.

If our elected are going to allow what is basically fair market rate housing to pass as "affordable" to residents of our City we need to hold our elected accountable as well.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition the Fair Market Rent (FMR) in New York for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,076 a month. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities, without paying more than 30% of income on housing, a household must earn $3,588 monthly or $43,051 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into a Housing Wage of $20.70 hr.

In New York, a minimum wage worker earns an hourly wage of $6.75. In order to afford the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment, a minimum wage earner must work 123 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Or, a household must include 3.1 minimum wage earners working 40 hours per week year round in order to make the two bedroom FMR affordable.

I believe that this new Bill will not create substantial amounts of real affordable housing .At this time, market rate housing development is clearly occurring and will continue to occur in the city without the benefit of the 421-a tax abatement. Therefore, the tax abatement is no longer needed as an incentive. I believe this Bill as written still gives way too much to developers and will not stabilize communities that are being targeted by rezoning and gentrification. Once again the City and State have missed an opportunity to pass meaningful 421a reform and the low and Middle income residents of our City will continue to be the victims.


Monday, August 06, 2007

City-wide tenants union meeting

Spread the word --

City-wide Tenants Union Meeting!
to plan
on rent regulations,
on tenant protections,
on displacement, harassment, tenant law,
the failure of city agencies to uphold the law,
and the upscale overdevelopment of our city

Wednesday, August 15, 7pm
172 Norfolk Street

(one block east of Essex/Ave. A, just south of Houston)
basement level.
The Orensanz Foundation is a landmark of community organizing and the arts.
Grateful thanks to Al for donating his space!

New York is under assault from developers and landlords. Our legal rights and protections have been eroded, loopholes have been exploited and there is little or no regulatory oversight. Affordable housing that sustains communities is rapidly disappearing. We are in crisis.

UNYTE is a New York city-wide tenant's empowerment group formed to confront this crisis. We are a democratic grassroots organization open to all renters in New York: tenants organizing tenants into a powerful political voice to strengthen tenant protections, laws and regulations and ensure government accountability, transparency, oversight, responsibility and enforcement.

Come help us plan an event that will bring the city's attention to the needs of its people.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Landmarks, repairs and the Tenement Museum

There's been a lot of hand-wringing about this Historic District for Orchard and Ludlow, from east Allen to west Essex.

The hand-wringing is not about the project itself, but about its initiator, the Tenement Museum. Several years ago, in an effort to acquire the building next door, the Museum tried to use eminent domain (!!) to evict everyone from it.

That's not easy to forget. People are reluctant to support anything initiated by the Tenement Museum for the sake of that memory and its lesson. But this landmarking project is a good one that benefits residents and the community at large, not just the Museum.

All the opposition I heard to the Historical District project has come from property owners. Well, of course -- their properties lose value if they can't sell them to developers to demolish and build skyscraper hotels. Personally, I don't think the right to make a huge profit by demolishing history and putting tenants at risk deserves protection. If they were good landlords all those years before this real-estate surge, I'm sure they can continue to be good landlords without it now -- especially now, when there are so many new market-rate tenants paying and arm and a leg to live in their buildings. Two arms and two legs if you count their roommates. I can't imagine that any landlords in the LES are hurting.

Residents don't lose anything in this deal. In fact, I think they will come out ahead, not having to deal with landlords and developers trying to squeeze them, but just with landlords. The only repairs that will be more expensive will be external repairs. How often do you complain about the pointing of your exterior brick? I never have. Most of my complaints are about heat, hot water and plumbing. These will not be affected by Historic District status. From the Landmarks Preservation Commission:

"You do not need a permit from the Landmarks Commission to perform ordinary repairs or maintenance chores. For example, you do not need a permit to replace broken window glass, repaint a building exterior to match the existing color, or caulk around windows and doors. If you have any doubt about whether a permit is needed, call the Commission at (212) 669-7817."

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

St. Brigid's a year later

From the Committee to Save St. Brigid's:

--This Friday marks one year since the demolition of St. Brigid's was begun by the archdiocese, one year since the bulldozing of a hole through the East wall and the smashing of the stained glass windows.

There will be a rally at 7:30 AM outside the Church. Politicians and press will be attending. Please turn out to make our ongoing presence and resistance known.--

They've got a website too:

Monday, July 23, 2007

Good things at the Community Board

Two important items coming up at the July 24 Community Board meeting:
1) Historic Landmark District for Allen, Orchard, Ludlow & Essex
2) rewording the liquor license moratorium resolutions

1) The CB will vote to aprove the Lower East Side Preservation Coalition's proposal to create a Historic Landmark District of a substantial portion of the LES from Houston down to Division, Allen east to Essex. The LESPC has done an excellent and comprehensive job putting it together: an important project every resident dedicated to LES preservation can support.

2) Over the last two years I and others have complained to the CB that the State Liquor Authority ignored our liquor license moratoria because the moratoria violate due process . Under the old moratorium resolutions, the CB would deny, without a hearing, any liquor license in a moratorium area: the bar owner would not have to appear before the CB but go straight to the SLA.

Everyone deserves a fair hearing under the law, even a bar, otherwise there can be no rule of law. Without due process, CB3 pro forma denials were considered by the SLA to be improper abuses of authority, abrogations of legal charge and therefore meaningless grandstanding.

In every case in which they threaten to undermine residential, cultural or commercial life, liquor licenses should be denied by the CB -- but after a hearing, not without a hearing. The hearing establishes through due process under the law the specific facts that the SLA must consider. The new moratorium wording will require a due process hearing in which the bar owner will have to show how the liquor license will improve and not harm the neighborhood.

If you can attend the CB full board meeting, please express your support for these two items. You may sign up 6:15-6:30 to speak for two minutes at the public session which precedes the voting session.

CB3 full board meeting
Middle School 131
100 Hester Street
(Eldridge & Forsythe )
July 24, 6:15pm

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It's happening everywhere

Take a look at the NY Press
Neighborhood haunts lose out in the restaurant renovation battle

By Jill Colvin

"From Yorkville on the Upper East Side to Astor Place in the East Village, the bar and restaurant landscape is becoming shinier and more corporate, and, as in the Heights, robbing residents of their cozy long-time local dens."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Report on the Scoping Session

For those who missed the June 25 Scoping Meeting:
A couple of us presented the case for including the Bowery in the City's rezoning plan -- David Mulkins of 5th Street was particularly eloquent -- but most of the testimony in the evening session I attended was devoted to support for the Community Board's 11-point plan, the best features of which are unfortunately beyond the purview of zoning: the tenants' legal fund and the anti-harassment & anti-demolition measures to protect tenants.

Below is a generalized comparison of just the differences between 1) the City's proposal, 2) the CB's 11 points, 3) the LESRRD alternative, and 4) the current zoning. Instead of talking zoning jargon, I'm translating F.A.R. into stories of a typical tenement with a 70'X25' floor-space. The translation is not exact, but it's better than reading jargon:

DCP (the City's plan)
Most streets and avenues: construction no larger than 6 tenement-sized stories (4FAR)* height cap: 75-80'

Houston, Delancey, Chrystie, D: construction no larger than 8 tenement-sized stories (5.4FAR) , but 9 tenement-sized stories (7.2FAR) if 20% affordable housing is included height cap: 120'

The Bowery is left out of the plan

Avenues: construction no larger than 5 tenement-sized stories (3.45 FAR) or 7 tenement-sized stories (4.6FAR) if affordable housing is included
Most side streets: construction no larger than 4 tenement-sized stories (3FAR)

Houston, Delancey: 7 tenement-sized stories or 9 tenement-sized stories with affordable housing
Chrystie: 9 tenement-sized stories or 12 tenement-sized stories with affordable housing

All streets and avenues including the Bowery: construction no larger than 5 tenement-sized stories (3.44FAR), but 6 tenement-sized stories (4FAR) with affordable housing

All streets and avenues: no larger than 5 stories (3.44FAR ) but much, much more is allowed on large, combined lots if a community facility (e.g., dormitory) is included north of Houston or a hotel south of Houston. If you can bring enough lots together, you can build to the sky. Hotel owners are cashing in on the south of Houston zoning as I write. Hotels cannot be built north of Houston, under current zoning, except in the commercial zones on 3rd Avenue and The Bowery. That's why it's so important to try to get the Bowery included in the rezoning. If the rezoning goes through without the Bowery, developers, unable to build any more huge hotels south of Houston, will line the Bowery with them all the way down to Canal, and Chinatown will become the next frontier for the bulldozer Gentrification.

All three rezoning proposals would end the community facility/dormitory and hotel bonuses. The DCP plan would bring upscale development, only 20% of it affordable, to Delancey, Chrystie, Houston and D.

The CB3 plan would bring less development to the avenues, 30% of it affordable, more significant development, 30% affordable, to Houston and Delancey and huge development, 30% affordable, to Chrystie.

The LESRRD alternative would bring, in effect, no development at all of any kind.

The controversy in rezoning in a nutshell: to get 20% affordable housing, the neighborhood must accept the development of 80% market-rate housing. The CB's 30%-70% is better, but still not good from a preservationist point of view.

It's been my position that inviting developers in will irreparably harm the LES/EV. The neighborhood would be transformed into an upscale playground -- more banks, bars and chain stores. No more Loisaida. Lots more pressure to evict low-rent long-time tenants. As the wealthy are drawn to development, the trend will edge towards Chinatown, threatening one of Manhattan's few remaining vital, ethnic communities and New York's first outsider immigrant neighborhood -- it is the site of Five Points.

If, however, the entire neighborhood is capped, including the Bowery, the rich will have to invade someplace else, and that someplace else will become the trendy place to be and the pressure will shift off us. That would help save what's left of Loisaida and the affordable housing that's still here.

* FAR is a measure of volume, so it's not the same as number of stories. With an FAR of 1, you can build a one story building covering the entire lot or a two story building covering half the lot or a three story building covering a third of the lot etc. In New York, buildings generally must leave 30'-deep courtyard space, so an FAR of 3.44 works out to at least 5 stories. If the building is built more shallowly, it could rise higher. All the above plans include height caps as well as FAR caps, but the FAR caps are more important because they limit the actual amount of space the building occupies regardless of its shape.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Saving the Bowery

The Community Board zoning task force will meet this Monday, July 16, 6:30, 184 Eldridge Street (between Rivington & Delancey -- University Settlement, Speyer Hall) to discuss rezoning 3rd Avenue as well as the Bowery between 1st and 7th Streets.

I do not know why the rest of the Bowery going south to Canal is not on their agenda: it's much more vulnerable to development than the area north of Houston. There is little left to save on the CB3 side -- the east side -- of the Bowery north of Houston. There are, however, several important men's shelters as well as a couple of remaining historic buildings. But the place is changing so fast that googlemaps' satellite photo may as well be of a different street.

If you go to the meeting: The Bowery is currently zoned commercial, mostly C6-1, just like the area south of Houston where the crazy-huge hotels are being built -- that's why crazy-huge hotels are going up on the Bowery too. And that's why the Bowery needs protection: if the LES south of Houston is rezoned to exclude big hotels, where do you think they're going to be built next? The Bowery.

The Avalon complex that extends from 1st Street to just south of Houston (the Whole Foods building in glass and steel that makes me fear for the future of the world) actually has a special zoning all to itself. It is the face of Inclusionary up-Zoning. This is what happens when government serves the development market first, people second. You get a few units of affordable housing included in the development, but what kind of street-life is a glass wall a block long? And who can afford Whole Foods? What neighborhood is this?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Petition to save the Bowery

The window of opportunity is still open to save the Bowery from overdevelopment: City Planning is accepting submissions for its zoning study until July 5. Now is the time to sign the petition to save the Bowery and distribute it to your contacts.

Please help.

Here is the petition notice from the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors:
>>We are continuing our petition drive to Save The Bowery. The character of the Bowery, including Chinatown, Little Italy and the Lower East Side, is being quickly destroyed with all the new development in the area. The history of this area should be preserved.

The new luxury buildings, and hotels will further destroy the quality of life for all of us living in the vicinity. There will be more traffic, more noise, more sidewalk congestion, more air pollution, etc.

Please take a minute to sign our petition, and please forward this to your email lists. We are asking the City of New York to do an Environmental Study to evaluate the how our community will be affected by this development, and then to mitigate the negative impact.

Please click on the link below to sign our petition:


The Bowery, which comes from the Dutch word "bouwerij" for farm, has always been significant in New York City history. Before the Dutch settled here, in the 1600's, this was a Native American trail. By the end of the 18th century the Bowery was lined with fashionable shops and mansions, which later became Restaurant Supply, and Lighting Districts. With its neighboring Chinatown, Little Italy and the Lower East Side immigrant communities, this is one of the most culturally and historically diverse regions of the City. The Bowery remains one of the last true north/south running streets in New York City.

This rich history is being systematically eradicated by unprecedented development. The low-rise character of the Bowery is being replaced by high-rise dormitories, boutique hotels and luxury buildings which are out-of-scale with the rest of the residential community, including the historic NOHO District. In addition to preservation issues, this development will have a horrendous effect on the "quality of life" for community residents - more noise, traffic, sidewalk and street congestion, air pollution, bars, clubs, etc. What was a commercial "daytime" shopping strip is quickly turning into a raucous nightlife district.

Most of the development is "as-of-right", meaning that it does not require a special permit or variance. Developers are simply taking advantage of existing zoning bonuses and the transfer of air rights, therefore environmental studies are not required.

We respectfully request that:
- The Department of City Planning include the Bowery in the current 197C Plan being drafted for the Lower East Side. - The Department of City Planning and City Council pass immediate legislation to ensure that this "as of right" development does not continue.
- The Department of City Planning perform an Environmental Impact Study and take measures to mitigate the negative impact of this development on our community.<

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Scoping testimony

If you care about living here
If you care about this place
If you care about history
If you care about the future
If you care about community
If you care about overdevelopment
If you care about the eviction of tenants
If you care about the warehousing of apartments
If you care about giant hotels and mega-dormitories
If you care about life in the Lower East Side & East Village

then tell the Department of City Planning Monday.

The DCP's Scoping Session is the moment for you to express what the community wants for the future of the LES and East Village. If you care about preserving this neighborhood from increasing development and gentrification, come forward and tell DCP that

you do not want construction on your rooftop,
you do not want demolitions and redevelopment,
you do not want to lose our broad, bright avenues,
you do not want upzoning,

that you want this neighborhood to survive as it is and has been for over a hundred years. A community. The downest, homiest, funkyest, realest, mixedest, anarchistest, leftest, best community in the world.

I will ask that the three following alternatives be included in the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement:
1. include the Bowery in the C4-4A zone,
2. do not increase the current 3.44 FAR on the avenues,
3. do not upzone Houston, Delancey, Chrystie or D.

1. Inclusion of the Bowery: the impact of this zoning on the Bowery could be devastating. Unable to build their hotels south of Houston, developers will look to the Bowery where hotels can still be built. The EIS must include a study of the Bowery. LESRRD asks that DCP extend the C4-4A zoning to the Bowery. Most Bowery buildings are four stories or lower. Nearly all the rest are only five stories tall. It is home to some of the oldest, most historic structures in New York (e.g. 185 & 357).

2. Keep the current 3.44 FAR for the avenues: virtually all of 1st Avenue and most of 2nd, A, B and C are lined with buildings 5-stories or lower , FAR 3.44 or less. Raising the FAR to 4 will mean rooftop additions all across the avenues. Landlords use the construction of extensions as a means of turning residences into construction sites to harass tenants out of their homes. Four-story buildings will be warehoused in preparation for demolition and redevelopment. The low-rise, broad, open Civil War context of the East Village avenues will be darkened beyond recognition and solely for money, no other reason.

3. No upzoning on Houston, Delancey, Chrystie or D: Inclusionary up-Zoning on Houston has already brought us the Avalon Building and Whole Foods. The character of the neighborhood cannot survive more 80% market-rate glass&steel intrusions. Added development causes secondary displacement of residents and mom-and-pop businesses. Let's keep developers away, let's not invite them in. A reasonable zoning for these streets: R7B (FAR 3, height cap 75 ft) perhaps with an inclusionary housing bonus to 4. That will ensure that no one currently living in affordable housing will be displaced for the sake of promises of affordable housing.

A general alternative proposal for the entire district including the Bowery:

* maintain the current 3.44 FAR,
* remove the community facility bonus,
* cap heights at 70 feet (3.44 FAR = an average 5 story tenement, so the added height won't threaten existing tenements.)

The closest existing contextual zonings would be R6A and R7B and for south of Houston, C4-3A. Zoning designations like these but with 3.44 FAR would fit the neighborhood like a glove.

Don't forget to sign the petition to include the Bowery:

Scoping Meeting for the Environmental Impact Statement on the EV/LES Rezoning:
Department of City Planning,
Spector Hall,
22 Reade Street
June 25, 2-5pm, 6-8:45pm

The Scoping Meeting explained

1. What is a Scoping Meeting and why is it so important?

Ordinary residents (!) can get their concerns included in the rezoning.
Zoning=the future: housing & community preservation or development, displacement, eviction.

Before the Department of City Planning (DCP) can rezone a neighborhood, it must study the "environmental impact" of the rezoning -- the impact on population density, on construction and development, on mass transit, on traffic, on local businesses.

The Scoping Meeting is a hearing at which DCP will consider what to include in the scope of this Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). It is the one, big chance for the ordinary citizen to propose additions or revisions -- "alternatives" -- to the rezoning plan.

Since the plan has to go through both the Borough President's Office and the City Council, DCP is under pressure to include well justified, broadly supported alternatives, otherwise their plan loses credibility with the elected officials who must vote on it.

So Scoping is your chance to be heard where it counts.

2. What will happen at this Scoping Meeting?

The Community Board will present its 11 point alternative.
You can present your concerns too. I will ask DCP to
1. include the Bowery in the good preservation zone DCP proposed for the area from Chystie to Essex,
2. not increase the current 3.44 FAR on the avenues so that landlords can't destroy 1st & 2nd Avenues with rooftop additions and harass tenants with their construction
3. not upzone Houston, Delancey, Chrystie or D: to slow the rapid change here, we need to keep developers out, not invite them in.

Please join me. The more support for preservation, the more likely the neighborhood will be preserved.
Community pressure helped bring about the 11 point alternative. There's more to ask for. Let's ask.

And don't forget to sign the petition to include the Bowery:

Monday, June 18, 2007

Scoping Testimony

The Scoping Meeting on June 25 is the most important opportunity for community input into the impending rezoning of the East Village and Lower East Side. If enough of us testify, we can make a difference.

I will ask that the three following alternatives be included in the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement. This is just a sketch. I'll provide more detail soon for anyone who wants to join me:

1. Inclusion of the Bowery: the impact of this zoning on the Bowery could be devastating. Unable to build their hotels south of Houston, developers will look to the Bowery where hotels can still be built. The EIS must include a study of the Bowery.

2. Keep the current 3.44 FAR for the avenues:
virtually all of 1st Avenue and most of 2nd, A, B and C are lined with buildings 5-stories or less , FAR 3.44 or less. Raising the FAR to 4 will mean rooftop additions all across the avenues. Landlords use the construction of extensions as a means of turning residences into construction sites to harass tenants out of their homes. Four-story buildings will be warehoused in preparation for demolition and redevelopment. The low-rise, broad, open Civil War context of the East Village avenues will be darkened beyond recognition and solely for money, no other reason.

3. No upzoning on Houston, Delancey, Chrystie or D: Inclusionary up-Zoning on Houston has already brought us the Avalon Building and Whole Foods. The character of the neighborhood cannot survive more 80% market-rate glass&steel intrusions. Added development causes secondary displacement of residents and mom-and-pop businesses. Let's keep developers away, let's not invite them in. A reasonable zoning for these streets: R7B (FAR 3, height cap 75 ft) perhaps with an inclusionary housing bonus to 4. That will ensure that no one currently living in affordable housing will be displaced for the sake of promises of affordable housing.

A general alternative proposal for the entire district including the Bowery: maintain the current 3.44 FAR, remove the community facility bonus, cap heights at 70 feet (3.44 FAR = an average 5 story tenement, so the added height won't threaten existing tenements.) The closest existing contextual zonings would be R6A and R7B and for south of Houston, C4-3A. Zoning designations like these but with 3.44 FAR would fit the neighborhood like a glove.

Scoping Meeting for the Environmental Impact Statement on the EV/LES Rezoning:
Department of City Planning,
Spector Hall,
22 Reade Street
June 25, 2-5pm, 6-8:45pm

Friday, June 08, 2007

Scope it out

On June 25, the Department of City Planning will hold the public "scoping meeting" for the proposed EV/LES Rezoning. This is the critical moment for community input into the rezoning plan. You may address the agency for 3 minutes and submit your comments in writing as well. Soon I will post the comments I plan to submit myself.

Department of City Planning,
Spector Hall,
22 Reade Street
June 25, 2-5pm, 6-8:45pm

The DCP website has all the documents relevant to the scoping and the hearing:

No answer yet

I seem to have hit a nerve with my explanation for why the 3rd and 4th Avenue study was completed before the Bowery study has even begun. No one has yet offered a better explanation or any explanation. I'd like to understand why the Bowery was not prioritized. I invite the explanation for all to read here.

Rezoning the Bowery

The Community Board Zoning Task Force Subcommittee will meet Monday, June 11, 6:30pm at 113 Second Avenue (between 6th & 7th Streets), in the NYU "Black Room." Rezoning the Bowery will be on the agenda.

The rezoning study for the triangle between 3rd & 4th Avenues has been completed and the CB is about to move forward on a rezoning plan. Meanwhile, the CB has only just begun to discuss raising the money for a study of the east side of the Bowery down to Canal.

Community groups have already studied the area for height and density. I'd like to see the CB accept these studies and move forward with a rezoning for the Bowery without delay. If the CB were to ask DCP for a 197-c plan as it did for the EV/LES rezoning, it would save a lot of time and make up for some of the time lost already.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Save the Bowery?

What will it take to get Community Board 3 to see that the Bowery is being overdeveloped with the same speed and rapaciousness as the LES south of Houston? Both areas are currently commercial zones (C6) and both are being overrun with hotels. The Bowery is doubly threatened -- it's closer to NYU, the dorm-building Goliath.

What's worse, when the DCP has finished its current rezoning of the East Village and LES, all the developers, unable to build in those neighborhoods, will be buying up the Bowery lickety-split, if they haven't done so already. The rezoning of the LES will spell the end of the Bowery as we know it. Meanwhile, the Community Board is working on a plan for 3rd & 4th Avenues north of ninth street as if the Bowery didn't exist.

Maybe the Bowery doesn't exist to the politically hopeful on the CB. Could it be that 3rd & 4th Avenues get attention because there are so many voters -- affluent voters! -- living in the high-rises between 3rd & 4th Avenues, but the low-income residents of the Bowery area's low-density tenements and the men's shelters have neither many votes nor much money to contribute to the next political campaign?

Why isn't the Bowery on the CB agenda? Concerned neighbors here have already performed the CB's work by surveying the entire Bowery for height, density and commercial/residential character. We have the data; we've told the CB that we have the data. What's the excuse for further delay?

Don't wrack your brains for the answer. The CB will come up with excuses. They always do.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wednesday is the big tenants demonstration around Stuyvesant Town. There will be all sorts of tenants advocacy groups and tenants unions there. The newest tenants union, UNYTE will be there at 14th & 1st Ave., 5pm.

UNYTE is organizing tenants at the grass roots -- a tenants union of, by and for tenants, completely democratic in form and substance. I've got high hopes for it. Tenants need an independent voice all their own. They need their own organized numbers to speak for them.

What's happening to housing in the city is shocking even by New York standards. From City Limits:
"This past October, Metropolitan Life Insurance sold Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, containing 11,250 units, to Tishman Speyer for $5.4 billion – the largest housing transaction in American history. In the seven months since, the new owners have doubled and tripled rents of many apartments.

In December, investors put Starrett City on the block. Starrett is the Unites States’ largest federally subsidized apartment complex, home to nearly 12,000 poor and working-class New Yorkers. The price was similarly staggering – $1.3 billion, or $221,000 an apartment, in a community where the average annual income is around $22,000."
Take a look at the statistics
NYC lost 9,272 stabilized units in 2005, a 50% increase over 2002 (NYC Rent Guidelines Board)
The number of median-income affordable units fell from 58% to 48% (Furman Center, NYU)
Median rent increased by 20% while median income fell by 6.3% between 2002 and 2005 (Furman)
For the first time in history the median share of income spent on rent has exceeded the 30% maximum burden a family should bear (Furman)
Low income unsubsidized renters now pay over 50% of their income in rent, up from 43.9% in 2002 (Furman)
Homelessness increased by 11% last year, by 17% among families (Coalition for the Homeless)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Environmental impact

I spent yesterday morning listening to the Manhattan Institute's latest whining over government process. They want to limit Environmental Impact Statements, the studies that disclose the full impact of out-of-scale developments and new zonings.

There is consensus that the EIS is not the best tool for community planning: it is expensive but it has no teeth, it's time-consuming but it doesn't engage dialogue with community voices or include a broader context of city needs.

Typical of the Manhattan Institute, their solution is to downsize it without actually proposing a replacement mechanism for real community and city planning. And, of course, limiting the application of the EIS would suit developers just fine. The less truth they are required to disclose to the public, the happier they are.

Until we have a mechanism that respects community input, the EIS is all we have to hold onto. And until they can come up with a constructive alternative, the Manhattan Institute might do us the favor of sparing us their whining.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A city-wide tenants union?

Monday saw the second meeting of the new city-wide tenants union UNYTE (Union of New York TEnants). Tenants showed up from Greenwich Village, the East Village, the Lower East Side and the Upper East Side -- and we haven't even started outreach. Here's the petition that we approved:

Union of New York Tenants (UNYTE)

Tenants Unite!

New York is under assault from developers and landlords. Our legal rights have been eroded, loopholes have been exploited and there is little or no regulatory oversight. Affordable housing that sustains communities is rapidly disappearing. We are in crisis. We are losing our rights and protections.

Landlords and developers have organized; so must we.

The 1947 rent regulations were designed to address the shortage of affordable housing and preserve the diversity of our neighborhoods. We demand the strengthening of those laws and their equitable and uniform enforcement. We demand administrative transparency and accountability, the closing of loopholes and the right to live secure in our homes free of intimidation, predatory litigation, abuse and fear.

We shall not be removed!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Sixth Street Community Center
638 East 6th Street
(between Avenues B&C)
Monday, May 14, 6:30pm.

New York is under assault from developers and landlords. Our legal rights have been eroded, loopholes have been exploited and there is little or no regulatory oversight. Affordable housing that sustains communities is rapidly disappearing. We are in crisis. We are losing our rights.

Landlords and developers have organized; so must we.

This is an important project that fills a dire need. We got a good start at our last meeting, creating a program committee which has been working and communicating all week. We're moving forward. Join us.

Tenants unite!

Hope to see you there,

Rob Hollander
LES Residents for Responsible Development
622 E 11, #10
NYC 10009

Sunday, April 15, 2007

197 Plan Task Force will meet Monday, April 16 at 6:30pm, University Settlement, 184 Eldridge Street between Rivington & Delancey. It's an important meeting.

The Department of City Planning has rejected the Community Board's seven recommendations for the environmental impact study of the rezoning of the district. At this Monday's meeting the Task Force will discuss whether and how to support the City's plan without the community's recommendations. There are some on the Task Force who will push to support the City's plan despite community opposition.

The City continues to promote its IZ upzoning to "grow the city." IZ upzoning will likely result in a net loss of affordable housing and further gentrification pressure on the neighborhood. Giving developers a free upzoning is clearly not in the interest affordable housing. This is not rocket science -- it's pretty clear, and you all don't need me to tell you that this city administration is all about development. Meanwhile, the developers lobby in Albany is fighting against extending the 421a exclusionary zone to our neighborhood, so there is no guarantee that we'll get any affordable housing out this rezoning.

The only way to ensure affordable housing is to accompany the IZ bonus with down-zoning -- in effect, mandatory affordable housing with neighborhood preservation. Since the City has expressed its intent to upzone, the community no longer has anything to lose by demanding what it really wants and needs. The time for compromise and wishful thinking is past. It's now time to stand up to the City in unity and numbers.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Our Community Board will vote Tuesday March 27, 2007, to approve the City's broad upzoning of the East Village. If the CB doesn't approve the City's plan, the City won't include the CB's concerns in the Environmental Impact Statement, which is the next step in determining which details of the plan are feasible and appropriate. So the CB is now cornered into supporting the plan. And the community is cornered into supporting it because the plan includes a desperately needed cap on development south of Houston where tall-tower hell is breaking loose.

This rezoning resembles, in its small way, the Iraq War: we got into it under false pretenses but now we can't get out. The three false pretenses: the East Village is everywhere threatened with huge, tall towers; Inclusionary Zoning brings affordable housing; tenants will be protected from harassment.

Pretense #1: We need rezoning in the East Village east of 3rd Avenue to prevent more tall towers from being built here.

Do you see any tall towers being built east of 3rd Avenue? There's plenty of development east of 3rd and plenty of large developable lots (Rite-Aid on 1st Ave, Key Food on A among others) but in the last ten years only two tall towers have been built here, the structure above Theater for the New City and the NY Law School dorm. All the many, many huge, tall towers that are being built in the neighborhood are being built in the commercial zones: Bowery, on 3rd Avenue, 4th Avenue and south of Houston. Yet the Bowery, 3rd Avenue and 4th Avenue are not included in the rezoning!! In fact, the rezoning was originally proposed only for the East Village east of 3rd Avenue where no towers are being built. Why? There's a history behind this, but first --

Pretense #2: Zoning will give us affordable housing to preserve our neighborhood.

The City only gives IZ affordable housing bonuses if it can also upzone. But once the neighborhood is upzoned, developers don't need the bonus. Catch 22. Obviously, the City is interested only in the upzoning, in "growing the city," as the mayor's commissioners all say. The City's affordable housing program seems just to be a scam designed to silence affordable housing advocates without really giving them anything. Actually, it's worse than nothing. Upzoning raises real estate values and puts pressure on landlords to evict low-rent tenants. The end result of the mayor's affordable housing program will be a net loss of affordable housing brought about by the affordable housing program itself. And the pittance of affordable housing that is created -- if any -- turns out to be too expensive for the people in the neighborhood. A scam.

So instead of affordable housing, Houston and Delancey Streets will see luxury Avalon-style developments -- huge, hulking, oppressive structures larger than anything else in the neighborhood. And the effects of this development will be felt throughout the surrounding streets in the form of secondary displacement of residents and small businesses.

Pretense #3: Rezoning will protect tenants with anti-harassment and anti-demolition measures and a legal fund for harassed tenants.

The CB knew all along that such measures are outside the jurisdiction of the City's zoning office, the Department of City Planning. And yet, CB advocates for this plan marketed and sold the plan with the promise of these measures. Only the City Council can grant such measures -- the City Council where the landlord and developer lobbies are a lot stronger and better funded than the tenant lobby.

How did we get into this rezoning? None of this would have happened were it not for Charas. The threat of a tower being built on or over PS 64 mobilized Margarita Lopez on the one hand and, on the other, EVCC, whose significant membership resides in Christadora house immediately overlooking Charas. It was EVCC that proposed a rezoning plan for the East Village -- and just for the East Village -- two years ago. Theirs was a good plan: it proposed that the entire EV be zoned to match its current scale. But the CB wanted an affordable housing component and so bought into the City's IZ program, sacrificing Houston and Delancey to upzoning. The city's final response to the CB's requests is a plan which upzones nearly the entire district with the exception of a few blocks south of Tompkins Square Park.

Now we will never know whether the residential East Village which is being upzoned would have been better off left out of the rezoning. Yes, the community facility bonus was a problem, but where are the community facilities now? They are being built in the commercial zones surrounding the East Village, not in the East Village itself. Wouldn't it have made more sense from the very beginning to rezone all the C6 commercial zones (south of Houston, Bowery, 3rd &4th Aves.) where all the outrageous development is occurring and simply ask for and end to the community facility bonus in the East Village?

The CB Task Force members all know this plan compromises the neighborhood. "We don't want the perfect to be the enemy of the good" has become their pet mantra as they eagerly strive to make the imperfect the undoing the good. A thousand iterations of a bon mot cannot excuse a misconceived attempt to placate special interests and political lobbies within our neighborhood, welcoming the City's plan to raise property values, upzone and upscale Manhattan. The board ought to have held these interests at bay.

Aside from the mayor, who has no understanding of the uniqueness of our neighborhood, there's no blame to place for this rezoning. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. But when you meet up with a mayor who wags his red tail and says he has a bridge he wants to sell you, it's time to get re-oriented and consider where your road is taking you.

Maybe we'll get lucky and developers will realize that the upscale don't want to live way east on Houston. Maybe we'll get even luckier and developers will keep their hands off the many four-story historic structures on First Avenue.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Research money for displacement? Not likely.
Monday evening (2/12) NYU held a forum on "Housing and America's Future" to announce a $25,000,000 grant for research on housing from the MacArthur Foundation. The speakers included Shaun Donovan, the city's Housing Preservation and Development commissioner. I was struck by the rhetoric: where Denise Scott of the Local Initiative Support Corporation gave highest priority to "neighborhood preservation" in light of the rapid loss of existing affordable housing in the city, Donovan talked about "rebuilding communities" with inclusionary zoning. When I pointed out the tension between preservation and rebuilding, and the strong possibility that the displacement induced by rebuilding could result in a net loss of affordable housing especially since the mayor refuses to implement IZ without an upzoning (i.e, upscaling), Donovan replied that "growing the city" motivates the city's plans.

If the goal were affordable housing *and* community preservation, IZ would be offered without upzoning. So far as I can tell, the goal is upzoning, plain and simple; IZ is included in the upzoning solely to get support for neighborhood upscaling from affordable housing advocates committed to the construction of new units. The unfortunate effect of the mayor's carrot to affordable housing advocates has been to demonize community preservationists who see the upzoning as a threat to existing housing. Now that the 421a tax break in our district is going to require the construction of new affordable housing rather than the renovation and preservation of existing affordable housing, developers will have no incentive to renovate and preserve existing affordable housing.

Donovan's characterization of 80% market-rate and 20% affordable as creating or preserving "a mixed-income community" seemed to me an extreme of administrative cynicism. Others in the audience were likewise appalled.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Hey friends -- I just revised the blog, adding an article on the rezoning of the LES/EV that I wrote for Tenant/Inquilino a while back. It presents the important issues more briefly and simply than "Zoning for Dummies" did. I've also rearranged "Zoning for Dummies" so that its chapters read in logical and chronological order.

I've added links -- Bob Arihood posted his photos of the interior of St. Brigid's on his site. Also check out what's happening in the neighborhood at Eric Ferrara's and Jim Power's

If you scroll all the way to the bottom you'll find an early entry that describes what this blog and LESRRD are all about and what kinds of activities we're involved in. I also fixed up the chart in "Contextual Height of the LES North of Houston" so the numbers are easier to read.

There've been some hopeful developments recently. People from all over are showing an interest in what's happening to the LES. We're networking with other neighborhoods that are experiencing similar community displacement and we're beginning to work together to preserve what's best about New York City before this place turns into one big glass-and-steel Duane Reade.

Will Lower East Side Rezoning Stop Gentrification?
By Rob Hollander

The Lower East Side/East Village is about to be rezoned. The plan, proposed by the Department of City Planning, is intended to preserve affordable housing and the neighborhood's character-but it also invites luxury development.

Under the neighborhood's current zoning, developers can build huge towers here, way bigger than the old historic tenements, which only rise to about 80 feet in height at most. Not only are these towers transforming the character of the neighborhood and its demographic, but such lucrative development opportunities are an incentive for developers to empty buildings of low-rent tenants and demolish existing housing to build these huge money-making towers. The more such towers are built, the more real-estate values surge as gentrification consumes the neighborhood. Chain stores and chic restaurants and bars follow, pushing out the mom-and-pop stores and all the local services that give the neighborhood its character and residential viability. It's a broad and deep threat to the community. The new zoning plan is designed to prevent this kind of out-of-scale development and keep developers at bay. But the new plan is not without controversy.

The plan represents two principles: community preservation and affordable housing. The preservation part of the plan provides a height cap on new development: an 80-foot maximum through most of the district. That would put an end to the super-tall towers, to the abuse of the community-facility bonus (if you include a space for community use-could be just a doctor's office-you are allowed to build higher) and the purchase of air rights (if a building nearby isn't as tall as it could legally be, you can buy their "air rights" and use their unused space to build your building even higher).

The affordable housing part of the plan provides a radical upzoning of Houston Street, Delancey Street, and Avenue D, with an incentive to build affordable housing. A developer can build a large, dense building (up to a floor-area ratio-FAR, the measure of building size-of 7.2) up to 120 feet high if 20 percent permanently affordable housing is included. The affordable housing doesn't have to be on the site of the development; it can be anywhere in the district and, if the development is at the border of the district, even a half mile outside the district. Alternatively, the developer can renovate existing housing and place it into permanent stabilization-that would also count as creating affordable housing. But if the developer doesn't build or create the 20 percent affordable housing, then they would be allowed to build only up to 5.4 FAR-a much smaller building. So the increased FAR provides an incentive for developers to devote 20 percent of their housing to affordable housing.

Both aspects of the plan raise questions. 80 feet is still much higher than a lot of buildings in the Lower East Side and East Village. There are three- and four-story buildings and lots of five-story tenements. Some people are worried that a landlord might want to empty a five-story tenement of tenants in order to demolish and develop an eight-story condo. And some critics have pointed out that it is harder to build tall buildings north of Houston Street under the current zoning than it would be under the new plan. Under current zoning, the developer must cobble together many lots-tall towers simply can't be built north of Houston on one or two lots. But under the new zoning, a developer can build eight stories as of right-without getting community board or city permission.

Currently, the East Village is zoned for a FAR of 3.44 without the community facility bonus. The new plan would allow a FAR of 4, which basically works out to one extra floor more than 3.44. But suppose you live in a small four-story building with a FAR of 3. Under current 3.44 zoning, it wouldn't pay for a developer to demolish your building just to add half a story. But in the proposed zone that allows a FAR of 4, your building could well become a target for redevelopment.

On the other hand, the new plan eliminates the community-facility bonus, which encouraged major developers to merge many properties wherever they could, buy air rights, and build to the sky. It is these large developments that are prevented by the new plan.

The affordable housing component is controversial for many reasons. In order to get the 20 percent affordable housing, the neighborhood must accept new buildings with 80 percent luxury housing. That radically alters the character of the neighborhood. Gentrification has already brought us nightlife strips which have driven out local services and mom-and-pop stores. Bars can pay higher rents than any other establishment save a bank, and banks and bars turn out to be very popular in chic neighborhoods full of new money. Gentrification also raises real-estate values, which adds to the pressure to evict low-paying tenants.

Under currently available programs, affordable housing is a kind of deal with the devil: Give developers what they want under the condition that they throw the locals some crumbs. But when you play with the devil, it's the devil who usually wins. The neighborhood gentrifies, more tenants are evicted, and more buildings are demolished. The result can be not a gain in affordable housing, but a net loss of affordable housing.

Community Board 3 has demanded of the city that the plan include anti-harassment and anti-demolition measures. But the Department of City Planning has so far refused, and such measures are far from perfect.

What we really need to save our neighborhoods are rent laws that protect affordable housing and a government that is willing to create or subsidize affordable housing directly without relying on developers to do the work that government is supposed to do itself. But we live in an age of triumphal capitalism where downsizing and privatization of government are in vogue and people are afraid to say that the emperor has given all his clothes to the developers.
(Hey -- gotta learn it sometime)



The Lower East Side/East Village is about to be rezoned. Why should that matter to you? Well, under the current zoning of the LES/EV, developers can build huge towers here, way bigger than the old historic tenements which only rise to about 80 feet in height at most. Not only are these towers transforming the character of neighborhood and its demographic, such lucrative development opportunities are an incentive for developers to empty buildings of tenants, demolish, and build more huge money-making towers. Chain stores follow. It's a real threat to the community. The new zoning plan is designed to prevent this kind of out-of-scale development and keep developers at bay.


Under the newly proposed zoning plan, developers MAY NOT BUILD ABOVE 80 FEET HIGH. That's a welcome improvement over current zoning. Imagine your'e a developer and you own a six story tenement -- most tenements built after 1879 rise at least six stories -- would it pay you to empty your building of all its tenants, raze the building to the ground and build luxury housing just to add two floors? It might be easier and cheaper just to leave the building as is and rake in the rents of all the current luxury decontrolled tenants.

The Department of City Planning's proposed 80-foot height cap puts a damper on new development and it ensures that all new developments will more or less fit in with their surroundings.

This is called "contextual zoning": it preserves the neighborhood context.

The zoning jargon you will hear for this fixed 80-foot height cap is "R7-A." The Department of City Planning has proposed R7-A (contextual zoning) for most of the LES district.

(The old zoning from the 60's seems to have been even better for the side streets than this proposed plan. It had a cap of about 50 feet for the side streets. But everything changed in 1994, when greater bulk and height were allowed.)


If you listen in on zoning discussions you'll hear a lot of talk about FAR -- Floor Area Ratio. It's how building size, or "bulk," is determined in zoning: you multiply the base of the property lot by the FAR and you get the total floor area you are allowed to build.

For example, on a standard 25-foot wide city lot 100 feet deep, an FAR of 1 would allow you to build either a one story building 25X100 feet or a 10 story building 25X10 feet. They both have the same floor area. Even though one is tall and thin and the other is broad and short, the overall floor space is the same.

(Actually, in Manhattan you have to leave a 30X25 foot back yard, so the short building could really only cover 70X25. But the developer could then add a 30X25 foot story on top of the 25X70 foot building to get the same full FAR of 1. It's this flexibility that makes FAR a useful measure.)

In a contextual zone, however, the bulk of a building is determined by a fixed maximum "building envelope." So no matter how skinny a building you design, in an R7-A zone you can't "pierce" the 80-foot height of the contextual envelope. Height is fixed, not flexible, in a contextual zone.

The R7-A zone comes with a 4.0 FAR. If you built straight up on every inch of allowable base, you'd get only about 6 stories out of such a low FAR. Remember, you're allowed to build 80 feet high in the R7-A. So the 4.0 FAR in this contextual zone is not very dense -- it doesn't allow construction on every available inch of space. But it does allow a developer some space for flexibility in design. S/he can build a narrower building with more yard space or, if constructing on a couple of lots assembled together, maybe include a nice courtyard to bring in more light, as long as the building doesn't exceed the height limit of 80 feet.

The DCP plan gets more complex -- Houston and Delancey and Avenue D are getting a 120-foot height cap if the developer includes affordable housing. And there's all sorts of complexities to affordable housing, but I'm saving all that for PART TWO of Zoning for Dummies.

Summary of Part One:

R7-A = 80 foot height cap on all new buildings (i.e., a contextual zone)

FAR = floor area ratio = formula for the overall bulk

The R7-A FAR = 4.0, not very dense -- it leaves some empty space for design flexibility.

Next chapter: Affordable housing / Inclusionary Zoning



Affordable housing is disappearing in Manhattan (and not just in Manhattan). Luxury decontrol has overtaken previously affordable havens like Stuy Town. Rising rents are forcing people out of their homes; communities are being decimated. Rentals in our neighborhood are filled with students and recent grads willing to share space with multiple roommates to meet exorbitant rents. Multiple payers push market rates even higher so that we have a kind of inflated rent zone in the LES that is supported by, and can only sustain, transient multiple renters. Such rents are prohibitive of permanence: they are accompanied by a loss of community and the proliferation of youth-oriented businesses -- bars and chain stores. We desperately need permanent affordable housing if the historic LES, with its ethnically mixed community, is going to survive as anything more than a campus nightlife strip.


In the world of triumphal capitalism, government is no longer expected to build housing. Instead, government gives incentives to private developers and hopes the developers do the work big government used to do. That's what inclusionary zoning is all about: trying to turn always robust American greed to good use.

IZ consists of a carrot and a stick. Government limits the FAR on development (the stick) but offers a bonus FAR (the carrot) if the developer will include some affordable housing. The typical IZ program includes 20% affordable, 80% market-rate (luxury). (This is the moment when you complain, "But that's just crumbs off the rich man's table!" Well, that's the world we live in -- FDR's face is on the dime, not the ten dollar bill.)

IZ can work as a disincentive to development if the stick is severe and the carrot small. That will preserve the neighborhood from development, but won't get you much affordable housing. And as rents rise towards luxury decontrol and preferential rents are being revoked (see Zoning for Dummies Part 3), merely preserving the buildings here in the community isn't enough to keep the community here in the buildings.

If you really want a significant contribution to affordable housing under IZ, you have to be willing to put up with a huge influx of luxury units -- for every four luxury units you only get one affordable unit -- and you need to offer the developer a box full of carrots in the form of a big FAR bonus. And that's how IZ opened the floodgates to development in other neighborhoods in which it has been implemented.

It all depends on how much affordable housing you want and how many luxury folks you are willing to put up with. Nothing against the wealthy -- great charm may be found among them -- but they bring with them huge glass buildings you don't want to live around, big banks you don't want to hang out in, restaurants you can't afford to eat at and stores you can't afford to shop in. And if you blink, you find that they've pushed out all the local spots you used to love that gave this place its character, which, btw, was based in its rich and long and diverse ethnic history, not on the latest whims of upscale fashion and conformity. Once you lose history and community, you can't get them back.

There's a fundamental tension in IZ between preservation and development. If we had better tenant protections, lower rent increases and no luxury decontrol, we might not be in this miserable bind where we have to beg for bones and depend on the devil for a house in his hell. But that's where we are: without IZ, no new affordable housing, just luxury, and, thanks to the deplorable new tenant laws, we're rapidly losing what affordable housing we have now.


The IZ affordable housing does not have to be built on the same site as the luxury market-rate units ("units" is dismal jargon for "apartments"). It can be built anywhere in the community district (and if the development site is at the border of the district, it can be even be built outside the district, within a half mile of the development). So you could conceivably see luxury units built at one tony end of the district and all the affordable units built far away, way over at the other end of the district in its poorest corner.

Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), which runs the IZ program, calls this, euphemistically, "flexibility."

There are, however, tax incentives for building affordable units into the luxury site. On the other hand, the bonuses for affordable housing can be sold by the developer, so one affordable housing developer can build affordable housing units and sell the bonus FAR to another developer who builds only luxury. That encourages off-site.


Assuming that large commercial streets could more easily sustain large development, our Community Board proposed two streets for IZ, Houston and Delancey. City Planning accepted these and added Avenue D. These three streets will not be zoned R7-A, but R8-A, which comes with a height cap of 120 feet, half again as high as the 80-foot R7-A cap.

The IZ component: without the affordable housing bonus, the FAR is 5.4. If you build 20% affordable housing, you get a bonus -- you can build up to FAR 7.2.

In other words, if you only build luxury housing (or don't buy the affordable housing bonus from an affordable housing developer), then you can't take much advantage of the 120-foot height of the lot. But if you do build affordable housing (or buy the affordable housing bonus from someone who has built affordable housing in the district), you can build much more densely in that same lot.

The Community Board has also asked DCP for IZ throughout the R7-A area: they've suggested a bonus of up to 4.6 FAR for affordable housing in R7-A. The 4.6 FAR would yield a densely built structure within the 80-foot height cap. Alternatively, it's been suggested that a better incentive would be to lower the luxury R7-A FAR way down to 2, and allow an FAR of 4.0 if affordable housing is included. That would be a lot like mandatory 80/20 and yield less bulky structures. We don't know yet what DCP thinks of any of these R7-A IZ proposals.

There's one last important piece to this puzzle. Renovating existing low-income housing counts as building affordable housing. A developer, instead of building new affordable housing, can renovate a building where the rents on average are affordable ("affordable" is defined as at or below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) level -- NYC AMI=$70,900, low-income=$56,700 roundly). Then those apartments become permanently "affordable," meaning just that they can never be luxury decontrolled -- they remain permanently within Rent Stabilization, the rent increases determined, along with all stabilized rents, by the Rent Stabilization Board. And the cost of those renovations is not passed on to the tenants.

The consequences of these proposals depend largely on what there is available to develop. That's the topic of Zoning for Dummies Part Three: Impact, soft sites, protection.

The last part, Part Four, will be devoted to a general assessment of the DCP proposal including items to watch out for in the final proposal to be presented in October and what happens to the proposal after its October presentation.


IZ entails an FAR restriction on the construction of market rate housing along with an FAR bonus if the developer includes 20% affordable housing.

The affordable units and the market-rate units can be built on different sites.

The affordable units can be mere conversions of current low income housing to permanent low income status (with renovations).

DCP proposes IZ on Houston, Delancey and Avenue D, within a contextual R8-A zone, 120 foot height cap.
Without inclusionary housing: FAR 5.4.
With inclusionary housing (20% affordable housing): FAR 7.2.

Affordable = 80% of NYC average median income (AMI).



Contextual zoning is intended to minimize impact -- it preserves the context. IZ within a contextual zone should therefore be harmless, as long as the contextual zoning features are strictly retained. But the 120-foot-height zoning plan for Houston and Delancey and Avenue D is contextual in name only. The Houston/Delancey/D context is not currently 120 feet high. It's mostly 60-75 feet high. So the plan contemplates a substantial change on these three streets.

There's no question that IZ is controversial. Many complain that 20% affordable housing is too little to offset the impact on the community of 80% luxury; others complain that while the luxury units are sure to be built, the affordable units may never get built: developers sometimes don't bother to take the IZ bonus. IZ upzoning, intended to attract affordable housing by allowing larger developments, could turn out to be merely a give-away to developers and an invitation to overdevelopment. And if renovating existing affordable housing counts as building affordable units, it seems like the whole program is, at best, treading water.

IZ in itself -- without the bonuses -- is a disincentive to development; IZ steals away 20% of the developer's luxury profits. It's the incentive give-aways that accompany IZ that pose a problem to the future of the neighborhood context. The incentives can be an open invitation to developers to transform neighborhoods wholesale. That's what happened to Williamsburg. There were many sites available to develop, especially by the East River; huge towers rose, the demographic shifted and now they are dealing with a lot of "secondary displacement" -- residents and businesses being moved out as a result of a radically shifting neighborhood, rising real estate values, aggressive landlords and encroaching development. The big question for the LES: can Williamsburg happen here?


"Soft sites" is jargon for lots that are available for development. They would include abandoned lots, parking lots and community gardens. But they also might include one-story storefront structures.

Consider Katz's Deli: very large storefront, nothing built above it, no rent stabilized tenants to evict, no rent control tenants who are nearly impossible to evict and have to be bought out at the price of their choosing; Katz's Deli, a developer's dream site. But, you say, how could we lose Katz's Deli -- it's historic, it's famous, it's unique, it's high quality, everyone loves Katz's?!?

Well, look around, the Second Avenue Deli is already gone.

Houston Street east of Second Avenue is full of such single story storefront sites. Take a look at Houston between A&B east of Red Square. A string of one story storefronts.

That's why this part of the DCP plan has some of us worried. The LES west of the projects is a neighborhood still vulnerable to secondary displacement. And if real estate values rise, the projects themselves will be threatened. The area of the historic LES sandwiched in between 120 foot developments on Delancey and Houston will likely be transformed.

In comparison with Williamsburg, the LES offers far fewer soft sites, and the height limits in the LES plan are in general more restrictive. But beware: the original Williamsburg plan did not include the huge towers that are destroying their neighborhood and community. That was the city's idea and the City Council approved. It's to prevent such manipulations from above that I'm trying to get you, the public, involved in the process. The CB all alone cannot leverage the dark politics of our City Council, with its pro-development Council Speaker. Only a watchful, informed, vocal public can.


The inclusion of Avenue D in the DCP plan raises a red flag. Since the affordable units don't have to be built on-site, it is conceivable that all the luxury units could be stacked on Houston and Delancey and all the affordable units on D, facing the projects. That looks like red-lining -- ghettoizing Avenue D. Whether or not this was DCP's intention -- there's no way of knowing -- it could be the result.

On the other hand, the city may have a very different intention in zoning D for IZ. This may be their attempt to gentrify the projects' area. But gentrification is a double-edged sword: it brings needed money and safety, but once a neighborhood is identified as monied and safe, the pressure is on to displace the old community with upscale residents. People are willing to pay up the wazoo to live in Manhattan -- developers will look at the projects the way they are looking at Stuy Town now, and government commitment to projects is waning.


Tenant protections have eroded dramatically over the last five years. Albany is largely responsible. Unfortunately, our soon-to-be governor promises to be no better than the last on this count. Spitzer openly favors eminent domain -- allowing the government to appropriate property for the benefit of private development -- and that's about as pro-development as you can be.

Today, rent stabilized tenants are easier than ever to evict. The new 2003 rent laws destabilized tenancy with luxury decontrol, the arbitrary revocation of preferential rents and the end of triple damages:

Suppose you moved into your rental during the Clinton recession of the early 90's. Your rent stabilization ceiling rent -- the legal limit your landlord could charge -- was way above market rate (what anyone would be willing to pay). So he gave you a "preferential rent" -- a mark-down to market-rate, say, $900 for three rooms, although by the stabilization ceiling he could have charged you, say, $1100.

It used to be that when he renewed your lease he could raise your rent only by the Stabilization Board's increase. Your rent went up maybe 5%. Your ceiling quietly went up 5% too. But that didn't matter because as long as you stayed there he couldn't charge you the ceiling+5%. He could charge only the preferential rent+5%.

The new rent laws allow him to revoke the preferential rent when you renew. So you might be paying roughly $1500 after ten years of 5% increases or thereabouts, but your ceiling has risen to roughly $1800. Suppose he wants to empty your apartment. He can now raise your rent from $1500 to a new rent based on the $1800 ceiling. Instead of the usual 5% increase over your current rent, he can raise your rent to 5% over the ceiling -- to $1890, a 26% increase over what you were paying. And he can impose this raise just to get you out or just because he doesn't like you: after you leave he can turn around, if he wants, and rent the apartment for the same rent you were paying before you left.

Suppose your rent ceiling was $1200 in 1986. After ten years of 5% increases, your ceiling is now over $2000. If you leave, the apartment is now decontrolled. The landlord can charge the new tenant anything he wants. Sky's the limit. 

Used to be that if your landlord overcharged you, you could take him to court and win triple damages -- he'd have to pay three times what he owed you in back rent. That's not so anymore. The landlord no longer runs any risk in falsely overcharging tenants. He has nothing to lose by illegally overcharging you.


So you see, tenants rights have eroded. To prevent aggressive landlords from evicting tenants unfairly, HPD has implemented an anti-harassment program. If anti-harassment measures are included in the zoning plan, HPD will not issue any construction or demolition permit to a landlord who has a record of harassing tenants on the premises. Harassment includes failing to make repairs, failing to respond to complaints, allowing the property to decline, failing to protect the premises from loiterers and drug dealers. Front doors, for example, that fail to close or lock invite drug trade and can be construed as harassment.

But revocation of preferential rent or demanding a luxury decontrolled rent way above market rate are not considered forms of harassment, so not all measures of vacating a building are prevented by anti-harassment measures. Also, enforcement of anti-harassment measures is not easy and is not adequately funded. But even if they could be enforced, will frightened tenants report harassment? (I'm one of the only tenants in my building who ever calls 311.) Do all tenants know their rights? (Virtually none in my building does.) The greater the likelihood of a negative answer to these questions, the less effective anti-harassment measures.

Worse still, emptying a building of tenants has become easy in our neighborhood quite independently of the erosion of tenant rights. Consider my building, an Old Law "dumbbell" tenement from 1889, 6 floors and a basement, 26 apartments altogether, sharing a boiler with an identical sister building next door. 80% of the tenants here are students and recent graduates who moved in on September 1st and will be gone by August 1st. Only the presence of a handful of rent controlled tenants prevents the landlord from emptying the building next September and developing luxury housing here. Rent controlled tenants are extremely difficult to evict.

(For those of you who resent your rent controlled neighbors for their low rents, consider that they are keeping the wrecking ball away from your home. And, btw, if you think that your rent would go down if their rents went up, think again. The market for rentals is so tight that their rents would rise to market level without lowering your rent at all. The only difference would be that instead of your stable old neighbor -- who will disappear, who knows where -- you'll have a couple of new students across the hall every September and it will be all the easier for the landlord to evict the lot of you. As the old Leadbelly song goes, "We in the same boat, brother.")


We're looking at a lot of potential development on eastern Houston and Delancey in the new plan. There's no sure way to determine what developers will do, but overdevelopment on Houston could adversely impact the LES especially between Houston and Delancey, raising real estate values and residential and commercial rents.

There is no guarantee that we will see any new affordable housing developed under this plan. Developers may merely renovate existing low income housing; developers may buy IZ bonuses from affordable housing that might have been built anyway under some other subsidy; developers may simply choose not to bother with the IZ FAR bonus.

Tenant protections are not strong enough to prevent displacement. The only protection from displacement is protection from overdevelopment. A 120 foot height cap on Houston, Delancey and D is an invitation to development. We don't want the affordable housing gained under IZ to be less than the affordable housing lost to primary and secondary displacement brought on by development and gentrification. If the IZ incentives result in a net loss of affordable housing, then there is no justification for the incentives.


Last July, the Department of City Planning (DCP) presented an unfinished plan including
1) a map with the basic zoning recommendations and
2) oral recommendations regarding IZ.
That plan was both tentative and partial; in particular, it was silent on commercial overlays, typically the last piece added to a zoning plan of such scope.

The Community Board responded to that plan with a list of desiderata: the CB asked
that the Orchard Street area be downzoned from commercial to residential,
that no commercial overlay be imposed on St. Mark's Place,
that 3rd and 4th Avenues, where NYU builds its dorms, be included in the zoning plan,
that contextual IZ (IZ with a height cap) be extended throughout the district,
that anti-harassment and anti-demolition measures be included in the zoning plan,
that data from DCP studies, including soft-site data, be made available to the Task Force and
that developers' 421-a tax abatement (see below) require the building of additional affordable housing over and above any constructed for an IZ bonus.

DCP has not yet responded to the CB's letter. But on Monday, October 16, DCP will present a finished plan to the CB Task Force. Later, on November 6, the CB will hold a public hearing at which the DCP will exhibit its finished plan.

The November 6 public hearing will not likely result in any changes to the plan: issues raised by the public at such hearings tend to represent a wide range of inconsistent and even contradictory views. They are often difficult or impossible to assimilate into a recommendation, and, in any case, all the members of the Task Force I have spoken with have uniformly expressed their endorsement for the essential items of the plan and their strong desire to see the plan moved forward with the greatest speed possible. So the November 6 meeting is really in the nature of a gesture to the public rather than a genuine invitation for organized public input. The desire to draw up the final proposal, or ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure), as soon as possible following the hearing has been variously expressed. And once the ULURP is drawn up, little can be changed -- only details.

The meeting on Monday, October 16 may, unfortunately, be the last opportunity for meaningful community input into the DCP proposal.

Anxious to push this plan through as quickly as possible, and viewing the public as a potential obstacle, the CB has done little to include the ordinary citizen until the very end of the process. The CB has made no attempt whatsoever to educate the public on zoning in general or on this plan in particular. The CB Zoning Task Force posted minutes of only four of its thirteen meetings despite repeated requests from residents to see them and despite the City Charter's requirement that a public record be kept of them (City Charter, Chap. 70, 2800 sec.d:9)

and the CB's own equally specific requirements under their by-laws (item VIII:E)

These minuteless meetings go back as far as September of last year. At this point it seems doubtful that such minutes exist or ever existed. Last time I asked for minutes of a meeting I was told, "You've been to the meetings, you know what we're doing" -- not the response one expects from a government agency to a request for minutes. Perhaps the distribution of this e-mail will result in the appearance of minutes on the CB website.

That said, I want to make clear that the DCP's plan contains one very great benefit to our community: a strict height cap of 80 feet on all development through the entire district (except Houston and Delancey and Avenue D). Under current zoning -- what we've got now -- developers can put together multiple lots (the larger the base, the taller the allowable height), buy "air rights" (the unused height from low buildings nearby, of which there are plenty down here) and build far above anything around. Include a "community facility" (could be just a room the size of an office), and build even higher. You can see the consequences today south of Houston where huge hotels are being raised in the midst of the historic tenements. The DCP plan will put an end to such towering developments through most of the district. That's good. That's very good.

But it's not all good. Although the height cap will help preserve the neighborhood, it is substantially higher than many of the buildings here, higher than "prelaw" (pre-1867) tenements, which generally rise only five stories, and row houses which often rise only four.

In fact, all the residential FAR's in the district are increased under the DCP's plan. This will allow developers to build bigger buildings "as of right."

A building constructed within the zoning FAR is built "as of right," which means the developer doesn't need any special permission from the CB or the city to build it or a variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals. Currently, our zoning provides as-of-right to 3.44 FAR residential structures, 6.2 if a community facility is included. Larger than that and the developer can be required to produce an Environmental Impact Statement or an Environmental Assessment Statement to gain approval of city agencies.

Under the DCP plan, as-of-right would extend to a 4.0 FAR construction through the entire district except Houston and Delancey which are being upzoned to 5.4 as-of-right.

In other words, the DCP plan represents a trade-off between greater as-of-right FAR and a contextual height cap: it will be easier for developers to build somewhat bigger and somewhat more densely here, but it will be much harder for them to build much higher and much bigger.

It's the use and abuse of the community facility bonus that tips the scale in favor of the new plan. The community facility bonus allowed much taller buildings with minimal benefit to the community. There is general consensus that the community facility bonus did great harm to the district and that neutralizing it is perhaps the single best aspect of the DCP plan.

Summarizing Part Three again: IZ upzoning could result in a net loss of affordable housing.
1. Upzoning Houston, Delancey & D invites developers to empty low-rent buildings where possible: primary displacement, loss of affordable housing.
2. Influx of 80% luxury housing raises surrounding real estate values and commercial rents, transforming neighborhoods, adding more intense pressure to evict current low-rent tenants: secondary displacement, loss of affordable housing.
3. Current low-income housing that has not had a subsidy for fifteen years can supply an IZ bonus if renovated: no gain in affordable housing.
4. Affordable housing bonuses can be bought and sold, do not have to be on site, can even extend a half mile outside the district where, perhaps, they can be further bought and sold (how watchful is the oversight? to what extent are the overseers in bed with the bonus-holders, sellers and buyers?), so the newly generated affordable units may not be seen in our district at all.
5. Affordable housing bonuses feed into a complex, busy, high-stakes market between affordable housing managers on one end and developers on the other, while the public -- the purported beneficiaries of all this complexity and business -- is kept on a list...a long list...waiting.
6. There is no guarantee that developers will even bother to take the IZ bonus. They can build 100% luxury within the 5.4 FAR in the upzoned areas.

The net result -- and the danger of IZ upzoning -- a paradoxical net loss of affordable housing.

This is particularly concerning because the affordable housing created by IZ is not *guaranteed* to residents displaced by its creation. It is reserved for those on the waiting lists which typically contain thousands of names. If development pressures cause you to lose your apartment, you don't automatically get affordable housing under IZ; you are dropped into a pool of waiting thousands.

50% of the affordable units will be dedicated to area residents, but that does little to ameliorate the problem -- before development, the resident had a real apartment in a building filled with other local residents; after an eviction and development, the former resident has become a name on a list with many hundreds of other local applicants and non local applicants, while the former residence now has only 20% of its space available for low-income applicants and of that, only10% to prior local residents. The numbers are all against the prior resident. Most likely the displaced will leave the neighborhood. Many years later, when their names are called up on the list -- if they ever are -- they will have already set roots down in another community.

The net IZ-upzoning result: loss of current community residents.

To make things worse, not all of the IZ-affordable housing is affordable to those who might be displaced. Only a small percentage may go to the lowest income level. Part of the 20% is reserved for low-middle income (80% of AMI), part for 50% of AMI and only what's left over for truly low income, 30% of AMI. We're not talking peanuts here, it's more like one peanut split into its many minute nutritious parts to feed a community the size of a small city.

Currently developers are given a tax break for building anything, no restrictions, south of 14th Street. But from 14th Street to 96th Street the tax break requires the construction of affordable housing. This policy dates back to 1971 when our neighborhood was abandoned by developers. Times have changed and even the mayor now recognizes that developers no longer need incentives to develop in our area. The affordable housing requirement should extend to our neighborhood now that the LES has become a development hot spot.

This looks like a winnable issue. See these links for the mayor's recently stated position:


The plan as we know it so far leaves some important issues unresolved. Based on several long and detailed conversations I have had with DCP and HPD (Housing Preservation and Development) and on statements from DCP's press officer, it seems that so far the DCP
1. has not included anti-harassment protections for tenants,
2. has not yet downzoned the Orchard Street area from commercial to residential,
3. has not committed to retaining the residential zoning of St. Mark's,
4. won't guarantee that the affordable units will be built at the site of the luxury units and
5. won't include 3rd and 4th Avenues where NYU builds its dormitories.

(1) We need anti-harassment measures to ensure that tenants are not evicted for the sake of new developments. Luxury decontrol, revocation of preferential rent, weakening of tenant protections and the prevalence of transient student renters have made it easier than ever for an aggressive landlord to empty a building. Whatever our zoning brings, we need adequate anti-harassment measures. And if the zoning gives incentives to development, we need protections all the more.

(2) When Orchard Street was zoned commercial, it was a charming clothing retail district. No one envisioned the area becoming a wild nightlife strip. The area needs zoning protection from further nightlife proliferation. A petition from area residents requesting residential zoning would be strategic.

(3) If St. Mark's is given a commercial overlay, it too will be overrun with yet more bars and restaurants, both on the lower "basement" levels and the upper stoop levels. Although our community board assures us that DCP will not impose such an overlay, DCP steadfastly refuses to commit publicly on the question. A petition here would be useful too.

(4) Personally, I would be happy if all the affordable housing were built in my part of Alphabettown and all the luxury housing were built as far away from me as humanly possible: I came to this neighborhood in the 70's because it was marginal, mixed and counterculturally unmonied. I don't care to live in a community of wealth -- it's not my thing. But some folks think "off site" affordable housing is unfair, ghettoizing and demeaning. De gustibus non est disputandem: there's no disputing taste. To me, "mixed" means ethnically and culturally diverse, not 80% luxury. In any case, off-site presents other problems including the difficulty of tracking the housing and the sale of bonuses.

(5) NYU's dorms bring hundreds of youth with no commitment to the neighborhood. And those students bring with them chain stores, fast food joints and bars that push out the interesting stores, the local services and the mom and pops. Including 3rd and 4th Avenues in the zoning plan will prevent NYU from building more out-of-scale dorms and flooding our neighborhood with more transient students.

The current zoning plan represents a tension between preservation (height cap) and the creation of affordable housing by offering developers an incentive to build bigger if they include some affordable housing. Affordable housing is a general good for the city, but the incentive invites development, bringing with it 80% luxury which can irretrievably alter the character of the community and cause a lot of displacement of older residents and businesses.

The CB cannot alone and by itself leverage the City to ensure that anti-harassment measures will be included, that residential areas will be protected from nightlife congestion, that the plan will be implemented fairly. Only community involvement and public pressure can ensure that we get the best possible rezoning.

On October 16, DCP will present its complete plan to the CB Task Force. We will see where they have imposed commercial overlays, whether they have downzoned the Orchard Street area, whether Avenue D remains upzoned for IZ and whether they have included anti-harassment measures. That meeting may be the last opportunity for significant input into the plan.

On November 6, the CB will hold a large public forum and exhibition of the plan at which DCP will parade it for the community to view. It seems doubtful to me that such an open forum could result in any effective change to the plan unless the community is highly organized around specific issues of concern.

Following the November exhibition-parade & forum, a ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) -- essentially the final document -- will be drafted and submitted to the CB. The CB will have 60 days to hold a hearing and issue a recommendation to DCP. Then the Borough President has 30 days to submit his recommendation. DCP then has 60 days to hold a public hearing and adopt, adopt with amendments, or reject the plan. The City Council has 50 days to act on the plan. If the mayor doesn't veto within 5 days, it's law. The whole process takes 7 months.

Community residents have requested a preliminary viewing of a draft ULURP before the final ULURP is submitted. This will ensure that the community knows what the ULURP will contain. Given the Task Force's poor record of public disclosure, this request is exigent. The Task Force has made no commitment as of yet to a preliminary viewing of a draft ULURP.

Go to the Task Force meeting.
There is plenty to watch out for.
The Task Force meeting on Monday will likely be the last chance for meaningful community input.

Here's a list of questions that need to be asked:
1. How can the city guarantee that there will not be a net loss of affordable housing under the plan as a result of primary and secondary displacement?
2. Will the city guarantee on-site affordable housing?
3. Will the city impose commercial overlays?
4. Will the city downzone the Orchard Street area to residential?
5. How can anti-harassment measures be made effective, and will the city include effective anti-harassment measures and funding for their enforcement in the plan?
6. Will the public be presented with a draft ULURP for review prior to the submission of the ULURP?

Rob Hollander
LES Residents for Responsible Development
622 E 11 #10
NYC 10009