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