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)