Thursday, July 31, 2008

Public hearings on EV/LES rezoning

On Wednesday, August 13, 2008, at 9:00 a.m., at Tishman Auditorium of Vanderbilt Hall, New York University School of Law, 40 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012 in Manhattan. Public hearings will be held by the City Planning Commission on:

1. East Village/Lower East Side Rezoning - land use applications for a change to the zoning map (C 080397 ZMM, C 080397(A) ZMM) and zoning text amendment (N 080398 ZRM, N 080398(A)) and a related Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) (07DCP078M) submitted by the Department of City Planning.

2. Hunter's Point South – land use applications for a change to the City Map (C 080276 MMQ), a zoning map change (C 080362 ZMQ), a zoning text amendment (N 080363 ZRQ), acquisition of property (C 080364 PQQ), and UDAAP designation, plan and disposition (C 080365 HAQ) and a related DEIS (08DME006Q) submitted by the departments of Housing Preservation and Development and Parks and Recreation and the Economic Development Corporation.

3. Willets Point Development Plan – land use applications for a change to the City Map (C 080221 MMQ), a zoning map change (C 080381 ZMQ), a zoning text amendment (N 080382 ZRQ), urban renewal designation and plan (N 080383 HGQ, C 080384 HUQ) and disposition of city property (C 080385 HDQ) and a related DEIS (07DME014Q) submitted by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Economic Development Corporation.

Registering to speak: Anyone wishing to speak on any of the items listed above is requested to fill out a speaker's slip supplied at the staff desk outside of Tishman Auditorium on August 13, 2008. Doors will open at 8:30 AM. Speakers on each item will be called in the order they are registered, with the exception that public officials will be allowed to speak first. If a large number of people wish to speak on a particular item, statements will be taken alternating every 30 minutes between those speaking in support of the proposal and those speaking in opposition.

Length of Testimony: In order to give others an opportunity to speak, all speakers shall limit their remarks to three minutes.

Interpretation of Speaker's Testimony: Interpreters in Chinese (Cantonese) and Spanish will be available for those speakers who cannot testify in English.

Written Material: If you intend to submit a written statement and/or other documents please submit 17 sets of each.

Vanderbilt Hall is located on the south side of Washington Square South (West 4th Street), just east of MacDougal Street.

Persons who cannot testify on August 13, 2008 may submit written testimony to:

City Planning Commission
Calendar Information Office
22 Reade Street – Room 2E
New York, New York 10007-1216

It is requested that such testimony be submitted by August 25, 2008.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Neighborhood for locals or non-locals?

As upscale money moves into our neighborhood it draws upscale commerce which easily pushes out services to low-income and long-term residents. One sign is the loss of affordable supermarkets. The LES is losing its Pathmark and the EV's Met Foods is threatened by NYU.

Supermarkets may not be sexy, they may not be chic, they may not make anyone rich, but they do serve the elderly and ordinary working people and families. Before everything in our neighborhood serves non-locals and those who profit hugely from them consider the actions in the forward I received below:


Mike Schumacher, owner of Met Food Grocery Store at 107 Second Avenue, says NYSS Duane is working hard at lease renewal negotiations with NYU for his store. He expects a settlement early next week. This is very good news for our community. To support this progress please do the following:

If you have time for a call, an email or both then contact NYU President Sexton. Tell him that this community needs Met Food and Met Food needs an affordable, long term lease. In one lease, NYU could save a Second Avenue mainstay and a community service and make alot of friends.
His number is: 212 998 2345
His email is:

If you have time for two calls, two emails or both then contact Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. He got NYU to sign an Agreement on Principles for Future NYU Campus Development. "Community Sustainability" is one of NYU's new goal. The Met Food lease renewal is the perfect opportunity to sustain the Second Avenue community.Tell MBP Stringer that this community needs him to support NYSS Duane's efforts with NYU.
His number is: 212 669 8300
His email is:

In both contacts, you should mention your connection to Met Food and/or community, e.g., teacher, caretaker, activist, chamber of commerce member, cat rescuer, NYU alum, CB member, foodie, conservative, liberal, whatever, etc. The community was not directly included in any of these negotiations so we want NYU to know what we think:that this community considers Met Food a distinct and necessary part of our lives that Met Food is one of a handful of businesses left on Second Avenue that serve the community residents and members.That Mike, his brother and his staff give back to this community every day and that NYU will benefit from a renewal of their lease.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Personally, I don't object to 3rd Ave becoming a trendy campus nightlife destination, if that's what people living there want. What troubles me are CB members who voted to approve this bar despite community opposition and without actually hearing from the community; despite the position taken by its own SLA committee and without allowing the committee to negotiate stipulations on the bar's method of operation; CB members who voted to approve a bar solely because someone claims bars are better than chain stores. Chain stores are unattractive -- not conducive to a nightlife destination; and the entry below shows it's all about conducting successful nightlife, not successful community life...

CB3's answer to chain stores

CB3's new plan for our neighborhood:
prevent the spread of chain stores by installing bars in every storefront!! Brilliant, no?

We all hate chain stores, right? They attract rowdy, noisy crowds at all hours of night, play loud music and create a nightlife scene with mobs loitering in the street yapping into cell phones, and they give our once radical and cutting-edge arts neighborhood that attracted artists, activists and intellectuals from all over the world -- give it a frat party reputation, a scene that everyone but the partiers and their playmates assiduously avoid.

Wait a minute. I'm confused. Chain stores, non local and offensive as they are, serve working people's and residents' basic needs quietly during the day. It's the non local upscale bars that pushed up commercial rents and pushed out local businesses, decimating and ruining the culture of the East Village and LES.

And Starbucks is actually closing stores.

CB3 appears to have lost all reason, following like sheep this chain-stores-oh-my-goodness-no! argument put to them by -- a bar owner, of course!

It was a meeting to remember. The SLA committee presented a reasonable and well-deliberated recommendation to deny a license to a new bar opening in a location on 3rd Avenue near the NYU, New School and SVA dorms, an area fast becoming a crowded nightlife destination.

The committee had all the right reasons against the bar:

1. the location had no previous license, so this bar would actually be adding to the numbers of licenses in the area
2. the bar had no community support -- the owners presented no petitions of community support (the committee standardly requires this evidence of public benefit and community interest),
3. the community had complained to the committee about the required community notification
4. the community had complained to the committee about the proposed hours of operation
5. the bar would be within 500 feet of six other liquor-licensed establishments

in other words, the community plainly didn't want the bar and the owners had made no effort to appease the community's concerns or engage the community or even properly notify the community as required under the law, displaying unprofessional disregard for both law and community. The owners of the bar didn't even show up last night to argue their case.

Yet a well-known bar owner and Board member stood up and announced that a bar would be better than a Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts.

Magic words. No one wants to be caught defending chain stores. Can't go wrong invoking chain stores. Chain stores suck. And what's more, they're politically incorrect, they're unhip: they're not chic or trendy or cool. Comparing bars to chain stores is an easy win for bars -- IF the people you are talking to don't think for themselves, but just follow like sheep whatever sounds good.

He also argued that the bar would provide economic benefit to the community (more so than Dunkin' Donuts?) and this particular owner owns many successful bars throughout the city (so aren't they non local, just like a chain store?) and have a proven track record -- a less successful bar would have to bring in promoters to sustain itself and promoters cause disruption (but if the committee denied this bar, why would they ever approve a less viable bar?).

None of these gaping holes in his transparently meritless "argument" were even so much as questioned.

The CB voted to override the SLA committee's recommendation to deny.

...even though the bar owners didn't attend the meeting to present their case or answer questions, even though chain stores don't make noise, don't stay open til 4am, don't attract crowds of rowdy students, don't contribute to the nightlife destination that has completely undermined that character and reputation of the East Village and LES.

Chain stores are not worse than non local bars, unless you happen to be in the nightlife business, in which case more bars add to the destination value. Bars do not provide any greater economic benefit to the community than any other business, unless you happen to be in the nightlife business, in which case more bars draw more crowds into nightlife establishments in the neighborhood-turned-destination.

Bar destinations drive up commercial rents that drive out local businesses. They toss the neighborhood upside down into a daytime wasteland and a nighttime warzone.

But they provide revenue for the city.

That's what you and your neighborhood are serving -- the city coffers.

We always had bars here, but they were local and drew funky, low-income, edgy real folk. That's not the current scene. New York's historically avant-garde community, radical ghetto, hotbed of the arts, was destroyed by this new, culture-impoverished, upscale nightlife industry, plain and simple. I don't like chain stores, but they didn't destroy the neighborhood.

The city views this destruction as "saving" the neighborhood from its poverty. That's 'cause the city sees only revenue, not people or culture.

After the CB voted down the denial, 15 CB members actually voted to approve this bar without any stipulations or negotiations with the owners, to give it carte blanche on the basis of second-hand assurances from -- a bar owner.

Fortunately, 17 voted to send it back to committee, a narrow margin.

Those 15 benefited the nightlife industry at the expense of the community. Surely the CB has got to adhere at least to basic responsibilities of community, process and review.

CB votes are roll-call and public record. Go find out who has a brain and who's braindead.

And people criticize me for being skeptical of the CB...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Changes to housing regulations

On August 12, 10am-4pm, at Spector Hall, 22 Reade Street, the Department of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), the NY State agency that oversees housing regulation, will hold a hearing on several proposed changes to housing regulations. Of most concern to tenants, DHCR intends to

1. allow landlords to evict tenants merely to gut and renovate a building, a procedure known as "phony demolition"
2. base the stipend given to such evicted tenants on stabilized rents levels rather than on market-rate rent levels

Holding the hearing in the dead of August ensures that publicity, discussion and resistance will be muted. Please consider writing to DHCR and attending the hearing.

Here's a version of a sample letter sent around for public use by Village Independent Democrats.
DHCR's proposal can be found on page 28 of the pdf at this link

Juy 10,2008
Deborah VanAmerongen
25 Beaver Street
New York, New York 10004

Dear Commissioner,

I strongly object to the unfairness of the new formula you are
proposing for people forced out of their homes because of demolition. It
should be based on the difference between a comparable market rate
apartment in the same neighborhood and what the tenant is now paying
This was the recommendation of the Working Group of elected officials and
housing groups that your office met with over the past year. They urged
the stipend be given for ten years (120 months). Why have you not
listened to them? To base the stipend on the average rent stabilized
amount is totally unrealistic. Rent stabilized apartments are not
available for people to rent. They have to go to a market rate apartment
if forced to move. Rent stabilized apartments are being
demolished to put up more luxury condos.

I also object to the proposed code change that would make phony
demolitions legal. It is not right to define gutting the interior of a
building as "demolition." The law's original definition intended "razing a
building to the ground." Your proposed code change only helps developers
destroy more affordable housing. It takes away the last grounds on which
tenants could make a legal challenge to the loss of their home. I want
you to start protecting tenants by enacting code changes that slow down
the frenzy of demolition. I want you to preserve affordable housing.

The hearing should not be held in August when most people are
away on vacation. It should be held in September.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mistaken priorities

photo:J Blough (flickr)

Or Chinatown??

A demonstration yesterday sparked several articles on DCP's omission of endangered neighborhoods from the EV/LES rezoning (the urls are below).

Locals have good reason to worry: the commercial zones surrounding the residential East Village are in much graver danger of rapid out-of-scale development than the residential East Village itself.

Since 2003 over a dozen huge structures have begun construction or have been completed in the commercial zones surrounding the East Village including 3rd Ave, Essex-to-Bowery and the Bowery itself.

Since 2003
only three out-of scale structures have been proposed for the East Village -- and area over twice as large as those three commercial zones combined.

Block-for-block the rate of out-of-scale development in those commercial zones is 8 to 10 times the rate of out-of-scale development in the residential East Village.

After the rezoning, which protects the Norfolk-to-Forsyth area, that rate will increase on the Bowery and in Chinatown.

A US recession won't necessarily stop it. The weakening dollar turns New York into a hot, cheap international tourist destination. Commercial zones are for hotels. Developers and patrons will be foreign. Of New York businesses, the chic end of NY's nightlife industry will thrive on the transformation. Local businesses and residents will be edged out.

If the Borough President and Councilmember Gerson don't listen to the community and act now to preserve the Bowery/Chinatown communities, those communities won't be there tomorrow. There's no road back from development.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bowery Blues

Development on the Bowery is taking off lickety-split. Brack Capital Real Estate has bought four adjacent properties on the Bowery near Delancey, including a unique old town house. And since the Bowery is a commercial zone, they won't be building housing -- it'll probably be a huge luxury hotel.

The comments below from the Real Deal sound oddly familiar. Oh yes! It's what we've been shouting for nearly two years:

(From the Real Deal)
Philip Huang, a Massey Knakal Realty Services associate on the Lower East Side who was not involved in the transaction, said he had seen more sales activity since the opening in December of the New Museum for Contemporary Art at 235 Bowery.
He also said the proposed rezoning of the East Village and Lower East Side just east of the Bowery was also affecting the street.
"That probably makes development sites on the Bowery worth more," he said.

The whole article:

Friday, July 04, 2008

Protecting the network of July 4 rights

This July 4th holds particular resonance for me since George Carlin's death: I once lost a great university linguistics gig for basing an assignment on Carlin's routine about the seven FCC prohibited words.

(Add to that a student caught plagiarizing, who discovers a way to coerce a passing grade from the department, a new and frightened department chair, and the lack of any job security for adjuncts -- part-time labor can be let go for any reason or for no reason at all.)

It taught me that the fundamental rights we take for granted in this country require a whole network of social and legal protections to back them up, like job security, due process, academic freedom, voting rights -- all the protections we see corroding around us.

Carlin should be especially meaningful to Lower East Siders. Lenny Bruce, who first introduced obscenity into comedy and beat the path Carlin followed, lived down here on St. Mark's Place near 3rd Avenue, very much a part of the countercultural spirit of the Lower East Side of the 1950's and 60's.

Unlike Carlin, who was lauded for pushing the envelop in a time of rebellion, Bruce paid for his speech with multiple arrests and legal harassment. Bruce didn't have the support of the broad and popular protest movement that cheered Carlin on network TV.

So where is the broad, popular protest today that will prevent the erosion of constitutional rights, that will create a cause célèbre of every government outrage and intrusion, that will refuse to relinquish the public sphere to private ownership or public space to private profiteering, that will demand equality regardless of money, accountability regardless of influence, and responsibility regardless of power, that will stand up for good government and not back down until it gets it regardless how long?

Today's youth have mobilized around their favorite, Obama. But politicians alone cannot and will not solve our problems.

Only an engaged public can provide the foundations of support for policy-makers and the social will for sound policy. A disengaged public leaves a void into which quickly flow the corporate interests, their current strong, its source inexhaustibly replenished by the consuming public itself, the public that it seeks to supplant in civil process, the public it seduces, the public it feeds on, the public that rushes to submit.

It's a monster out of myth, copulating with your government

perverting civil society

in the bed you made for them.

Btw, the best place to read all of Carlin's routine unexpurgated is in the appendix to the Supreme Court of the United States' decision, FCC v. Pacifica Foundation (that's WBAI). Although the court decided that FCC could restrict on-air language, they reproduced the text with clinical accuracy.
FCC v. PACIFICA FOUNDATION, 438 U.S. 726 (1978)

at Justia

or at Findlaw

Remembering our soldiers still stuck in Iraq...and the Iraqis still stuck with our soldiers...