Breaking News

A consortium of landlords and developers has formed to advocate for major zoning changes in SoHo and NoHo. More here.

The Fix SoHo NoHo Coalition is comprised of seven firms, including a number of large property owners such as Himmel + Meringoff, Vornado, Aurora Capital, Crown Acquisitions and Olmstead Properties, along with attorney Margaret Baisley,
They claim the zoning is not working.  For them.

From Himmel+Meringoff’s websiteHimmel + Meringoff Properties is a privately held New York real estate investment company dedicated to the acquisition and creation of value in opportunistic equity investments.  At least they are honest: opportunistic.
Vornado is a real estate investment trust, a REIT publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. It owns scores of properties across the country. Some of its New York holdings include One Penn Plaza, Hotel Pennsylvania, and the lease on the World Trade Center.  The Real Deal, a real-estate news site, describes Crown Acquisitions as “a major owner and developer of retail properties focusing on large redevelopment projects where it helps to add value before the company and its partners sell the assets.”  In other words, take the money and run.

Aurora Capital obliterated an entire block face in the Gansevoort Market Historic District to capitalize on its investment there. It is invested in 600 Broadway at Houston Street, where it rents 38,000 square feet to Hollister. However, zoning laws only permit a maximum of 10,000 square feet of retail there. The law doesn’t seem to deter Aurora.
Margaret Baisley is a Brooklyn real estate lawyer who filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of SoHo landlord with interests in several SoHo properties. The landlord tried to evict a certified working artist, Robert Seidman, his wife Patti, and their two daughters, the last rent-stabilized tenants in his building, on the grounds that he wanted to give their apartment to his family, a loophole the law permits. Forget the fact the family was not living in the United States.

The judge sided with the Seidmans, saying he could not evict a conforming tenant, the artist, for a non-conforming tenant, the businessman.
The attorney who would have this family of four evicted onto a Broadway sidewalk is the same attorney belonging to the Fix SoHo NoHo Coalition.  Nice.
These real estate investors are not what SoHo/NoHo has traditionally witnessed; that is, small building owners, longtime family-owned real-estate businesses, shareholders in small retail stores, or condo/coop property owners.  No. These are behemoth real-estate investment firms, whose sole purpose is to create wealth for their principals and who have no roots or interest in a community’s well-being or future prosperity.
These opportunists have been compared to predatory strip-mining companies that come into some small Appalachian town, strip the land bare, and, after plundering the community, move on to some other town to ravage. These are the last people who should have a say in SoHo/NoHo’s future. Will the city agree to their demands?


Sean SweeneyDirector

SoHo Alliance
PO Box 429New York, NY 10012

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FAQs and Talking Points

In response to numerous inquiries, we provide you some Frequently Asked Questions and Talking Points for the first public meeting on the proposed SoHo/NoHo rezoning this Wednesday, February 6.
The city has embarked on an initiative that likely will result in changes to SoHo/NoHo’s current zoning – and it wants your input.  Our neighborhoods’ future depends on you.  
FAQs: How is SoHo/NoHo currently zoned? SoHo/NoHo is zoned for light manufacturing, a general term including joint live/work quarters for artists, offices, hardware stores, design and furniture showrooms, hotels, professional photographic services, bicycle repair shops, sporting goods stores, fabricators, to list a few.
What areas are covered by the zoning? For this initiative, SoHo refers to the area between Houston and Canal Streets, stretching from West Broadway to Lafayette/Centre Streets.   NoHo refers to the area from Houston Street to Astor Place, from Broadway to the Bowery.
SoHo/NoHo’s zoning map is further divided into two districts, 5A and 5B.   5A is basically the area from Houston to Broome and from West Broadway to Mercer Street.   5B occupies the remainder of the SoHo/NoHo district.  See the map below for details.
What’s the difference between 5A and 5B? In 5A, retail use is permitted “as-of-right”, that is, without the need for a Special Permit or Variance.  (This goes back to the 1970s, when there was already a retail presence in that part of SoHo.  So the city “grandfathered” these retailers.)  In 5B, retail use is not permitted as-of-right.
Why is there so much retail currently in 5B, if that use is not permitted? A few spaces were grandfathered prior to the zoning.  Others received Special Permits or Variances.  However, many are operating there in violation of the zoning.
How can I learn more about zoning, planning and land use? Visit the Department of City Planning’s website

TALKING POINTS:– Do you want expansion of retail uses in the 5B district?  
– Do you want enforcement of the current regulations?
– If retail use is permitted In 5B, what size retail should be allowed?   In the 5A district, the maximum is 3,600 sq.ft. currently.In the 5B district, the maximum is 10,000 sq.ft. currently.– Do you want these limits enlarged, reduced, or to remain the same?

Many Broadway residents are kept awake at night by deliveries to the megastores? – How can the city amend the zoning to mitigate this problem?
Residents complain of certain retail stores with jumbo LED display signs projecting into their homes all night. – Should there be restrictions on bright display signs after closing time?
Currently, eating and drinking establishments are limited to 5,000 sq.ft. (e.g., Balthazar is 4,900 sq.ft)Some property owners who are seeking to expand retail are also calling for more bars and restaurants in order to make SoHo/NoHo more “vibrant” after work hours.– Would you like to see limits on this type of use, which often proves problematic to adjacent residential neighbors? – Should the 5,000 sq.ft. limit for eating and drinking establishments be reduced, increased, or remain the same?
Some commercial property owners are renting to private clubs or work spaces on the upper floors of buildings, where alcohol is served well into the night, causing problems for their neighbors – Do you wish to see restrictions on such party operations on the upper floors?
Artists and residents: In buildings built prior to 2005, strictly speaking, every household should have at least one artist certified by the Department of Cultural Affairs or else have a resident grandfathered there before 1987.
Many people complain that the artist certification process is arbitrary and capricious. 
Others say the idea of an artists colony here is anachronistic. Most SoHo/NoHo residents are not certified artists.  Yet not a single person has ever been forced out due to lack of artists certification.
On the other hand, this zoning provision has prevented the unfair eviction of several working artists and their families. Read one dramatic story from The Villager here.  

So how do we preserve the tenancy of working artists in SoHo/NoHo, particularly the elderly, yet make SoHo/NoHo open to others?  The arts were the foundation of SoHo/NoHo and the reason many non-artists moved here.  It is a complicated issue and no solution has yet been found to this thorny question.– What do you think should be done to resolve this dilemma?
Do not forget the Law of Unintended Consequences.– What impact will rezoning have on real-estate taxes and other financial ramifications for both co-op and condo owners as well as loft tenants?
These are some of the questions and ideas you should consider.
WHERE: PS 130, 143 Baxter Street between Grand and Hester Streets, a block south of the Police Building west of Centre StreetWHEN: Wednesday, February 6, 6:15 – 8:00 p.m.


Sean SweeneyDirector

SoHo AlliancePO Box 429New York, NY

Rezone Soho/Noho, or just enforce current laws?

Local politicians and residents chanted demonstrated outside the Department of Buildings at 280 Broadway in November 2016, calling on D.O.B. and Mayor de Blasio to properly interpret and enforce Soho/Noho’s retail restrictions under the area’s manufacturing zoning. File photo

BY GABE HERMAN | The first meeting in the public-engagement process being held to explore possible rezoning efforts in Soho and Noho will be held on Wed., Feb. 6.

The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at P.S. 130, at 143 Baxter St., between Hester and Grand Sts.

The process was launched by the Department of City Planning, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilmember Margaret Chin. The six-month effort will include a number of “public sessions to hear from the local community on topics including housing, jobs, retail and creative industries,” according to a statement.

“The unique nature and vital role which the Soho/Noho neighborhoods play in our city’s economy and daily life necessitate a close examination,” Chin said in a statement to The Villager. “In particular, my office will want to look at the complex interplay between retail and housing interests in Soho and Noho. I look forward to engaging with community activists, business leaders and residents as we build a bold vision.”

Zoning was specifically mentioned in statements by Brewer and City Planning Director Marisa Lago.

Lago said, in part, “Like all neighborhoods, Soho and Noho face unique challenges, not the least of which is outdated zoning.”

Brewer said the area’s zoning definitely is need of a “fix.”

“The Soho/Noho area has a rich, vibrant history, but we need to fix its zoning to lay the foundation for its future,” she said. “As the old rules have stopped working, the area has seen a steady march of special exemptions, one-off variances and inappropriately large retail uses.”

But Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, said it wasn’t a matter of the old rules not working — but the city failing to enforce the existing laws.

He cited the Bloomingdale’s at 504 Broadway, which opened in 2004 with six floors. When Sweeney contacted City Planning about the store exceeding the neighborhood’s 10,000-square-foot maximum for retail, he said he was told, “Forget about it. You can’t fight Bloomingdale’s.”

Sweeney said local zoning infractions over the years have included two developers being allowed by the Board of Standards and Appeals to overbuild on parking lots by 50 percent. He said the developers were each granted a “hardship variance,” after claiming they had made a bad real estate deal in buying the lots.

And he said Soho was designated for wholesale uses in the 1970s and ’80s before the Department of Buildings allowed retail stores to be grandfathered in based on businesses submitting “bogus evidence” of past retail existing at those locations.

“When they say it’s broken, it’s because the city broke it purposely by design and by negligence over the last 30 years,” said Sweeney, who has lived in Soho since 1977.

The Soho Alliance is one of the local groups consulting on the project, which will culminate in a report expected this summer. Sweeney said there is concern that the current way in which big retail stores are allowed to slip in will be formalized and legalized by the current process.

“We don’t want the zoning to change, we want enforcement,” Sweeney said.

There is also worry that artist-resident protections enacted in 1971 may be removed. Sweeney said that City Planning in 1983 tried to remove the joint living-working quarters for artists (J.L.W.Q.A.) law that requires every unit to have at least one resident who has been certified as an artist by the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs.

Community pushback defeated that 1983 effort, yet the law is not enforced. However, Sweeney said he is O.K. with that situation because at least have the regulation on the books, legally prevents artists from being kicked out of the neighborhood.

Yukie Ohta, of the Soho Memory Project, said she is not part of the advisory group on the rezoning initiative but has spoken with many locals and heard conflicting opinions of whether rezoning is needed or just some smaller tweaks.

“We need to create a more workable mixed-use neighborhood with fewer conflicting uses,” she said. “From a resident’s perspective, this means reasonable restrictions for retail establishments.

“This also means enforcement of protections to ensure current residents are not priced out of their homes through rising maintenance costs and taxes.”

Ohta said longtime Soho residents need to be considered, including those who were involved in helping create the 1971 artist protections.

“They have the long view of the evolution of Soho and should have a place at the table in this go-around,” she said of the neighborhood veterans. “In short, the needs of all stakeholders need to be equally considered and protected.”

SoHo/NoHo Zoning Update

– If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!– February 6th Public Meeting Still in Limbo
Two weeks ago we notified you of the SoHo/NoHo Advisory Group, an initiative formed by the Department of City Planning, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilmember Margaret Chin. Ostensibly the group’s purpose was to study whether our zoning and land-use policies are working, and, if not, what should be done — if anything.  
Public records reveal that a mere “study” is not really the intended scenario. 
A June 20, 2018 press release quotes City Planning Chair Marissa Lago, “If there is one thing that everybody agrees on, it’s that the current zoning in SoHo, NoHo is broken. It just doesn’t work.”  That doesn’t sound like a study, does it?  It sounds like a declaration of intent, besides begging the question: is our zoning actually broken in the first place? 
Let’s look at the record. At one time SoHo was a derelict slum, slated to be bulldozed by Robert Moses to make way for a massive expressway. SoHo activists helped stop that plan and in 1971 persuaded the city to amend the zoning law to permit artists to live/work in their lofts, to allow retail use in much of the district, and to permit exceptions to retail restrictions via Special Permits that allow for public review of what uses should be granted developers.  Subsequent amendments have only improved upon that.  
As a result, SoHo has blossomed into a world-class residential and retail neighborhood, attracting millions of people worldwide and bringing countless millions, if not billions, in real-estate and retail tax dollars to the city coffers.

But City Planning and real-estate interests claim our zoning is broken.  Really?
 Today SoHo has – a retail real-estate market with an average asking rent of $595/sq.ft. the second highest in the city & tenth in the nation
– an average homes sales price of $2,374/sq.ft. — more than double the Manhattan average– among the highest home prices in the country with a median residential sales price of $2.995 million – a four-bedroom apartment at 150 Wooster selling for $32.584 million
Does that sound broken to you — or does that sound like an extraordinary success story? 
Is City Planning conducting a “study” as we were told, or is rezoning a fait accompli?  The truth has come out.  Councilmember Chin in a January 18 constituent newsletter headlined what we had suspected, “We begin the SoHo/NoHo rezoning.”  So the city has been disingenuous with us, not a good way to foster trust in this important arena. 
Who has been pushing this rezoning?  Not us or any other community group.  Quite the contrary.  All we have asked is that the current successful zoning be enforced, particularly the 10,000 square-feet limit for retail use that is blatantly violated by several stores along Broadway. 
For example, when Bloomingdale’s opened its 50,000 square-feet, five-story emporium in clear violation of the 10,000 square-feet retail limit, we complained to City Planning. Its representative’s verbatim response was, “You can’t fight Bloomingdale’s.”  If City Planning believes that our zoning is not working, it has only itself to blame.
It appears that a main push to rezone comes from REBNY, the Real Estate Board of New York, a trade association that lobbies on behalf of the real estate industry and whose leadership includes some of the biggest developers in the city.  
On page 56 of its 2018 Annual Report, REBNY reveals that it has “worked with the SoHo Broadway Business Improvement District {BID} on forward-thinking solutions for the area…and has met with city officials on this issue.” 
It is not reassuring that city officials have met in 2018 with REBNY lobbyists, but not with a single SoHo/NoHo resident or small business.
What would REBNY want?  For starters, how about: – an increase in bulk and height for new and existing buildings – oversized big-box stores, unbridled retail uses, more annoying pop-up store events- higher rents  – erosion of landmarks protection- removal of protection for loft tenants and artist residents, many of whom still reside here despite ill-informed media reports to the contrary- introduction of pieds-à-terre and small studio apartments which would deflate our existing co-op and condo values
 In fact, a pro-development group at last week’s Community Board 2 meeting had the audacity to propose, “Build on top of all those 5-story buildings in SoHo.” So this is what we are up against.   
If you cherish our community, if you do not want more shoppers congesting our neighborhood, if owners want to maintain their property values and renters to maintain their tenants’ rights, we strongly urge you to attend the first public meeting on February 6.
The city is not making the community’s job easy.  Its website to educate us on its plans Is still “Under Construction” although this initiative has been talked about for years. Why is the public being left in the dark?
Furthermore, although the first public meeting is scheduled for February 6, so far City Planning has sent out no public notices of the event, no agenda has been set, no format established, nor even a location and time announced, although it will likely be in the evening.  As soon as we get more information, we shall notify you, since obviously you cannot rely on City Planning to keep you in the loop.

Sean SweeneyDirector

SoHo AlliancePO Box 429New York, NY 10012

Advisory Board Meetings

Last month the City signaled the formation of an Advisory Board to examine our neighborhood’s current zoning and land-use policies.  
Its first meeting was held last Thursday at the office of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.  She, along with Councilmember Margaret Chin and Department of City Planning Chair Marisa Lago, are the initiators of this study.  At first we were unsure who was pushing it.
City Planning over several mayoral administrations has sought to amend our zoning. Some proposals we have embraced; others we have rejected (successfully).  
Borough President Brewer has a record of sensitivity toward community concerns.  And although we have had issues with Councilmember Chin’s land-use policies in the past, of late she has been more supportive. So we are going into this with a constructive attitude.
There will be several more Advisory Board meetings throughout the winter and spring, as well as several Public Meetings and Topical Workshops open to everyone.  We strongly urge you to attend these public meetings and workshops. Your opinions and suggestions are paramount.
There will be two of these public events in February: a Public Meeting – Open House on the evening of February 6 and a Topical Workshop on February 28 evening.  Please reserve the dates. The exact time and location will be announced shortly.  
Below are the participants of the Advisory Board, representing a broad spectrum of stakeholders, several of whom are very sympathetic to community concerns.
  • Broadway Residents Coalition 
  • Cooper Square Committee 
  • Cooper Union
  • Council Speaker Corey Johnson
  • Council Member Carlina Rivera
  • Landmarks Conservancy
  • Lower Manhattan Cultural Council
  • Manhattan Chamber of Commerce
  • Manhattan Community Board 2
  • New York University 
  • NoHo Business Improvement District 
  • NoHo-Bowery Stakeholders 
  • NoHo Neighborhood Association
  • NYC Loft Tenants 
  • Real Estate Board of New York 
  • SoHo Alliance
  • SoHo Broadway Initiative (BID)
  • SoHo Design District
Sean Sweeney
SoHo Alliance
PO Box 429
New York, NY 10012

City Planning Announces SoHo/NoHo Study

This week the Department of City Planning is expected to announce the formation of an Advisory Board to participate in a planning study of SoHo and NoHo’s current zoning.  Both neighborhoods share the same land-use regulations.
The SoHo Alliance has been invited to the table. This is significant since the Alliance has long served as the guardian of our successful zoning.  
The SoHo Artists Association (which later evolved into the SoHo Alliance) partnered with City Planning in 1971 to enact the current zoning policies.  
It later worked with the agency to amend the zoning laws several times, for instance, to restrict night clubs — one reason our neighborhood has never devolved into the Meatpacking District.  
In 2005 the Alliance again collaborated with City Planning on an amendment to permit the construction of new residential buildings.  Prior to that, residency was limited to converted buildings only.
We have the knowledge, experience and history to play a significant role in this study,
There will be eighteen other players involved as well, including local elected officials, the community board, other local neighborhood, tenant and cultural associations, as well as representatives from the real estate and retail fields.    
The idea is to study whether the current zoning is working, needs tweaking, requires a complete overhaul or should be left alone.  We are not quite sure who is pushing this. 
There will be monthly meetings of the Advisory Board starting in January and lasting four to seven months.  A report should be out by summer.
We shall keep you abreast of developments.
Sean Sweeney
SoHo Alliance
PO Box 429
New York, NY 10012
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Rally Today for Elizabeth St Garden * Monthly Police Neighborhood Meeting Wed * SoHo Memory Project Launch Party

Rally Today for Elizabeth St Garden * Monthly Police Neighborhood Meeting Wed * SoHo Memory Project Launch Party
Rally Today for Elizabeth Street Garden
Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) has sent a notice demanding removal of all of the statuary and sculpture in our Elizabeth Street Garden, effectively destroying this treasure before any official determination of the City’s plan for development has been reached.  
Today our community will rally to speak out against the destruction of one of the city’s most beautiful and tranquil gardens.
The rally is from 2 to 4 pm at Elizabeth Street Garden, between Spring and Prince Streets. Bring friends, bring signs and make our voices heard.

Monthly Police Neighborhood Meeting Wednesday
NYPD has initiated a new program, Neighborhood Policing, a return to the “cop on the beat.”  You may have seen more foot patrols walking the streets recently.
As part of the program, our neighborhood officers meet monthly with us in SoHo to identify and solve local quality-of-life and crime concerns.  They want to hear from you about what it will take to make us feel safe and secure.
When Wednesday, November 7.  Doors open at 6:00 for refreshments and the meeting begins at 6:30.
Where: Scholastic, 130 Mercer Street, 12th Floor
If you wish to be put on the email reminder list for future meetings, please email the neighborhood coordination officer in charge of the SoHo sector, Michael Erdman 
at He can also be reached on his mobile at 929-287-9659 or office at 212-334-6462.
SoHo Memory Project Launch Party
The SoHo Memory Project is a delightful and informative website and traveling exhibition that documents the cultural, social, political, and urban history of SoHo. If you haven’t visited it, do so now at
The Memory Project will host a party to celebrate the launch of its new reimagined and redesigned website. 
The website’s documentation spans the course of SoHo from colonial times to the present, with focus placed on the decades between 1960-1980 when SoHo was a thriving artists’ community.
Join your neighbors at this fun and informative event. Space is limited, so rsvp here
When: Thursday, November 8, 6:00 – 8:00 
Where: Artist & Fleas, 568 Broadway at Prince
Sean Sweeney
SoHo Alliance
PO Box 429
New York, NY 10012

Elizabeth Street Garden Update: de Blasio Picks “Developer” to Destroy Garden

Elizabeth Street Garden Update: de Blasio Picks “Developer” to Destroy Garden; Community Hires Lawyer to Save It
Shake-up at Landmarks: Preservationists Demand Chair Resign; She Quits a Week Later
Infrastructure Projects This Week in SoHo
Elizabeth Street Garden Update
– de Blasio Picks “Developer” to Destroy Garden
The de Blasio administration is pushing forward with its plan to destroy our Elizabeth Street Garden.  
As soon as last year’s election was over, the city selected a development team to build a 7-story residential building where the Garden now stands – despite our community’s need for open space and despite widespread opposition from local residents and businesses, most elected officials, and numerous environmental groups.  
Community Board 2 is hosting a hearing with these developers on June 25.  We need to show them that our community has spoken and we want to save Elizabeth Street Garden as it is!  Be sure to attend.  Bring signs.  Wear Green.  Don’t be fooled by fancy names and pretty renderings. Once the bulldozers come, our green oasis will be another paltry concrete slab with benches.
When: Monday, June 25, 6:30 pm
Where: NYU Silver Building, 32 Waverly Place, Room 520
Community Retains Noted Attorney
After consultation with several lawyers, Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden the main group spearheading this struggle, decided there was sound legal basis for a challenge to the city’s decision to develop the Garden into residences.   
The space had originally accommodated a school that was demolished in the 1970s.  The land where the Garden now stands was promised as community recreational space when the adjacent Section 8 housing on Spring Street was built in 1981.  Housing on the green space was never intended to be in the picture.
After interviewing several attorneys, Friends has retained Michael Gruen, an experienced land-use lawyer with a proven track record litigating against New York City and State governmental entities. Gruen is president of the City Club, a good governance organization that recently won two important land-use cases — Pier 55 and Flushing Meadows.
In the Pier 55 litigation, after the City Club’s major victory in federal court, NYC Parks management agreed to protect the Hudson River from environmental damage and Governor Cuomo committed to “work cooperatively to complete the full vision” for Hudson River Park.  For Flushing Meadows, the City Club’s litigation successfully blocked the development of a proposed shopping mall near Citi Field. 
Friends’ legal team has developed strong legal strategies based on compliance with the history of the Garden site and environmental law.  
Help save our garden.  Please donate to the Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden Legal Defense Fund here
– Shake-up at Landmarks: Preservationists Demand Chair Resign; She Quits a Week Later
You may recall that in March we asked you to attend a public hearing at the Landmarks Preservation Commission to oppose the agency’s proposal to remove many applications for changes to buildings in historic districts from public review and instead have commission staffers decide the merits – without any public hearing. This was contrary to over fifty years of commission policy.
The proposal was the brainchild of the commission’s chair, Meenakshi Srinivasan, whose policies and decisions were viewed by many as being extraordinarily accommodating to developers’ requests.
The public hearing was packed with preservationists who roundly spoke out against Srinavasan’s latest proposal.  When one activist demanded that Srinavasan resign, the audience erupted in loud applause.  A week later she unexpectedly resigned, with no explanation given. 
Needless to say, the commission announced that it is withdrawing its proposal, meaning we shall again be able to express our opinion to the city on important preservation issues instead of having them decided for us behind closed doors. 
– Infrastructure Projects This Week
The NYC Office of Design and Construction has announced plans for several projects in SoHo this coming week that may cause some inconvenience and parking problems.
Starting Monday, June 3 through Friday June 8, from 7am to 6pm, utility relocation work, specifically electric layout work, will be going on at West Broadway between Canal and Grand Streets.   There will also be catch basin Installation and utility work being performed during the same time at Howard and Crosby Streets.  Expect parking to be restricted.
Also be advised that Greene Street between Spring Street and Prince Street will be closed to vehicular traffic due to a crane operation at 103 Greene Street on June 9 & 10 and 16 & 17, from 8am to 6pm Saturday and 9am to 6pm Sunday,
Sean Sweeney
SoHo Alliance
PO Box 429
New York, NY 10012