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