NYU Expansion Proposed / 2nd Zoning Meeting Thursday

SoHo Alliance via dme3ds1.com Feb 25, 2019, 8:58 PM (11 hours ago)

The second public meeting on the proposed SoHo/NoHo rezoning will occur this Thursday, February 28.  
The theme is Defining Mixed-Use (non-residential). There are four other future meetings. Mark the dates on your calendar now: March 20, April 11, May 2, and June 6.
We strongly urge you to attend this and the remaining four public meetings.  
The real-estate lobby has made a call to its people to pack the room, to counter the large number of residents and small businesses at the first meeting. Attend these meetings to show the deBlasio administration that our neighborhood is not for sale.
Doors open from 6:00 to 6:30.A presentation by the organizers will take place from 6:30 to 7:00, followed by a “group discussion” from 7:00 to 7:45A Q&A from 7:45 to 8:15 concludes the event.
The location is the Municipal Building, North building Mezzanine at Centre & Reade Streets.Take the 6 train to Brooklyn Bridge or the R,W to City Hall. See here. Bring ID. 
NYU Expansion ProposedA story in this week’s Villager reports an academic paper by a former City Planning director and commissioned by NYU that argues for increased construction in NoHo – and, by extension, SoHo, since both share identical zoning.  
The NYU professor calls for doubling the permissible bulk and height of buildings on lots along Broadway, Bowery, Houston and Lafayette Streets.
The report also includes these additional zingers, verbatim:– Any floor area that is currently nonresidential, in a building that has no residential units, could be converted to college or university use. (Ready for all those NYU dorms, folks?)
– New York University largely stays west of Broadway. This major university has a limited presence in Noho, though it would seem to be an ideal area for the university to expand.

– The area’s peculiar zoning, combined with historic district controls, effectively keeps out many of the land uses that would, on economic rationales alone, wish to locate there. (The real-estate industry must be salivating at that argument.)
Since NYU is one of the nineteen participants in the City Planning’s Advisory Group and since this obscure academic report was drawn up last year, don’t you find it intriguing that it was released to the public in the midst of the current zoning discussion?

Massive NYU developments like 181 Mercer Street at Houston Street, below, currently under construction, have stayed west of Broadway due to “zoning gridlock,” the NYU author argues.


SoHo Alliance PO Box 429 New York, NY 10012

Sean SweeneyDirector


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Benjamin Yee for Public Advocate

People have reached out to the SoHo Alliance asking whom are we endorsing for Public Advocate in the special election this Tuesday February 26. The Alliance is nonpartisan and does not endorse.  
However, our friends and neighbors in the Downtown Independent Democrats reform club (DID), a founding member of the SoHo Alliance, have endorsed Benjamin Yee for Public Advocate.
You may not have heard of Ben. That’s a good sign.  
Most of the recognizable candidates are politicians either being term-limited out in two years or else are using the public advocate office as a stepping stone to advance their careers. (The public advocate office is seen as a stepping stone for mayor.)
Some of these candidates are worthwhile. For example, DID endorsed Jumaane Williams for the state lieutenant-governor office last year. 
However, the public advocate office is special. It is not a legislative or executive office. Rather, it serves as an ombudsman to investigate the public’s complaints against maladministration by public authorities.
Benjamin Yee is not a politician  He is a community and political activist who wants to engage government and so improve democracy.

Over the last two years, Ben has run free civic workshops, like Real Politics 101 and Organizing 101, training over 4,000 New Yorkers to become engaged and be heard as local block captains, community board members, and members of housing associations.  

96% of Ben’s donations are from small-dollar donors — the most of any candidate in this race. And Ben is the only candidate with ZERO high dollar donors from outside New York City. (Some of his opponents have nearly half of their big ticket donations from outside the city.) 

Ben lives in the East Village and serves as your local NYS Democratic State Committee member, representing SoHo, NoHo, TriBeCa and parts of the Village. He serves as an active member of the DID executive committee.
Son of a Polish Jew and a Chinese-American, Yee studied at Bronx Science, University of Michigan and the London School of Economics. He is a tech entrepreneur who served as digital director for the 2008 New York State Obama campaign. As current secretary of the Manhattan County Democratic Committee, Benjamin created their website, the first ever for a Democratic County party in NYC.
Ben is unbought and unbossed. I have seen Ben in action — he is the kind of activist and advocate this city needs.

Click on Ben’s website to learn more, or hear him explain his candidacy in this impressive youtube video.PLEASE FORWARD TO FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS


Sean SweeneyDirector

SoHo AlliancePO Box 429New York, NY 10012212-353-8466info@sohoalliance.orgsohoalliance.org

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 10012212-353-8466info@sohoalliance.orgsohoalliance.org