Wolves in Sheeps’ Clothing

Please forward to friends and neighbors.
The SoHo Alliance has been receiving emails seeking information regarding a flyer that arrived recently in the mail from a nebulous group calling itself “Fix SoHo/NoHo Zoning”.  
The flyer, entitled A Letter From Your Neighbors, seeks a change to our current zoning and asks residents to sign and return the flyer to the group, who will forward it to our elected officials. 
People are asking:

  • Who ls behind Fix SoHo/NoHo?
  • Who bankrolled this expensive, glossy mailing?
  • How should we respond?  

The last question is easy: Ignore the flyer and relegate it to your trash can
According to an article in the Real Deal entitled SoHo Landlords Are Joining Forces to Win the Neighborhood’s Rezoning Fight, Fix SoHo/NoHo is comprised of “big league property owners Vornado Realty Trust, Himmel + Meringoff, Crown Acquisitions, Aurora Capitol and Olmstead Properties.”  Several of these companies have operated illegal oversized retail locations here for years, creating the very problem they now ask you to solve for them.  
These companies are members of REBNY, the Real Estate Board of New York, with capitalization running into the billions of dollars, none of whom are even based here and none of whom is your friend.  REBNY’s position to “fix” the zoning is to allow unlimited oversized retail space in SoHo/NoHo. They want to turn your neighborhood into Herald Square.
The flyer is signed by some five dozen individuals, some of whom are our neighbors and often allies.  We feel these good people were misled.  
However, many of the signers are real estate professionals, a worthy occupation. However, if this group were really sincere and not self-serving, it would have revealed that fact to you.

The flyer itself is full of misrepresentations. 

  • Seeking to pit artist against non-artist, neighbor against neighbor in a classic divide-and-conquer stratagem, Fix SoHo/NoHo purports to have insider knowledge of the city’s plans regarding loft living, when, in fact, none of its signers were on the SoHo/NoHo Zoning Advisory Group that convened this spring.  On the other hand, we who actually served on this zoning study group have absolutely no idea what the final report will state, since its authors have been keeping their findings close to the chest.
  • The flyer also fallaciously claims SoHo/NoHo has 25,000 residents. Had they done their homework like simply checking with the US Census Bureau instead of concocting data, they would know that the actual number is closer to 8,000.  If Fix SoHo/NoHo cannot get that simple fact correct, it is difficult to believe anything else this group claims to be true.
  • We could go on, but how can you take seriously a group whose return address is a real-estate lawyer’s office located at 561 Broadway Avenue?  Broadway Avenue??

Fix SoHo/NoHo gets down to its real agenda later on in the flyer, when It seeks increased retail options. Fine, but, again, they are being disingenuous. 

They do not tell you that they recently sent a letter to the City Planning Commission seeking permission to legalize 42,000 square-feet of oversized retail at 503 Broadway, a space that for years has been a plague to residents on Broadway and Mercer Street.
Indeed, this week the Buildings Department issued 503 Broadway thirteen violations for illegal signage with potential fines reaching $100,000, including this illegal monstrosity that besmirches our landmarked district.
Fix SoHo/NoHo says retail businesses pay taxes. True, but we residents see little of that returned to our neighborhood. So how does that benefit you?
Contrariwise, increased retail rents and commercial property sales prices are partly responsible for the increased coop/condo property taxes many of us have seen skyrocketing in the past several years, since property taxes are based partially on recent commercial sales prices in the area.  Increased retail means increased property valuations means increased property taxes for us. Why didn’t Fix SoHo/NoHo tell us that?

The final report from the sponsors of this spring’s zoning study is due in October and the community board will convene a meeting in November to hear from us on the report.  
Until then, ignore the real-estate speculators of Fix SoHo/NoHo.
Please forward this email to your friends and neighbors who may not be on our list.
Sincerely,

Sean SweeneyDirector

SoHo AlliancePO Box 429New York, NY 10012
212-353-8466 info@sohoalliance.orgsohoalliance.org

Storefronts in Landmarked Buildings and Historic Districts: What You Need to Know

The SoHo Alliance cares about small businesses in our neighborhood as well as about historic preservation. Stores and commercial spaces bring important services, products, jobs and character to our community.
So we invite you to an upcoming free program where we join preservation and business groups to learn about new landmark guidelines, as well as the survival (and success) of small businesses in historic districts.

Storefronts in Landmarked Buildings and Historic Districts: What You Need to KnowThursday, September 12 6:30pm
The Washington Square Institute, 41 East 11th Street, 4th Floor
Despite having many benefits being in an historic district, commercial establishments also have Landmark Preservation Commission(LPC) rules to follow. The LPC recently issued guidelines to help business owners obtain approval for changes and to better understand the new regulations.
Join us for a presentation where you will have an opportunity to address your questions or concerns directly with LPC Deputy Director of Preservation William Neeley and LPC Deputy Counsel John Weiss. Learn the new guidelines and how businesses can survive and thrive in our landmarked neighborhood. 

Small business owners and merchants are especially encouraged to attend! Tell a friend. The event is free, but RSVP here.
Co-sponsors: Manhattan Community Boards 2 and 3, Cooper Square Committee, East Village Community Coalition, East Village Independent Merchant’s Association, Historic Districts Council, Meatpacking District Business Improvement District, NoHo Business Improvement District, NoHo Neighborhood Association, SoHo Alliance, Greenwich Village–Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, Village Alliance, Village Preservation.

Sincerely,

Sean Sweeney Director

SoHo Alliance PO Box 429 New York, NY 10012 212-353-8466

info@sohoalliance.orgsohoalliance.org

Zara Forced to Seek Special Permit for Oversized Retail After Years of Illegal Operation

–Crucial Community Board Hearing on Wednesday
Multinational retailer Zara, located in the former Old Navy space since 2015, has applied for a Special Permit from the City Planning Commission to operate a 42,000 square-foot megastore at 503 Broadway, extending to 82 Mercer Street.  Retail stores over 10,000 square feet in SoHo/NoHo are not permitted without this Special Permit.  
The application seeks to remove a Buildings Department violation Zara received for operating its oversized store illegally for the past four years.
Background:Heng Sang Realty Corporation purchased the building in 1982 and the certificate of occupancy for the entire building allowed only “Factory Use”. 
However, from 1998 until 2015, Heng Sang leased the 26,000 square-feet ground-floor space to Old Navy, creating an illegal oversized retail operation, which, oddly, was never issued a violation by the city.


Despite the lack of the oversized-retail Special Permit for Old Navy, in 2001 the Building Department issued a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, which listed the entire ground-floor space, 26,000 square feet, as a “Large Retail” Use Group.  
How Hang Seng Realty obtained this change from Factory Use to Large Retail Use from the Buildings Department without first receiving a Special Permit from the City Planning Commission remains a mystery, although one can only imagine.
In 2015, the building’s ownership split into condos and Heng Sang sold the retail space to Zara.


After Zara took ownership, it illegally extended its retail operation to the second floor, whose certificate of occupancy still had a “Factory Use” requirement. 
In 2017 and 2018, after complaints from the Broadway Residents Coalition, Zara received violations from the Buildings Department for operating an oversized store in violation of our zoning laws.  
However, it took until 2019 for Zara to apply for the Special Permit – only after being busted by Buildings and after three years of its illegal operation.
Zara has been a nightmare for its neighbors, drawing not only throngs of shoppers but also bringing in huge tractor-trailers that unload merchandise well past midnight, ruining the sleep and quality of life of nearby residents.
Incidentally, Zara is owned by Armancia Ortega, who, at $70 billion, is the sixth richest person on the planet. So this is not some small inexperienced retailer who made an error, but a willful effort to undermine our zoning. 
One reason for the transition of SoHo from a small retail and boutique destination to a shopping mall is directly due to the illegal behavior of both Heng Sang and Zara. Now they want our blessing to legitimize their decades-long disregard for the SoHo community and our city’s laws.
Zara will appear before the community board on Wednesday evening to present its application.

If Zara gets this 42,000 square-feet Special Permit, you can be certain that other oversized operators will flood our community, further deteriorating our quality of life with more crowds, traffic, congestion, trash and late-night deliveries.
Please attend this crucial community board meeting to voice your opposition to this legitimization of illegality and, more importantly, to salvage what we have left of reasonably sized retail operations in SoHo.
If you cannot attend, email your thoughts to us at info@sohoalliance.org and we shall forward it to the community board.
WHEN: Wednesday, September 11, 6:30 pmWHERE: Grace Church School, 86 Fourth Avenue (between East 10th & East 11th Streets)
Sincerely,Sean SweeneyDirector

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