The Incredible, Creeping BID

Postcards mailed last week to select SoHo properties from a group composed largely of real-estate investors announced the formation of a steering committee with plans to expand the current Business Improvement District (BID) to cover ALL of SoHo – and beyond. 

This comes as no surprise. 

When the current SoHo Broadway BID was being formed eight years ago, our Freedom of Information Law request produced handwritten notes from its steering committee revealing its true goal “to eventually expand to all of SoHo.”  The chickens have come home to roost.

The BID’s stated purpose then was to remove the trash on Broadway. That was all!!  It certainly was not to lobby for unrestricted, oversize retail stores, as the BID is now advocating.

The Broadway BID board of directors just passed a resolution calling for zoning changes to permit unrestricted retail use throughout an entire building – from the sub-cellar up to the top floor of a building of any size.  In other words, Herald Square.

Now the same people behind the Broadway BID are organizing to spread it to all of SoHo.

Their website touts the benefits of ”the marketing efforts of BIDs” to retailers and the BID’s desire to “offer events and coordinated promotions to attract shoppers and visitors.”

Not a word about us beleaguered residents. 
Nor about the increased property taxes assessed to pay for the BID’s executives’ high salaries (while the humble street cleaners are paid minimum wage).

Their postcard linked to a website which had a survey that was actually a “push-poll”.  A push-poll is a survey so worded as to “push” from the respondent the very answers that the sponsors are seeking.

This push-poll sought whether we agreed that SoHo has “dirty streets” and “lacks a clear identity” (huh?), as well as feel-good items like the need for “open space, pedestrian safety and better lighting.”  

Nowhere did the survey ask if we want:  – increased retail  – megastores and department stores of unlimited square footage  – more shoppers – more tourists – more crowds – more congested sidewalks and subway platforms – more traffic and honking – more tourists’ garbage – more taxes 

IF YOU RECEIVED ONE OF THEIR POSTCARDS, WE URGE YOU TO BOYCOTT THE SURVEY.   IT WILL ONLY SERVE TO FURTHER THE EXPANSION OF A BID INTO OUR COMMUNITY.  

The proposed BID’s steering committee has hired a PR firm to smooth this through City Hall over the next few months.  Representatives from de Blasio’s Office of Small Business Services have expressed support for the expansion.  So we have our work cut out for us.

If you receive any more notices soliciting your opinion or help, please let us know.
PLEASE FORWARD THIS EMAIL TO FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS

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Sincerely,

Sean SweeneyDirector

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

SoHo News: Zoning Update; Early Voting; ESG Harvest Fest

– Zoning Update– Early Voting: Sat Oct 26 – Mon Nov 4  //  Ballot Recommendations– Elizabeth Street Garden Harvest Festival Saturday October 26
Zoning UpdateThe report on the SoHo/NoHo zoning planning study undertaken earlier this year was due out in late August. However, it is still unreleased. People have been asking when it will be completed.  
We inquired and have learned that the report has been finished and submitted to its city sponsors who are now reviewing it. Upon completion of the review, likely in a few weeks, it will be released to the public.  Stay tuned.

Early Voting: Saturday October 26 Through Monday November 4 You no longer need wait until the official election day, November 5, to vote. 
New York State has implemented early voting, making it easier for us to get to the polls. In the city, general elections draw only about 21% of eligible voters and primaries only a dismal 13%.  So anything that better enfranchises us is welcomed.
Unfortunately, although there are 61 early-voting poll sites throughout the five boroughs, Manhattan has only a scant nine, basically due to an unenthusiastic Manhattan Elections commissioner. So these early sites will not be your usual polling place. 
For the hours and location of your early-voting site, click here.
In general: if you live in the area west of Crosby Street, you vote early at The Clinton School, 10 East 15 Street; if you live east of Crosby, you vote early at the public school on 220 Henry Street.
These sites are about a mile away from most of us.  But they are open during standard hours, even on weekends.  So if it is convenient, you can vote early at these sites. On the regular election day, November 5, you will be able to vote at your usual poll site here
Ballot Question RecommendationsThis is a quiet election year. Only two items are on the ballot: the public advocate race and proposed New York City Charter amendments.  
The City Charter is the city’s constitution and its last major revision was in 1989. This year there are nineteen issues contained within five generalized ballot questions that you will ask to approve or reject. 
The five questions deal with elections. the Civilian Complaint Review Board, ethics and governance, the city budget, and land use. To view in detail these ballot questions, click here.
In the public advocate race, Democrat and incumbent Jumaane Williams is squaring off against the Republican Council Minority Whip Joe Borelli.  
The SoHo Alliance is non-partisan but our friends and neighbors in the reform Downtown Independent Democrats club recommend a YES vote on ALL FIVE ballot questions.
Although D.I.D. did not necessarily agree 100% with all the 19 proposals, overall a yes vote is preferred. In fact, most good government and activist groups, as well as both Republican and Democratic officials, are recommending a yes vote. 

Elizabeth Street Garden 7th Annual Harvest Festival – Saturday October 26      Court Date Set: Friday, November 15The Elizabeth Street Garden Seventh Annual Harvest Festival is taking place Saturday, October 26.  It is a special day full of free fun and activities for everyone to enjoy, including pumpkin decorating, face painting, crafts and more.

Festival Schedule
12:00 – 4:00  Ghastly Graveyard of Goblins & Ghouls, arts & crafts with McNally Jackson Bookstore.
12:00 – 4:00  Pumpkin Decorating
12:00 – 4:00  Face Painting
12:00 – 2:00: DJ set by Justin Dean Thomas
12:30 – 1:00: Spooky Storytime with Mulberry St Library
12:30 – 1:30: Tai Chi Practice with Tom Sessions
2:00  –  2:30: Welcoming & guest speakers
2:45  –  3:30: Live music by Shareef Keyes & the Groove
4:00  – Closing + CleanupWEAR YOUR COSTUMES! Incidentally, the legal action to save our garden will be heard in New York State Supreme Court on Friday, November 15 at 9:30 a.m.  Mark it in your calendar.
Please forward this email to your friends and neighbors who may not be on our list.  Thank you.
Sincerely,

Sean SweeneyDirector

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

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

Success: Coop/Condo Tax Abatement Extended 2 Years

We are pleased to announce that the coop/condo property tax abatement has been extended for two years.
Last weekend we reported that the city – with only three days left in the legislative session – had still not introduced legislation in Albany to extend the abatement.  We asked you to write your local state electeds and enjoin them to do something fast.
On Monday, our state senator, Brian Kavanagh, sponsored legislation to extend the abatement for two years, co-sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman. It passed Wednesday and the governor is expected to sign it.
Apparently there is a move afoot to fund NYCHA housing repairs by eliminating property tax exemptions for coops and condos.  One bill introduced in the state assembly this winter called for drastic, across the board, cuts in the abatements.  However, it was so broad-based and extreme that de Blasio and other legislators opposed it.
The coop/condo tax abatements were originally established to bring equity in the property tax system, with the logic that if owners of 1- to 3-family homes were getting abatements, so justly should condo/coop homeowners.
Incidentally, the STAR tax exemption and the property tax exemption for seniors remains untouched.
The mayor has set up a commission to recommend reforms in the property tax system. So we expect this issue to rear its head again. We shall keep you informed.  

*****************Another bill that concerned us was a proposal to set time limits for a coop to decide on a new buyer’s application, and to put the reasons in writing for rejecting an applicant. The bill was laid aside until next year.  
By the way, we got much of this information from an excellent new, independent, non-profit news outlet THE CITY.  You can read it here.
*****************Finally, this news article relates the tale of an unethical developer who has submitted spurious data (as well as union-busting) to get a Special Permit from the city for 11,066 sq. ft. of retail on the ground and basement of a new office building on Lafayette Street.  
The SoHo Alliance spoke out against this application at a recent community board meeting. We have enough retail as it is, but we definitely cannot countenance awarding a permit to someone who abuses the process.

Sincerely, 

Sean SweeneyDirector

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

Troubling New Zoning Development

We need you to comment on a sudden troubling development in the zoning initiative for SoHo/NoHo.  Today, Thursday, June 20, is the deadline for public comment.  So comment here now.
At yesterday’s Advisory Group final meeting, it became clear that the city and the facilitator are following the demands of the SoHo Broadway BID and the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and will recommend a change to our zoning that will permit retail uses on the second floor (and possibly upper floors) along Broadway.  Current zoning only allows retail on the ground floor and basement.  
The resident groups on the Advisory Group realize this as an attempt to allow mega-retail on Broadway.  Since the current retail limit is 10,000 sq. ft. per floor, that means 30,000 sq. ft. department stores, with 10,000 sq. ft. each on the basement, ground and second floors.
The commercial interests on the Advisory Group say this only affects Broadway.  But doubling retail usage from the ground to the second floor means double the number of shoppers than we have now, double the congestion on our sidewalks, double the amount of vehicular traffic, more crowded subway platforms, and much more trash left behind by shoppers.
Despite what the commercial interests claim, this doubling of retail use will affect ALL of SoHo/NoHo, since these shoppers are not confined to Broadway.  The spillover will affect all of us.
Preserve your quality-of-life.  Click here and write a brief comment that we do not want retail on the upper floors: don’t turn our community further into a shopping mall.  
Do it now as today is the final day for comment before a report is released later this summer.
Sincerely,

Sean SweeneyDirector

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

info@sohoalliance.orgsohoalliance.org

Coop/Condo Tax Abatement at Risk – Hostile Proposal Advances

Your action is needed = End of Albany session draws near Please Contact Your Assembly & Senate Representatives NOW on these Issues 
Forward this to friends and neighbors.
– LOOMING INCREASE TO PROPERTY TAXES: DeBLASIO ADMINISTRATION HAS NOT INTRODUCED LEGISLATION TO EXTEND COOP/CONDO ABATEMENTS 

With less than four days left in the state legislative session, the City has still not introduced legislation to extend the tax abatement program for qualifying home owners in New York City cooperatives and condominiums.  The abatement is to provide condo/coop owners the same tax break that owners of single-family homes receive.
The legislative session is scheduled to conclude on June 19.  The loss of this program will result in steep increases this year, ranging from 17.5% for higher-end buildings to 28.3% for those least able to afford such a tax increase.  A four year extender of the present abatement program is urgently needed.   
Please ask your Albany lawmakers to support A FOUR YEAR EXTENDER OF THE CURRENT COOP/CONDO ABATEMENT PROGRAM and to push for its immediate enactment. 
Senator Michael Gianaris, Deputy Majority Leader; gianaris@nysenate.govSenator Brian Kavanagh: kavanagh@nysenate.govSenator Brad Hoylman: hoylman@nysenate.govAssemblymember Deborah Glick: glickd@assembly.state.ny.usAssemblymember Yuh-line Niou: niouy@nyassembly.gov
****************************************************************************LEGISLATION SEEKS TO IMPOSE MANDATORY TIME FRAMES AND WRITTEN REASONS IN THE CO-OP ADMISSIONS PROCESS 
A bill introduced by SoHo’s state senator, Brian Kavanagh, would impose a one-size-fits-all time frame on admissions in housing cooperatives and would require that reasons be provided in writing when applicants are rejected.   
It is astonishing that the senator did this without first discussing this issue with any coops/condo boards here in SoHo.  After all, condos and coops are the prime housing stock in our community.
Decades of case history enforce the rights of cooperatives to decide upon prospective purchasers and ample recourse already exists to protect purchasers against discrimination. 
We know of no other business entity in the nation that is required to give written reasons for rejecting a prospective business partner– and a set time frame in which to do it.
This legislation is cumbersome, unnecessary and, if enacted, will discourage volunteers from board service.  
Please ask your Albany lawmakers TO STRONGLY OPPOSE THIS ADMISSIONS LEGISLATION.  Be sure to insert A.1267-A (Perry)/S.6408 /(Kavanagh) in the subject line to help identify the bill.
Specifically request Senator Kavanagh to reconsider this ill-advised bill and speak to his constituents first.
Senator Brian Kavanagh: kavanagh@nysenate.govSenator Brad Hoylman: hoylman@nysenate.govAssemblymember Deborah Glick: glickd@assembly.state.ny.usAssemblymember Yuh-line Niou: niouy@nyassembly.gov

Sincerely,

Sean SweeneyDirector

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

SoHo News Update

On Thursday the City presented preliminary recommendations for changes to SoHo/NoHo land use and zoning.  About two hundred people attended the presentation at the Scholastic Building, with residents and artist-residents predominating.  
Download the presentation here.  We want YOUR FEEDBACK on it.
The Judd Foundation has offered use of its museum space on Monday afternoon June 17 … this is for local folks to drop in, ask us questions, make suggestions, express concerns, and submit feedback and input.  It will be an informal gathering – no presentations.  This meeting at the Judd is for YOU to submit your feedback and thoughts. 
This allows us, as your neighborhood representatives on the SoHo/NoHo Advisory Group, to collect a record of your input and then deliver your thoughts to the project facilitator and its sponsors, Borough President Gale Brewer, Councilmember Margaret Chin and City Planning Director Marisa Lago.  
Where: Judd Foundation, 101 Spring (entry at 108 Mercer)
When: Monday June 17,  2:00 – 5:00
If you absolutely cannot make the Drop-In meeting on June 17, you can send comments to City Planning until June 20 at this link and send a copy to us at info@sohoalliance.org, for our records.
Please forward this email to friends and neighbors.
Sincerely,SoHo AllianceBroadway Residents CoalitionNoHo Neighborhood Association

Rezoning = Prelliminary Recommendations Summary

After five months of pubic meetings and input from diverse stakeholders, the sponsors of a zoning study will finally present their preliminary recommendations to the public this Thursday evening.  
The sponsor will take feedback from this meeting and present a final report later this summer.
Then the report will go to the community board in October where we will have an opportunity to comment on the final report and the board will also provide its own recommendations.  We fully expect this process to result in a significant change to our current zoning.
So please attend this week’s meeting to provide your voice in shaping the final report on our neighborhood’s future.
Where: Scholastic Building Auditorium, 130 Mercer StreetWhen: 6:00 – 8:15, Thursday, June 13
Please forward this to friends and neighbors who may not be on our list.
To learn more or to comment, visit https://www.envisionsohonoho.nyc

Sincerely,

Sean SweeneyDirector

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