SoHo/NoHo Zoning Update

– If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!– February 6th Public Meeting Still in Limbo
PLEASE FORWARD TO FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS
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.

Sincerely,
Sean SweeneyDirector

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

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
Sincerely,
 
Sean Sweeney
Director
 
SoHo Alliance
PO Box 429
New York, NY 10012
 
212-353-8466
 

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.
 
Regards,
 
Sean Sweeney
Director
 
 
SoHo Alliance
212-353-8466
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.
 
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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 michael.erdman@nypd.org. He can also be reached on his mobile at 929-287-9659 or office at 212-334-6462.
 
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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 sohomemory.org
 
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
 
 
 
Regards,
Sean Sweeney
Director
 
 
SoHo Alliance
212-353-8466
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,
 
Regards,
Sean Sweeney
Director
 
SoHo Alliance
212-353-8466
PO Box 429
New York, NY 10012

– Public Artwork Saved, Street Closings

– Public Artwork Saved
Public art and SoHo’s cultural heritage received a shot in the arm last week from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, when it rejected a request to remove artist Bill Tarr’s steel sculptural door from in front of 102 Greene Street.  The building’s owner sought to replace the sculpture with a display window for a new boutique. The door has been in place for over 45 years, even prior to SoHo’s Landmarks designation in 1973
Bill Tarr was a pioneering SoHo artist and owned the building at the time of the sculpture’s installation. His works include the Martin Luther King Memorial at 122 Amsterdam Avenue near Lincoln Center, as well as the bronze casting “Gates of Hell” at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.  His sculptures have been displayed at the Whitney Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Saving this site-specific work preserves a portion of the historic fabric reflective of the development of the SoHo Cast-Iron Historic District, its cultural past, and is a prominent artifact of SoHo’s artistic streetscape.
The SoHo Alliance submitted testimony in support of preserving the artwork and the Landmarks chair noted that publicly.  The preservation effort was spearheaded by the Broadway Residents Coalition.
– Lower Greene / Upper Mercer Closures Announced
To accommodate a large crane needed in the ongoing construction at 11 Greene Street, Greene Street between Canal and Grand will be intermittently closed to vehicular traffic during the day for a month starting Saturday, January 27 through February 26, seven days a week. Alternative routes include West Broadway or Sixth Avenue.
Mercer Street between Houston and Prince Streets will also be closed during the day to vehicular traffic on February 3 and 4, with rain dates of February 10 and 11.  This also is to accommodate a crane used in the construction of 151 Mercer Street.
Any questions regarding these street closures should be addressed to the permit expediter, whose contact information is shown on the Closure Notifications attached at the bottom of this email.
Regards,
Sean Sweeney
Director
SoHo Alliance
PO Box 429
New York, NY 10012
2 Attachments:

– Street Cleaning Begins

– Street Cleaning Begins

– $60,000 Council Grant Secured
– 32+ New Litter Baskets Purchased
– Clean Up SoHo Announces Launch Party, Sunday, December 10
Dear Beat,
We are pleased to announce that street-cleaning services have returned to SoHo after a year’s hiatus.  Additionally, dozens of new, improved, extra-capacity litter baskets will be appearing next week on a corner near you – all thanks to independent community activism.
When ACE stopped sweeping our sidewalks last November, a grassroots group of residents and businesses, Clean Up SoHo, formed to restore the services we had come to expect.
Although many people were involved in this effort, special kudos must go to Dianne Mendez of SoHo Salon and to Danielle Nazinitsky of Soho Strut. Working with the SoHo Alliance, we have achieved a first for New York City – a community improvement district instead of the usual unwieldy Business Improvement District (BID) model.
First, Clean Uo SoHo launched an education campaign to encourage stores and buildings to sweep their sidewalks regularly, as required by law.  The Department of Sanitation is beginning to issue violations to offenders.
Next we secured initial financial pledges from several individuals, coops, condos, and retail spaces.
However, our real achievement came with a $60,000 grant from the New York City Council via the office of Councilmember Margaret Chin.  We are very grateful for the councilmember’s assistance in funding our clean-up efforts.  SoHo generates incredible revenue for the city in the form of sales and real-estate taxes.  It is gratifying to see some of it come back our way.
Councilmember Corey Johnson, whose district extends westwards from the west side of Thompson Street, also secured council funds to purchase several oversized litter baskets for Prince and Spring Streets, as well as paying for street cleaning at Father Fagan Square on Sixth Avenue. (Incidentally, the park is undergoing restoration which is expected to be completed by January.)
With the $60,000 from Councilmember Chin on hand, Clean Uo SoHo interviewed several non-profit cleaning services.  We selected Wildcat, a 501-c3 nonprofit that provides job opportunities, vocational training, and other resources for struggling New Yorkers seeking to become economically independent.  Incidentally, Wildcat’s estimate was a fraction of ACE’s proposal.
Wildcat began emptying and bagging our litter baskets in early November and you will see its workers in their green overalls, as well as its green plastic bags lining our corner trash bins. Services extend from Mercer Street to Thompson Street, Houston to Canal.
Furthermore, Clean Up SoHo launched a campaign to purchase dozens of oversized litter baskets for our street corners, the sturdy green ones often found in business improvement districts, replacing the flimsy mesh baskets that the city provides.
Over a dozen folk responded and we are delighted to announce that the first batch of eighteen baskets has been approved by the Sanitation Department with a second batch of ten awaiting approval.  The first batch will arrive the first week of December.
First Batch of 18 – Approved by DSNY and Ordered
  1. CBRE – 2 Baskets
  2. Goldman Properties – 1 Basket
  3. 60 Guilders – 6 Baskets
  4. Premier Equities & SoHo Alliance – 8 Baskets
  5. Bloomingdale’s – 1 Basket
Second Batch of 10 – Submitted to DSNY for Approval
  1. Art & Lynn Schnitzer – 1 Basket
  2. Wooster House – 1 Basket
  3. ASB Real Estate – 1 Basket
  4. Greene Street Holding – 1 Basket
  5. 35 Wooster Street – 1 Basket
  6. Joan & Marc Sherman – 2 Baskets
  7. 210 Lafayette – 2 Baskets
  8. 456-8 Broome Street – 1 Basket
Third Batch of 4 – Sponsorship Submitted
  1. 515 Broadway Corp. – 2 Baskets
  2. Elyssa Ackerman – 2 Baskets
A half dozen other individuals and businesses have also expressed interest in sponsorship.
If you, your building or your business would like information on how to sponsor a basket, please email info@sohoalliance.org.  The cost is $1,500 and the basket will have a plaque with the name of the sponsor and a message encouraging a clean SoHo.
Continued Fundraising Required
However, the city council’s $60,000 will only pay for a few months of cleaning service. Now that we have set up the machinery, we strongly urge you or your building to contribute to Clean Up SoHo.
People have asked what is an appropriate amount.   It depends, but we suggest a Dollar-A-Day from each individual or unit, or $365 a year.  So a ten-unit building might decide to give $3650 annually, which is tax-deductible. But whatever can be afforded is welcomed.
Our goal is to have 100 new, oversized litter baskets in SoHo and an annual fundraising campaign of $100,000 for supplemental street cleaning!
There is talk afoot to create a Business Improvement District (BID) for SoHo. That would be terrible. Not only would it give undue influence to its small board of directors, it could result in increased property taxes up to $10 million dollars.
The BID on Broadway has requested a budget increase to $900,000 annually.  That’s just for Broadway.  Multiply that amount by the other dozen or so streets that comprise SoHo and you get an approximate $10 million dollar property tax increase to pay not only for street-cleaning but also for the salaries of the BID employees and its offices.
Considering the increased number of empty stores and pop-ups, can SoHo retail and property owners afford the kind of tax burden BIDs create?  Do residents want to cede power to a corporate structure most of whose members do not live here or care for residents’ concerns?
A tax-deductible contribution to Clean Up SoHo now may save you a lot more in taxes later on, while keeping our neighborhood a desirable place to live and work.
To contribute, please contact danielle@sohostrut.com and/or info@sohoalliance.org
Finally, Clean Up SoHo Announces a Launch Party. The festive event is scheduled for Sunday, December 10 from 7:00 to 8:30 pm at Ray Ban, 116 Wooster Street.  Local residents, business owners and stakeholders are invited for the open house to learn more about the project and to continue our momentum. Tickets are free but you must RSVP to CleanUpSoho.Eventbrite.com
Regards,
Sean Sweeney
Director
SoHo Alliance
PO Box 429
New York, NY 10012

SoHo Alliance is non-partisan

SoHo Alliance is non-partisan. That is why our members are supporting Christopher Marte for City Council on the Independence Party line this Tuesday, November 7.
Background:
In the September Democratic primary election, 54% of Democratic voters soundly rejected Margret Chin.  She received just 48% of the Democratic vote, with Marte coming in a close second at 46% – a mere 222 vote difference out of 11,000 cast.  Two other anti-Chin candidates drained the remaining 10% anti-Chin vote.
But fate was with us.  On the Independence Party line, Chin received five write-in votes but Marte received six!  This stroke of fortune secured Marte a ballot line in the Tuesday election.  It also gives us a second chance to vote Chin out and to vote in this fresh, energetic and unbought candidate.
So ANY voter, regardless of party registration, can vote for Christopher Marte on Tuesday.  If Democrats or Republican partisans feel uncomfortable about voting on a third-party line, they can always write in Marte’s name on the blank line.
Both local Reform political clubs, the Downtown Independent Democrats and the Village Reform Democrats, have endorsed Marte, since Democratic voters clearly don’t want Chin.  Marte has also been endorsed by the Asian-American Democratic Club and the Stonewall Vets Democratic Club.
So Chin is running scared.  So scared, she has aligned herself with a one-man political show from Chelsea, far outside our district.  This operative is noted for his smear tactics, dirty tricks and pay-for-play culture.  Chin’s Chelsea operative has mailed flyers to SoHo voters with absurdist claims that a vote for Christopher Marte on the Independence line is akin to a vote for Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani.  Ignore him. Yes indeed, Chin is running scared.
Turnout in the 2013 mayoral election was 24%. This year it is expected to be significantly lower.  Turnout was only about 11% in the September primary.  So YOUR VOTE Tuesday can count tremendously for SoHo.  Polls are open from 6am to 9pm.  For information on Christopher Marte, visit http://www.martenyc.com
If you cannot vote on Tuesday, you can vote absentee on Monday, November 6 at the Board of Elections office on 200 Varick Street just south of Houston Street.  Bring ID.
If unsure of your polling place, visit https://nyc.pollsitelocator.com/search
Regards,
Sean Sweeney
Executive Director
SoHo Alliance
PO Box 429
New York, NY 10012