Village Victories!

Never underestimate the power of a neighborhood — despite hard times, the East Village ended 2008 with some uplifting triumphs

It may be a new year, it’s never too late to celebrate two major advances at the end of 2008:

ZONING CHANGE, East Village / Lower East Side:

In a victory enabled by your support, the City Council unanimously approved a sweeping 111 block rezoning of the East Village and the Lower East Side at the end of November, bringing crucial changes to our neighborhood.  The height of buildings was substantially limited. Plus, the Community Facility bonus was eliminated; this means that residential and community facility buildings are now governed by the same bulk and height guidelines as all other buildings. For instance, the 27 story (and subsequent 19 story) “dormitory” once planned for the former El Bohio / CHARAS site (the old PS 64), would never be allowed, regardless of landmark designation.

For three years LESCAZ, a wide alliance of community groups of which the EVCC is a founding member, advocated for this zoning plan, fighting also for more affordable units and stronger anti-harassment provisions.  We congratulate David McWater, former Chair of Community Board 3, for his work advancing this plan to Margarita Lopez, our former City Councilmember, and Rosie Mendez, our current Councilmember, all of whom were crucial in the approval of the plan.

The EVCC is proud to have pioneered this effort beginning four years ago, sitting with the Chair and other members of the Department of City Planning in November, 2004 to discuss an appropriate zoning  for the East Village.  The EVCC met a number of times with Department members and in June, 2005 presented “Rezoning the East Village: A Discussion Paper” to Community Board 3, a zoning study prepared on our behalf by BFJ Planning.  This study became the  foundation upon which our Community Board began work with City Planning.  We are deeply proud of our contribution to this effort, and we’re proud of the community for achieving this change.


Also in November, State Supreme Court Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich dismissed an attempt from the current owner of old PS 64, the former El Bohio / CHARAS to overturn the Landmark Commission’s 2006 decision to grant landmark status to the building.  Justice Kornreich dismissed the  developer’s argument that the building was ineligible for landmark designation since the facade had been stripped of much of its decorative ornament. Judge Kornreich said the deliberate removal of these architectural details failed to undermine the former elementary school’s architectural significance or its historic and cultural associations, which served as the basis for the  Commission’s decision to landmark the building.

This was the second time in 2008 that a court ruled in favor of the Landmark Commission (and earlier also for the Department of Buildings), and against the current owner of old PS 64. The EVCC led a Friend of the Court Brief in this case, which was decided unanimously against the current owner in the NY State Court of Appeals.

If our neighborhood could accomplish all that in the final months of 2008, you can be sure there’s plenty of great progress to come in 2009. You’ll be hearing from us…