City Planning Reduces Height Increases Planned for Contextual Zones, Reforms Community Process

The Department of City Planning announced that it will present to 51 community boards before further action is taken on the Zoning for Quality and Affordability plan introduced in February. The change is a response community opposition from neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs expressed during the comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. In the East Village, the R8B designations south of Tompkins Square Park will increase by 5 feet. The rest of the neighborhood under R7A zoning remains planned to absorb more generous height lifts including a 5-foot increase with the option to build up to 105 feet for affordable senior or Inclusionary Housing.

The contextual zone in the East Village was enacted in 2008 following a three-year community process. The height restrictions help protect existing buildings and the neighborhood scale.

Read the letter from City Planning Chairman Carl Weisbrod in full.

The East Village Merchants Association Launches “East Village Loves”, A Campaign To Support Merchants Affected By The East Village Blast

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“East Village Loves” will highlight the East Village merchants affected by the tragic Second Avenue blast and emphasize that they are now fully open for business.

Independent entrepreneurs in the East Village in conjunction with the East Village Independent Merchants Association (EVIMA) have announced the launch of “East Village Loves,” a campaign created to highlight local businesses in the East Village. Utilizing the #eastvillageloves hashtag, the campaign will call for New Yorkers to shop in the East Village and support the establishments most affected by the blast.

On March 26th, a devastating explosion and fire leveled three historic buildings at the corner of Second Avenue and East 7th Street tragically claiming two lives, destroying dozens of homes, and displacing several businesses both temporarily and permanently. Over thirty-eight establishments lost business due to barricades, blocked traffic, emergency operations, and a broader avoidance of the site by visitors.

In the wake of these events, neighborhood business leaders, local elected officials and the East Village Independent Merchants Association (EVIMA) have rallied to celebrate that the East Village is here and open for business. Nearly all businesses affected by the blast have re-opened on Second Avenue and East Sixth Street, East Seventh Street, and St. Marks Place, and regular vehicular and foot traffic has resumed.

Now is the perfect time to visit the East Village, to support the places that have been difficult to access and to find new favorites among a widely diverse retail and food landscape.

Through “East Village Loves” merchants, residents, and visitors can share their favorite East Village spots and the types of industries that they love most. The campaign is a celebration of the rich, diverse, and historic neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, characterized by a concentration of mom-and-pop establishments that are becoming less common throughout the city.

The campaign will have a presence at major public events associated with Lower East Side History Month in May, including the 39th Annual Ukrainian Festival from May 15th through 17th.

The campaign’s chosen slogan commemorates the vintage shop Love Saves the Day, made famous by the 1980s film Desperately Seeking Susan. The inimitable shop closed its reign at the ill-fated corner of Second Avenue and East 7th Street in 2009.

#SaveNYC

Consider joining #SaveNYC, a grassroots, crowd-sourced, DIY movement to protect and preserve the diversity and uniqueness of the urban fabric in New York City.

As our vibrant streetscapes and neighborhoods are turned into bland, suburban-style shopping malls, filled with chain stores and glossy luxury retail, #SaveNYC is fighting for small businesses and cultural institutions to remain in place.

The mission is to bring attention to the plight of Mom and Pop, and to lobby state and city government to implement significant and powerful protections for small businesses and cultural institutions across the five boroughs of New York City.

The devastation has been overwhelming. Protecting what remains will require a multi-pronged approach. First steps:

• To raise awareness, the #SaveNYC website gathers video and photographic testimonials from people everywhere who love New York and want to see its diverse culture and heritage protected. The group tweets and posts on Instagram with the hashtag #SaveNYC, and run a Facebook group.

• The first political objective is to pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (0402-2014). This bill will make it possible for small businesses to negotiate fair lease renewals with landlords, thus stemming the tide of mass evictions and catastrophic rent hikes.

Learn more about #SaveNYC and how to get involved today

NY State Court of Appeals Agrees to Hear Case Against NYU Expansion Plan

In the latest installment of the ongoing struggle against NYU’s huge expansion plan, the State’s highest court, the New York State Court of Appeals, has agreed to hear a case that was filed by petitioners in mid-November regarding public parkland. The lawsuit has passed through two lower courts, with differing results. Those following the dispute, especially park advocates, are awaiting a verdict that could have massive ramifications on the way that the City and the State deal with public parks in the future.

On October 14th, the Appellate Division’s First Department overturned a lower court’s decision that would have spared three parks—Mercer Playground, LaGuardia Park and LaGuardia Corner Gardens—from destruction under NYU’s current expansion plan. According to the lower court’s ruling, all three strips are public parks, and therefore entitled to protection, since the public has been using them as parks for many years, making them “implied” parkland, with the City funding, labeling and maintaining them as parks.

NYU and the City counter-argued that those parks aren’t really parks, since they were never “mapped” as parks (a bureaucratic technicality), and are nominally overseen by the City’s Department of Transportation. The First Department’s decision would allow NYU to raze those treasured parks to make way for its vast expansion plan, and set a precedent that could potentially threaten countless public parks throughout the City and the State.

Petitioners, NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Historic Districts Council, Washington Square Village Tenants’ Association, East Village Community Coalition, Friends of Petrosino Square, LaGuardia Corner Gardens, Inc., Lower Manhattan Neighbors’ Organization, SoHo Alliance, Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, NoHo Neighborhood Association, Assembly Member Deborah Glick and 10 other individuals, are represented on a pro bono basis by the law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, with Randy Mastro as lead attorney.

Their motion papers make clear that “the First Department’s decision disregarded well-established common law principles for determining when municipal land has been impliedly dedicated for parks usage. In recognition of the unique value that public parks hold for children, families, and communities, the Public Trust Doctrine accords parkland special protection.”

The petitioners are asking the Court of Appeals to consider two issues: that the First Department’s decision actually conflicts with prior appellate court decisions, and prior decisions by the Court of Appeals itself, about this kind of “implied” parkland, and that the First Department’s decision, if left intact, will have the effect of abolishing implied dedication—a consequence with widespread negative effects, not just in New York City, but throughout the State.

Parks and open spaces are protected by the Public Trust Doctrine, which maintains that the government holds the titles to certain waters and lands in trust for the people. In New York State, if an entity wishes to develop or remove a parcel of parkland from public ownership and use, it must follow a legal process called “alienation,” which, among other conditions, requires approval from the state Legislature. This was not done in the case of the Village parks that NYU wants to destroy for its ill-advised expansion plan. The First Department’s decision flies in the face of this doctrine and of its own decisions, and would imperil all kinds of public and green spaces throughout the state; it would leave ordinary New Yorkers with no protection against the removal and abuse of open spaces and parks for development.

City issues permits for restoration work at P.S. 64

Since receiving the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s blessing in 2013, Gregg Singer may finally be moving forward with restoration work at former P.S. 64/ CHARAS – El Bohio. The landmarked school building has been vacant following the eviction of the former tenants of El Bohio led by CHARAS in 2001. The City reversed its short-lived approval for plans to convert the building into a multi-school “dormitory” this past September.

The project’s future is uncertain, but the exterior work may begin soon. The owner got the okay from Landmarks more than a year ago to perform restorative work to replace damaged architectural details and to install new windows. Two permits from the Department of Buildings issued in January allow for repairs to the dormers, mansard roof, roofing, and the facade. LPC also supported alterations to carve along the edges of the raised courtyards to create windows at ground level for dorm rooms. It does not appear that the permits issued allow for this component of the work.

While the permits are dated 2015, the owner set the start date for the work in August, prior to the project’s approval and subsequent Stop Work Order. The DOB maintains its objections to the dormitory plan, which Singer will need to resolve before moving forward with any interior work. We support the City’s objections to the project as presented and maintain that a dormitory is an improper use for the site.

Old P.S 64 has endured several major weather events while unsealed including Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy. The condition of the building is not entirely due to wear-and-tear; at the time of landmarks designation, many architectural details suffered damage by the workers. Facade and architectural restoration work is welcome if it will protect this historic neighborhood gem. We will watch to see if, after years of decay, some restorative work begins here.

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Petition: Establish a Community Gardens District in Community Board 3

Petitioning the City Of New York to
Establish a Community Gardens District that includes all community gardens within Community Board 3, and map and designate these gardens as parklands.

On January 15th, the CB3 Parks Committee unanimously passed a resolution in support of establishing a Community Gardens District. The full board will vote at their monthly item on Thursday, January 29th at University Settlement, Speyer Hall, 184 Eldridge Street (btwn Rivington & Delancey Sts). Supporters of the district are encouraged to attend.

Community Board 3 (CB3) is the birthplace of community gardens in New York City and New York State. In 1973, the first garden was established in CB3 by local activists who worked to reverse years of decline and neglect by public and private property owners.

At one time, there were fifty-seven registered community gardens in CB3, and dozens more operating independently. As the neighborhood evolved, however, numerous gardens were bulldozed as development proceeded.

Today, there are still forty-six community gardens located in CB3 – the highest density in New York City. Community Board 3 has been strengthened by the history of its community gardens, which provide environmental, cultural, aesthetic, ecological, economic, and artistic benefits to this community, and more.

While gardens located on City-owned lots are of indisputable value, they unfortunately are not permanent. We are asking that all community gardens in CB3 be mapped and designated as parklands by the City of New York, designated a special Community Gardens District, and continue to be managed by community-based volunteers.

Sign the petition to show your support.

Holiday Card Campaign: Ask for the return of our community center

3-kings-day-flyerHOLIDAY CARD CAMPAIGN DELIVERY!

SOCCC-64 (SAVE OUR COMMUNITY CENTER former CHARAS/El BOHIO P.S. 64) is writing & collecting personalized holiday cards to ask Mayor De Blasio to return our community center! Make your own card or use the downloadable template — just add your name and address!

Then…

JOIN US with the Three Kings and their camels

TO DELIVER our cards to the mayor

WHEN:
Three Kings Day – Tuesday, January 6, 2015

SCHEDULE:
If it’s 40 degrees or above…
12:00 noon – Meet at 605 East 9th Street (btwn Aves. B & C)
12:30 p.m. – March or Take Public Transportation to City Hall

And/Or
1:30 p.m. – Meet Us at City Hall Plaza

NOTE: If it is too cold or wet, below 40 degrees…we will not march to City Hall
Gather at City Hall Plaza (across from the Brooklyn Bridge) at 1:30 pm

Plan to remove buildings from LPC’s calendar dropped

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Nearly one hundred potential landmarks are protected after the Landmarks Preservation Commission withdrew its proposal to remove these buildings from its calendar for consideration. The vote planned for this week would have unilaterally “de-calendared” buildings in all five boroughs, leaving them open to alteration or demolition without review.

In the East Village, 138 Second Avenue is among the buildings that could have lost this crucial protective status. This 19th-century federal-style home was declared worthy of consideration in 2009. Without a vote in October, the neighborhood’s newest designated landmark Tifereth Israel would have also been removed from LPC’s calendar for consideration. The community achieved a swift victory in part because the building, calendared in 1966, was immediately eligible for a hearing and designation.

Former commissioners found the buildings on the list worthy of LPC’s consideration. If de-calendared, each building would need to be calendared again – a required step in the landmarks process – before coming before today’s commission for designation.

The LPC also drew criticism for failing to schedule public review of the controversial plan. We are grateful to be a part of a preservation community that created the awareness that successfully ended the proposal. We urge the LPC to dedicate its resources to hearing these structures individually for designation.

 

11/17: TOWN HALL to Save our Community Center

Town Hall

TOWN HALL
Save Our Community Center

November 17, 2014
6:30pm-8:30pm
Casa Victoria, 308 East 8th Street (between Avenues B & C)

Join Council Member Rosie Mendez and elected officials, neighbors, and community organizations in an important discussion about the status of former P.S. 64 at 605 East 9th Street. Organize to return the building to community use!

HDC Releases “A Proven Success: How the New York City Landmarks Law and Process Benefit the City”

The Historic Districts Council recently released A Proven Success: How the New York City Landmarks Law and Process Benefit the City. This report shows how 49 years of activities by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) have affected New York City in a variety of positive ways. The report examines the correlation between urban planning, affordable housing, gentrification, tax revenue and job creation within historic districts.

A Proven Success examines the Real Estate Board of New York’s long history of opposition to both the Law and the LPC. It documents REBNY’s even longer history (90 years) of opposition to affordable housing by consistently advocating for higher rents on rent-regulated apartments, de-regulation, and vacancy decontrol. The report also makes clear that the Landmarks Law and the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the city agency charged with upholding that law, have not contributed to a housing crisis. Designation has in fact stabilized and enriched our neighborhoods, drawing development to previously ignored parts of the city.

A Proven Success is a great resource for those interested in New York real estate and development. It is a voice of reason to balance the roar of real estate lobbyists who have sought to dominate public and political conversation about historic preservation in our city. When you support historic preservation efforts, you show your constituents that you care about the past and future of their neighborhoods.

Read the full report. For more information contact our colleagues at the Historic District Council:  Executive Director Simeon Bankoff at 212-614-9107 or hdc@hdc.org.

East Village Community Coalition
143 Avenue B - Simplex
New York, NY 10009
212-979-2344