Friday, August 17, 2018

BDB/DM Glen & REBNY Together Forever; NYC Suffers

I realize it's very, very easy to be overwhelmed by what's happening at the federal level and the daily travesties committed by the Trump administration it's almost understandable to overlook what's going on in New York City. Almost.

Things are equally egregious here, just within a different context. The full NYC Council just voted to approve both the Inwood Upzoning (with minor changes) AND the de Blasio-promoted Tech Hub at Union Square (with little-to-no meaningful zoning and affordable housing protections). Both projects are wildly unpopular within their respective communities.

Speaking of "tech hubs," how many is the Administration now pushing? I know there's one based in the old Brooklyn Navy Yard, one for Downtown Brooklyn, a tech hub in Manhattan's rezoned Grand Central area; there's also a rumor of one proposed within the Inwood Upzoning. How many are actually necessary? And doesn't this push for tech jobs--at the cost of so much else including saving small businesses--imply a certain level of elitism? Not what one would expect from such a "progressive" leader.....

Perhaps the worst part of the 14th Street "Tech Hub" is that despite the repeated campaign promises of then-council candidate Carlina Rivera while she was running, she fecklessly voted affirmatively without those very protections she swore would ultimately determine her vote. Did she lie? (I wonder what was the underlying quid pro quo from the de Blasio administration to buy her vote--obviously, precedence has already proven priority was not to benefit her constituents, who deserve better.

Ed. Note: Like many EV residents, I called to object to Rivera's vote in the Zoning subcommittee for the tech hub without these vital safeguards. On August 3, 2018, I spoke with her legislative director who told me she was still in negotiations with the city and her vote was merely a procedural one. Given the final outcome, was this just continuation of the lie? 

As accurately depicted by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP)what ultimately passed was a "fraction of a fraction" of what is necessary to truly protect the contiguous neighborhoods. It and many other community organizations are especially concerned with how market pressures will manifest because of these developments--both on existing tenants and small businesses. 

After passing the full Council, GVSHP rightfully pulled no punches about what transpired. "It's a shame that the Mayor is so invested in protecting his real estate donor friends that he would not consider real but reasonable zoning protections .... But of course, as always, the Mayor’s campaign donors got a very good deal out of this."

A special shout-out was reserved for Rivera: "It's also a shame that our local CM caved to the Mayor and broke a promise she publicly made that these real protections were part of any final deal. They’re not, and the deal approved today will do very little to protect this neighborhood."  

Critically, as GVSHP notes, any benefits Rivera maintains will come to the neighborhood did not require the large commercial upzoning the Council approved--and which inevitably will open a Pandora's Box to development.

Perhaps to quell the backlash that Rivera shockingly did not see coming, her office released a letter on August 13th (conveniently after the full Council already approved the hub) requesting City Planning (DCP) require a special site-specific permit for hotel development so they can only be constructed where it's deemed appropriate south of Union Square. (I wonder what that criteria will be and who will be deciding?) 

The phrase 'too little, too late' is woefully enormously inadequate.

Rivera's plan is "a pale shadow of the zoning protections she publicly promised would be necessary for her to approve the "Tech Hub"," GVSHP wrote in a rebuttal to Rivera's latest request to DCP. 

The organization maintains the special hotel permit "will have little to no effect on the development problems" exacerbated by the hub,  proceeding to break down point by point how truly useless and meaningless her appeal really is. "CM Rivera broke her promise to the community ... Trying to pass off flimsy measures with little effect as the protections this community fought for won't change that."

In terms of Inwood, the CM, Ydanis Rodriguez, has never heeded the overwhelming community opposition other than with lip service. The Inwood community has been well organized, outspoken and went so far as to offer its own compromise proposals through groups like Inwood Preservation (IP). One of its founders, Maggie Clarke, who has a PhD in environmental science and has lived in Inwood for 40 years emailed, "It was all done behind closed doors. We don't even know exactly what they voted on." 

On the 'compromise' to which Rodriguez allegedly agreed, Clarke noted, "Just to be clear, our entire Uptown United Plan was a compromise. It proposed more building than there is now. What folks don't understand is when you jump from [current zoning] R7 to R8 and R9 (which is still in the plan), and where much of the area's commercial and industrial is only 1 or 2 stories, the impacts will be very large...Saying excising the [commercial] U is a big concession is like saying we were only stabbed 2 times in the heart rather than 3.... But our CM doesn't get it."

To that end, an impromptu sit-in was held in Rodriguez district office shortly after the committee vote. No, it didn't accomplish much, but it was heartening to see organic resistance rising up. 

As in countless areas across the entire city, the very essence that makes a neighborhood unique and so very New York are the very elements the administration is permitting to be systematically dismantled--all so private developers can reap bigger profits.

Sooner or later though, city residents are going to finally say 'enough' to Mayor de Blasio's pay-to-play policies and to his REBNY-backed allies in government, like Carlina Rivera, Ydanis Rodriguez and too, too many more. Think of the 1976 movie Network, with its classic scene in which Peter Finch tells his news audience, "I'm a human being goddammit. My life has value. So, I want you to get up now, I want all of you to get out of your chairs, I want you to get up right now and go the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"  So applicable today on so many levels...

Recently, this little nugget was reported which I'm sure most people missed. And why not? We've become inured to these kind of travesties. Check out the affordability threshold: 72K- 95-K for a studio! If someone earning that much money as a single person (which is the presumed justification for the small space of a studio ie it's too small for a family), how on earth can that person need to be subsidized--which is exactly what's happening, as opposed to oft-repeated misnomer about rent regulations. If there was ever any question or ambiguity about de Blasio's "affordable" housing plan, I think that's been put to rest with a resounding THUD.

Based on what we've witnessed over the last five years--the so-called affordable housing plan affordable to almost no one; ZQA; MIH; the upzonings of middle-and working-class neighborhoods, just to name a few--does ANYONE believe somehow the BDB/DM Glen mission miraculously changed to finally help the people who actually need it the most and not their developer allies?