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February 4, 2016

IN THIS ISSUE

Citywide Rezoning Plan Final Hearing Feb. 10

Pier 40/St. John’s Plan Still Lacking

Business of the Month – Save St. Mark’s Books!




Citywide Rezoning Plan Final Hearing Feb. 10

On Wednesday the City Planning Commission voted 9-3-1 to approve the Mayor’s ‘Zoning for Quality & Affordability’ (ZQA) plan, which would gut neighborhood zoning protections by lifting height limits for new development in residential areas throughout the city.  All of the Mayor’s appointees to the Commission voted in favor, as did the Manhattan Borough President’s and the Brooklyn Borough President’s.  The appointees of the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island Borough Presidents vote no, while the Public Advocate’s appointee abstained. The plan was approved with only minor changes which did not substantively address the concerns expressed by GVSHP, more than fifty of the City’s fifty-nine community boards, or thousands of New Yorkers.  The Real Estate Board of New York has expressed support for the plan.

Now ZQA heads to the City Council, which has the final say.  The Council can approve, disapprove, or modify. Many Councilmembers have expressed serious reservations about the plan, but as has been widely reported, the Mayor has been doing quite a bit of horse-trading to try to secure the votes necessary for passage.

ZQA will have long-lasting effects upon development in our neighborhoods, turning back the clock on years of progress to protect community scale and character.

HOW TO HELP:

  • Write the City Council NOW urging them to reject the Mayor’s rollback of neighborhood zoning protections > >

  • Come to the public hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 10 and testify AGAINST the rezoning plan.  The hearing begins at 9:30 am at City Hall, though public testimony is not expected to begin until 11:30 am.  Speakers get 3 minutes.  Click here for more details and how you can track the progress of speakers.  Use the sample letter here as testimony.

  • If you can’t make it on the 10th, you can also testify on Feb. 9.  That hearing also begins at 9:30 am at City Hall, though public testimony is not expected to begin until 11:30 am.  Speakers get 3 minutes.  Click here for more details and how you can track the progress of speakers.  Use the sample letter here as testimony.

Pier 40/St. John’s Plan Still Lacking

The proposal for a massive upzoning of the St. John’s Terminal site at Houston and West Street continues the environmental review process, and is expected to begin the public review and approval process soon. 

Utilizing 200,000 square feet of air rights to be transferred from nearby Pier 40 in the Hudson River Park, the plan would allow a five-building, nearly 2 million square foot complex of apartments (25% affordable), hotels, events space, large-scale retail, and possibly an enormous underground big box store.  The complex would reach the same height as the Trump SoHo at its tallest point, and would be the equivalent in size of six Trump SoHos, or three-quarters the size of the Empire State Building.  The developer would pay $100 million towards Pier 40 repairs in exchange for the air rights, and would also receive  zoning change that would lift current restrictions on limiting new development to office, commercial, and retail use, allowing the much more lucrative residential and hotel development (read the full proposal here).

In spite of the plan being poised to begin the public approval process, fundamental questions remain unanswered.  We still have no further information from the Hudson River Park Trust about how many air rights would remain on Pier 40 or elsewhere in the park that could potentially be used in the future to further increase the size and scale of allowable development in our neighborhood, much less any agreement to limit or curtail those air rights transfers in the future if this is approved.  We have seen no movement from the City on approving zoning protections for the nearby South Village which we have been pushing for over two years, though this area faces increasing development pressure which would only be increased by the plan.  And we have still seen no justification for the incredibly generous giveaway to this developer in exchange for the one-time payment to Pier 40 and the amount of affordable housing being provided.

Read more in GVSHP’s op-ed in this week’s The Villager newspaper.



HOW TO HELP:

Business of the Month - Save St. Mark's Books!

Today we feature our latest Business of the Month — and we need your help selecting the next. Tell us which independent store you love in Greenwich Village, the East Village or NoHo: just click here to vote for your favorite.  Want to help support small businesses?  Share this post with friends.

St. Mark’s Bookshop has been a part of the East Village since the 1970s.  Unlike the large chain stores we are accustomed to now, St. Mark’s specializes in small and independent press, periodicals and journals.  Though it has moved over the years, St. Mark’s has managed to remain a presence within the East Village, serving students at the local universities as well as maintaining a stock that has attracted people from all over the world to their shelves.  What set St. Mark’s apart from other bookstores at the time was their wide range of books on critical theory, especially Post-Structuralism.

Originally located on St. Mark’s Place, in the 1990’s, Cooper Union solicited St. Mark’s to be their commercial tenant in one of their 3rdAvenue buildings, offering a very reasonable rent and a 15 year lease.  However, with restructuring within the institution, their rent was raised dramatically.

A campaign was launched and spearheaded by the Cooper Square Committee to save St. Mark’s Bookshop and, while successful in reducing the rent, it was still too much for the small bookstore to afford.  They eventually ended up finding a space at 136 east 3rd Street near Avenue A, in the historic (and landmarked) First Houses, where they remain today, surviving, albeit at a somewhat reduced scale.

Said owner Bob Contant:

“It took us quite a while to find a space.  We found the space we’re in now on 3rd Street and Avenue A, and it’s extremely reasonable rent, but it’s got a marginal location.  For people who visited our old store on 3rd Avenue, that was ideal.  It was a main drag, it was close to the subways, it was close to CU, NYU, and the New School.  Now we’re in a neighborhood and while it’s nice to be in a neighborhood we don’t have the kind of business that we had then, although we’re smaller and we have less staff we don’t need the same level of business to survive, but we do need to be restocked.”

Bob further explains what makes this store so special and unique compared to the others in the neighborhood:

“We have a lot of small press, both literature and poetry.  We have an extremely wide range of periodicals and journals, probably the biggest selection in the city.  That includes almost every literary journal being published, plus a lot of other areas including music and fashion and art.  We do have a clientele that keeps coming back every month to get the new issue of whatever it is, so there’s that that keeps us current.  We try and pick up on the more interesting titles that are kind of below the radar but are very popular with our clientele.”

St. Marks’s biggest challenge today is restocking their store.  Back in December, they started a GoFundMe campaign to try and raise money to obtain new stock.  You can support the store’s campaign, and help one of the few Village entities left that supports local and independent publishing and writers.

Read more
here.

With GVSHP's "Business of the Month" program, each month a local, independent business is featured on GVSHP's website, blog and social media, to showcase one of our neighborhoods' great and unique commercial treasures.  We hope it will increase support and patronage, aiding our local small businesses' health and viability.  We're asking you, the public, to nominate your favorite businesses for consideration for our "Business of the Month." To nominate a business just fill in this brief form.  See our past Businesses of the Month here.


 

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