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For Immediate Release – August 5, 2019
Contact: Andrew Berman, Exec. Dir., Village Preservation
(the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation)
917-533-1767 or



Manhattan — In response to the groundbreaking ceremony held today for the 14th Street Tech Hub, Andrew Berman, Executive Director of Village Preservation (the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation), issued the following statement :

“Rather than a cause for celebration, the groundbreaking ceremony for the 14th Street Tech Hub calls for serious examination of the corrupt process which led to its approval and the sweetheart deal it gave to several donors to the Mayor.  The majority of this project is purely for-profit commercial office space being built on highly valuable public land for a song, when other bidders on the project would have included more public space and benefits and not required the commercial upzoning so opposed by the neighborhood.  This sad saga is rife with broken commitments and promises made by both the Mayor and Councilmember Carlina Rivera regarding protections and mitigations for the surrounding neighborhood.  A year after this backroom deal was approved by the City Council, virtually none of the incredibly meager steps which were supposed to be taken to address concerns about the impact of the huge project and its commercial upzoning have been taken, and of course even they were a pale shadow of what Councilmember Rivera promised would be necessary to win her approval of the project.”

After months of research and Freedom of Information Requests, Village Preservation exposed the terms of the Mayor’s 14th Street Tech Hub deal and upzoning (read the report with full details), which included that:
  • The developer of the planned 22-story office tower on the site will actually be paying less in rent to the City than the 2-story PC Richards store which operated there for decades.
  • The City had absolutely no written records – no notes, no scoring sheet, no criteria for evaluation – of why the developer who was selected was chosen over other, less controversial and less impactful plans. While other bidders did not ask for or require the controversial upzoning for the site which allowed a large increase in the amount of purely for-profit, commercial office space to be developed on the site, and which increases development pressure upon the surrounding neighborhood, this one did.
  • RAL Development, the winning bidder for the project, made at least $10,000 in contributions to Mayor de Blasio’s non-profit “Campaign for One New York” at the time that they were seeking selection, while the head of Suffolk Construction, their partners in the project, threw a $5,000/head fundraiser for the Mayor’s group.  RAL Development principals, the head of Suffolk Construction, and several of their spouses made substantial donations to the Mayor’s presidential campaign.  Additionally, their lobbyist for the project, James Capalino, is known to have bundled tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to the Mayor.
The good government group Citizen Union called the revelations of how the Mayor handled this selection process “really bad,” “not above board,” and part of “a pattern” of favoring campaign donors by the Mayor.

Additionally, when Councilmember Rivera ran for City Council in 2017, she publicly committed in writing on a candidate questionnaire from Village Preservation that she would only approve the Mayor’s proposed Tech Hub on 14th Street if the Mayor agreed to the comprehensive landmark and zoning protections for the adjacent Greenwich Village/East Village neighborhood, saying “without the needed zoning protections for the neighborhood, [the Tech Hub] would lead to acceleration in out of scale development for the surrounding residential neighborhood.”  However, last summer, she led the City Council in approving the upzoning necessary for the Tech Hub with just a fraction of a fraction of the promised neighborhood protections as part of the announced deal (click here for a chart comparing the “neighborhood protections” agreed to as part of the Tech Hub approval and those which had been promised by Councilmember Rivera as a condition of her support for the Tech Hub).  A year after Councilmember Rivera announced the deal to approve the Tech Hub in August of 2018, the several promised steps to be taken to protect the surrounding neighborhood from the impacts of the development have largely still not been enacted, which included: Additionally, when testifying before the City Council to seek approval for the project, the Tech Hub developer RAL Development explicitly committed that all demolition and construction work would be done within the bounds of the property and that neither the sidewalk on 14th Street nor the roadbed would be encroached upon. Instead, with City permission, the developer has encroached upon the sidewalk and two of three lanes of eastbound traffic, forcing pedestrians waiting for the bus to stand in the street, and completely blocking the single remaining lane of eastbound traffic when MTA buses stop to pick up and let off passengers in front of the Tech Hub site (where a bus stop is located). Only after Village Preservation complained about this did the City re-open one of the two lanes of traffic which had been closed and move the bus stop.

Since the City Council approved the Mayor’s upzoning for a Tech Hub on 14th Street directly adjacent to this area, one of the neighborhood’s most historic and beloved buildings, the former St. Denis Hotel at 799 Broadway/80 E. 11th Street, has been demolished to make for a glass office tower for tech firms (now being constructed), illustrating the development pressure the area is facing and the impact the approval of the Tech Hub and upzoning is having on this neighborhood.  Built in 1853, the St. Denis was once one of the grandest hotels in America, whose guests included Mark Twain, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Buffalo Bill, and P.T. Barnum.  Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated his new invention, the telephone, there for the first time in New York, and in later years the revolutionary artist Marcel Duchamp had his studio there.  Over the protests (here, here, and here) of Village Preservation and thousands of neighborhood residents, the City refused to consider this or other historic buildings in the area for landmark designation.

For images of and information about the endangered historic area south of Union Square which Village Preservation is seeking to preserve, see here.



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