The rooftop of the William Vale Hotel isn’t finished yet—right now the floor is covered in some kind of black canvas—but I hardly noticed that when I was 21 stories up, with the Manhattan skyline to the west and all of North Brooklyn surrounding me. Across the river, this altitude is nothing (the Flatiron building is 22 stories, for reference) but in Williamsburg it’s pretty mindboggling.
Housing + Development
A group of a dozen small business owners and community advocates from Bushwick gathered at Esmeralda Valencia’s restaurant on Myrtle Avenue this morning with an alarming message on posterboard: “Los pequeños negocios nos declaramos en crisis”—We small businesses declare ourselves in crisis.
Lillian Melendez still remembers when Clinton Street was a destination for anyone planning a sweet sixteen, baby shower or wedding. “If you were having a party, you had to come to Clinton,” she said. “Clinton was famous, everybody knew Clinton.” As a child she spent afternoons playing in her mother’s shop, Genesis Party Supplies at 97 Clinton, packed with custom wedding and bridesmaids dresses, speciality balloons and centerpieces and themed baby shower chairs and pins. Back then, Genesis held court with three other Latino party shops on that stretch of the block alone– if a customer didn’t find what they wanted at Genesis, her mom would send them next door or across the street.
How many landlords does it take to change a lightbulb? Metropolitan Council on Housing volunteer Mary Crosby posed the rhetorical question to members of the Rent Guidelines Board at last night’s public hearing at Cooper Union. “None, because everyone knows landlords don’t do repairs anymore,” she said. Here’s another one for you: how many owners does it take to change a lightbulb? You’ll never guess… it’s also “none,” she said, “because the owners have removed the light sockets during an eviction.”
An opening for the Chinatown Working Group’s rezoning proposal may finally be on the horizon. Last night, Community Board 3’s chair, Gigi Li, presented a new development to the Land Use Committee– after two years of sending resolutions supporting the plan to the Department of City Planning, its director, Carl Weisbrod, responded on June 7th expressing willingness to engage in discussion. Still, some community groups remain frustrated that the rezoning process isn’t moving fast enough to keep up with the quickening pace of high-rise development, while board members warned that unity from various stakeholders would be key to achieve comprehensive changes.
This morning shoppers looking for American flag swimsuits or bright-patterned leggings at Dr. Jay’s streetwear store in downtown Brooklyn were greeted by a flurry of slogans and posters decrying the brand’s owner, Joseph Betesh, as a slumlord. Tenants from 83 and 85 Bowery were gathered with local activists out front, chanting against Betesh’s efforts to evict them.
Take Million Dollar Listing New York, add some Lonely Island-esque musical comedy, subtract a few zeros, and you’ve got Thousand Dollar Listing. Created by and starring 30-year-old struggling apartment broker Noah Kaplan, the series pilot sheds light on the tough-sell conditions (no windows, no AC) that characterize low(er)-cost tenements in Williamsburg and Bushwick, and keep Kaplan from pocketing even relatively petty commissions.
With the streets of the Lower East Side reshaping themselves faster than any of us can keep track, it’s easy to become a wistful piner for the “good old days,” when a storied building with a 100-year-old storefront was your neighbor instead of all these fresh new high rises. (A teaser site for the Essex Crossing condo building on Broome Street was just released today; the first of its 10 buildings is expected to be finished in the fall.) One longtime resident, Clayton Dean Smith, decided to channel that urge to preserve the neighborhood into an artistic outlet. Maybe he couldn’t save all the buildings he’d come to love over his 16 years in the area, but he could use some of them for the backdrop of a short film that serves as a living time capsule of the neighborhood as it currently exists (or existed, only a year and half ago).
You gotta give it to the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and their friends–they are persistent AF, despite long odds. In their eight-year quest to pass the Chinatown Working Group rezoning proposal, a plan that would create a new special district with more height restrictions and protections to fend off sky-high luxury towers, they’ve kept up a steady stream of rallies against new developments, marches in support of tenants, held town halls (trying to invite the mayor), and even hand-delivered a “gift” to Gracie Mansion.
In New York dingy, overpriced studio apartments manage to command bidding wars, while longtime city-dwellers with sweet rent-regulated deals have come to expect landlord harassment. Meanwhile, archaic affordable-housing lotteries regularly have something like 56,000 people fighting over a handful of slots. We’ve all hear these stories (many times) before– but this city is so wildly unequal that it sometimes feels like we’re all living in separate bubbles, ones that are often completely different from the ones where our neighbors dwell.
But what if you could actually step into the shoes of (or slide into bed with) a New Yorker on the other side of the tracks, so to speak, for a few nights?
This morning, real-estate brokerage firm Eastern Consolidated announced that the retail condo at 17 Orchard Street– otherwise known as homebase of The Fat Radish– was sold. The 2,500 square-foot space was snatched up for $2.5 million by Elijah Equities (a real-estate company that recently made headlines for leasing their 5th avenue storefront to a Chinese burger chain, Uncle Sam Fast Food).
Some people can work wonders in small quarters. (Remember that beautifully organized, itty-bitty kitchen-shower apartment?) I am not one of those people. I’ve lived in a 350-square-foot Lower East Side apartment with my husband for four years, and during that time I’ve managed to keep it in an almost uninterrupted state of mess (except when guests come to stay).