Over 300 residents of the Lower East Side and Chinatown gathered in a Bowery gym for Mayor de Blasio’s 27th town hall Wednesday, and we probably don’t have to tell you what the theme of the evening was. You guessed it: gentrification, particularly with regard to the 60-plus-story towers rising over Two Bridges.
It’s too late to save Rivington House, the former HIV treatment facility that a non-profit nursing home operator unexpectedly flipped to a luxury developer after the city quietly lifted a deed restriction. But a bill signed into law today should do something to prevent buildings designated for community use from becoming luxury condos.
The new law requires the city to maintain a searchable online database of properties with deed restrictions, and forces developers who want to have them lifted to inform their local City Council member, community board, and borough president. The law requires the mayor, a specially formed committee, and the Department of City Planning to review any such requests, and approve them with the mayor’s personal sign-off only if they’re deemed to be in the city’s best interest. While there had been talk of requiring the city’s stringent Uniform Land Use Review Procedure in such scenarios, the new law stops short of that.
Perhaps you thought that the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side sounded angry earlier this year when about 60 activists associated with the group gathered outside Gracie Mansion in the bitter February cold to protest the mayor’s “big scam” of a housing plan. But that demonstration was nothing compared to the one staged Thursday, when the Coalition led a large, supremely loud protest against the loss of affordable housing.
If the Olympics put you in the mood for serving and spiking, here’s some good news: The Henry M. Jackson Playground is getting a volleyball area. It’s just one of many perks coming to two Lower East Side playgrounds as part of a city initiative to modernize ailing parks.
Most New Yorkers don’t like to be reminded that the current orange-hued Republican presidential nominee is technically one of us. Yes, it’s true. Say it with us: Donald J. Trump is a New Yorker. (Ugh– we know, we hate to admit it too). Considering that Trump’s name can be found all over the city, usually in huge gold letters, you’d think that our tiny-handed GOP candidate has something to prove. Whatever the motive, Trump’s habit of branding his structures with his own name serves as a constant, nauseating reminder of his inextricable ties to the city.
In 2013 Mayor Bill De Blasio was voted into office with pledges to reign in police violence and stop-and-frisk policing targeted at blacks and latinos. (Remember that emotional video about needing to have stop-and-frisk conversations with his son, Dante?) And since he took office, street-stops have continued on a downward trend–there were about 24,000 stops last year, a far cry from the peak of 685,000 in 2011 under Bloomberg.
Last night council members Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez visited Community Board 3 to face the music and explain their votes on the mayor’s affordable housing and rezoning plan, which was approved by the City Council in March. The plan will allow developers to build higher in rezoned neighborhoods, but require them to include at least 25 percent affordable housing in all new buildings.
Democratic District Leader Alice Cancel picked up two more endorsements today in the run up to a special election on April 19 to replace Sheldon Silver’s seat in the New York State Assembly. Both Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez, downtown councilmembers, said Cancel was the right choice for the job.
“Alice knows the community, she knows our schools, she knows our small businesses, she knows about public housing and she’s worked with the tenants,” said Chin in her endorsement. “She’s a district leader that works with the elected officials. When there’s a problem in the community, she calls them.”
Public officials are demanding, in louder and louder voices, to know why and how the city quietly allowed a Lower East Side building once reserved for non-profit use to be turned into luxury housing. Today, local politicians gathered to push for stronger transparency and oversight, to prevent it from happening again.
The former schoolhouse at 45 Rivington was operated by VillageCare as an AIDS/HIV treatment facility, under a deed restriction established in 1992 that limited the building to non-profit usage. Since the HIV crisis has dimmed in the Lower East Side, the facility was no longer needed at capacity. At the end of 2014, VillageCare sought to sell it to a for-profit nursing-home operator, Allure Group, with local officials’ understanding that it would remain some kind of medical facility for the general population, likely for the many seniors in the neighborhood.
Tenants and activists who are part of the Stand for Tenant Safety Coalition (STS) rallied outside of 90 Elizabeth Street this morning before marching to City Hall to show their support for a package of bills that would address construction-related harassment. Today marks an important landmark for the coalition’s fight against landlords who are taking advantage of a lack of oversight and toothless fines.
Nearly two hours after the Rent Guidelines Board was scheduled to vote on whether more than 1.2 million New Yorkers would be required to pay more for their rent-regulated apartments, the board made a historical decision to freeze rent increases for one-year leases. Amidst intermittent boos and cheers, the board’s chair, Rachel Godsil, announced that for the first time ever one-year leases would see a zero percent increase in rent, while two-year leases would be subject to a 2 percent increase.
With its fight against the New York Attorney General simmering, a new campaign has been launched to fight Airbnb. is a group of community activists, organizations, elected officials, and others who went public today with an assault on the apartment-sharing service, which they believe is more of a disservice to the community.
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