Soapbox: NY Democrats, fighting for landlords since 2000

By Barry Shapiro

Among rising residential and commercial rents, the demise of small businesses and dramatic increases in homelessness due to rising rents, does anyone recognize the behavior of NYC Democratic politicians as truly representing the values of the Democratic Party we have known for close to 70 years?

Dysfunction characterizes the party. Thanks to dysfunction in Albany, due to the defections of the Independent Democratic Conference and Senator Simcha Felder, Democrats remain the Senate minority and can offer little challenge to the Urstadt Law, a GOP-sponsored law that took most control of rent stabilization away from the City Council in 1971 and posited it with the state.

Overly landlord-friendly actions characterize the Democrats since 2000. Bloomberg was a Democrat who ran as a Republican and in many ways acted like a Republican. We saw some of the highest RGB increases under him even during the financial meltdown; his attitude toward real estate in Manhattan was close to laissez faire. The Trump Soho fiasco occurred under him, a saga that still hasn’t ended. And in 2002, under “Democratic” Speaker Pete Vallone, the vacancy allowance increase rule was passed by the City Council, which allows landlords to raise rent stabilized rents by 18 and 20 percent each time a unit is vacated. Given the strategy of renting to students we’ve seen applied in ST/PCV, this poorly-framed law gave landlords an invaluable tool for moving stabilized rents higher. After it passed the council, this law then passed over to Albany control.

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Letters to the editor, Aug. 17

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Playgrounds should be monitored

Re: Editorial, “That’s some key (card),” T&V, Aug. 10

Dear Editor:

I agree with you that “more boots on the ground” are needed in Stuy Town/Cooper Village, but that should be a 24-hour a day situation. The playgrounds are not open in inclement weather, and in fair weather they are only open from 9:15 a.m. to dusk.

Let us not forget that this was the first and (perhaps) still only “private, gated community” in Manhattan. We have no lobby concierges, and the fact is that there are many “outsiders” walking into this supposedly private community from north, south, east and west of the development. Not all are here to see our beautiful gardens and fountains! Many residents bring guests in, and that is just fine, as long as they are guests and not intruders. In my opinion, those guard posts at all entrances that cost thousands of dollars to build and stand empty year after year, should be manned, especially between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m.

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Council committees support East Midtown Rezoning plan

Council Member Dan Garodnick discusses how current zoning egulations have stunted commercial growth in East Midtown. (Pictured) Assembly Member Dan Quart, Garodnick, Council Member David Greenfield, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Thursday, Council Member Dan Garodnick and a few other elected officials celebrated another step in bringing East Midtown rezoning closer to reality. Earlier in the day, a revised plan for rezoning, a project that’s been in the works since the Bloomberg administration, was approved by the Council’s Zoning & Franchises Sub-Committee. Later, the Land Use Committee would also give the plan its blessing as would the mayor. The full Council is expected to vote on the plan in August.

Takeaways of the plan include mandating that any developer looking to take advantage of building bigger and higher than what is currently allowed have 75 feet of building frontage. Any building that has more than 30,000 square feet must have open space accessible to the public, also known as POPS (privately owns public spaces). Additionally, before a building can even be occupied, the developer will have to first make an assigned infrastructural transit improvement in the district.

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The Soapbox: Many questions remain on East Midtown Rezoning

Town & Village is proud to present “The Soapbox,” a column featuring a different voice from the neighborhood in each one. All are welcome to submit columns on the topic of the author’s choice, preferably not longer than 650 words, to editor@townvillage.net.

By Barry Shapiro

For those not aware, East Midtown Rezoning is a city initiative to rezone roughly from 39th Street to 57th Street from Fifth Avenue to Third Avenue.
The proposed changes in the area will allow real estate developers to build higher and increase overall free space for development by about 6.5 percent. There will also be development of some public spaces and improvements to subway stations.

This along with the LIRR terminal at Grand Central planned to open in 2022 will significantly add to the area’s population density.

Major rezoning has to go through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which requires pertinent community boards to have their say. Negative votes by community board reps on the project’s Borough Council would have a somewhat damaging effect.

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Garodnick says East Midtown transit problems too big to fix with rezoning

Council Member Dan Garodnick (Photo courtesy of B’Nai B’rith)

Council Member Dan Garodnick (Photo courtesy of B’Nai B’rith)

By Christian Brazil-Bautista

While the rezoning of East Midtown has been tied to transit improvements with promises of reworked subway stations, its overall effect may amount to a drop in a bucket.

“As to whether or not it would be enough to support the mass transit needs, definitely not. The transit needs in New York City and East Midtown are enormous,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick, who serves as the co-chair of a steering committee tasked with creating a framework to revive the aging commercial district.

Garodnick, who made the statements during a B’nai B’rith Luncheon earlier this month, described the benefits of the East Midtown rezoning plan, which allows developers to build taller buildings in exchange for funding transportation improvements, as “on the margins” of the solution to the area’s transit requirements.

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