Broken promises in Tech Hub planning
The following is a letter from Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, sent to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Councilmember Carlina Rivera on June 28 regarding zoning changes and protections for the neighborhood ahead of the development for the Tech Hub planned for East 14th Street.
Dear Mayor de Blasio and Councilmember Rivera,
I write regarding commitments that were made following the approval of the upzoning for the planned Tech Hub at 124 East 14th Street. That zoning change was approved by the City Planning Commission over a year ago, on June 27, 2018. Yet as of today, most of the extremely modest commitments made to provide protections or mitigations to the surrounding neighborhood for the negative impact of the planned development have neither been implemented nor even proposed. And several key commitments made by the developer and the city regarding protecting the surrounding community from the impacts of the construction have already been broken.
Site of the future Tech Hub on East 14th Street at Irving Place (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Neighborhood preservationists were disappointed that City Council’s approval for the proposed Tech Hub on East 14th Street at Irving Place last Thursday didn’t include specific rezoning to protect the area south of the new center, while Council Member Carlina Rivera celebrated the unanimous vote for the plan, claiming that the city is working on putting neighborhood protections in place. The City Council’s Committee on Land Use approved the project at the beginning of the month and the full Council approved the measure last Thursday.
Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation executive director Andrew Berman criticized Rivera, who represents the area on East 14th where the new tech center will be built as well as the neighborhood to the south, for voting yes on the plan, noting that she campaigned on the issue and promised she would only vote for it with specific protections for the surrounding neighborhood.
“The City Council’s deal approves the mayor’s Tech Hub with just a fraction of a fraction of the protections the surrounding neighborhood needs and called for, and which Rivera promised to condition her vote upon,” Berman said. “The approval of the Tech Hub will accelerate the transformation of the adjacent Greenwich Village and East Village neighborhoods into an extension of ‘Midtown South’ and ‘Silicon Alley,’ which many developers and real estate interests have already begun to call them. We are seeing 300-foot tall office and condo towers going up in this area and 300-room hotels being built, which are completely out of character for these neighborhoods, with many more to come.”
Council Member Carlina Rivera outside her district office in the East Village (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Newly-elected City Council Member Carlina Rivera spoke with members of the community media in a round-table discussion this week, covering affordable housing, the plight of small businesses and the transit woes affecting District 2.
Rivera, who took over the seat from Rosie Mendez, who was term-limited after 12 years in office, previously worked with Mendez as her legislative director and is a long-time community activist working in the East Village and the Lower East Side.
One of the subjects she brought up was the new “tech hub” the city is planning on East 14th Street, and Rivera said she wants to make sure affordable housing is factored into the plan.
“In terms of the zoning, it’s going to be important to look at how we can incentivize affordable housing,” she said. “People are worried that this tech hub is going to be a purely commercial development and one of the most important things we need is affordable housing.”
The P.C. Richard & Son store on East 14th Street where the Tech Hub is proposed
Three of the candidates running to replace term-limited Councilwoman Rosie Mendez in District 2 have all pledged their support for rezoning the area around the proposed “Tech Hub” on East 14th Street. The candidates committed their support at a candidate night hosted by historic preservation groups at the Third Street Music School on Monday night.
Nearly 100 concerned residents packed a recital hall in the East 11th Street building while District 2 candidates, as well as candidates running against incumbent Margaret Chin in District 1, fielded questions about their commitment to historic preservation in the neighborhood.
Candidates Erin Hussein, Carlina Rivera and Mary Silver, all Democrats, were all in attendance for the event, although Jasmine Sanchez and Ronnie Cho, who are also running for the seat, were unable to make it.
These three 19th century buildings at 47 East 12th Street (left) and 827-831 Broadway are slated to be replaced with a 300-foot-tall office tower. (Photo courtesy of GVSHP)
By Andrew Berman, Executive director, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
Previously unheard of development is streaming ahead in the blocks between Union Square and Astor Place, Fifth and Third Avenues. A 300 ft. tall luxury condo tower is rising on University Place and 12th Street. A 300 ft. tall office tower is planned for Broadway and 12th Street. A 120-room hotel for party-hopping millennials is going up on East 11th Street. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Why is this happening in a largely residential neighborhood known for its historic character and modest scale? Mostly because the area’s zoning dates to 1961, when the neighborhood was largely commercial, and tall towers rather than contextual development were in vogue. And although virtually everyone in the affected community, including elected officials, supports a rezoning we proposed that would put reasonable height limits in place, reinforce the area’s residential character, and add affordable housing incentives, the mayor adamantly opposes it.