Rezoning the Lower East Side and East Village Contextually

Chinatown Protesters at NYC Planning Meeting

Chinatown Protesters at Planning Meeting

If you’re thinking, “I wonder how the land use applications for a change to the zoning map (C 080397 ZMM, C 080397(A) ZMM) and zoning text amendment (N 080398 ZRM, N 080398(A)) and a related Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) (07DCP078M) submitted by the Department of City Planning is going,” well think no more!

Today’s lengthy yet enlightening meeting of the New York City Planning Commission chaired by the radiant Amanda M. Burden revealed lovers and haters of the proposed rezoning for the East Village and Lower East Side. As an added bonus, eloquence and buffoonery were exhibited by both sides, too.

Upon our arrival at NYU School of Law’s Tishman Auditorium at 40 Washington Square South, several hundred demonstrators had already gathered outside to protest the alleged racism of the new plan. According to protesters, at the very least, they had been left out of the development phase of the new rezoning plan and were P. O.’d. In fact, as the EVP team entered, demonstrators were in full throat chanting, “Shame on you! Shame on you!”

We immediately discarded our iced coffees.

And The Next Speaker Is…

The morning session was divided into 5-minute speaking slots alternating between “for” and “against” speakers.

Among the supporters were Susan Stetzer (Community Board 3 District Manager), Dominic Pisciotta (the new Board Chair and the Dmitri Medvedev of CB3) and David McWater (former CB3 chair and the Vladimir Putin of CB3).

After Pisciotta tossed several bouquets to the commission for its contextual rezoning plan, Stetzer revealed that she not only supported the new rezoning proposal but doesn’t know how she would live on the Lower East Side without her rent-controlled apartment.

We hear you, Susie. Rent control for all!

McWater sounded bombastic as he sucked up to the Planning Commission and labeled the new proposal “historic” for its caps on building height restrictions.

OK, Dave, and the next political office you’re aiming for is?

NYC Planning Commission Meeting at NYU

NYC Planning Commission Meeting at NYU

Several Chinatown residents took to the mic expressing their disapproval regarding the rezoning saying that they had not been included in any discovery process leading up to the final plan. Dissenting Chinese-American New Yorkers also lambasted the committee for not providing any Chinese translation of the Commission’s proceedings. Our guess as to why there was no translation: if you translate into Chinese, you’ll have to translate for the 100 other languages of the LES and East Village.

For a couple of the Chinese speakers who ended up speaking in their mother tongue, the City’s translator couldn’t understand what they were saying in order to deliver the English translation to the Committee, so the speakers provided their own translator.

It should be noted that not everyone of Chinese descent disagreed with the new plan.

Late in the session, Rocky Chin, a CB3 Board Member, addressed the Commission in support of the plan and assured everyone that racism was never involved. After he concluded, Irwin Cantor, one of the commissioners, asked Chin more about how CB3 had included Chinatown residents in the discussion. Chin replied that they were disruptive (and broken into many factions) at meetings, and he implied that the board and its various committees couldn’t get anything done with these groups around. To which Cantor replied, “So the north decided to not include the south.” Ouch.

Consistently, all day long, the angry Chinatown protesters were radioactive for politicos. Manhattan Borough President, Scott Stringer and Councilman Alan Gerson both expressed their sympathy that “everyone must be heard!” Of course, overall, they still approved of the new rezoning plan anyway.

Stringer suggested that the Commission should not try to re-zone such a huge area next time but do it in pieces so all groups can be heard. Gerson, who entered the auditorium drinking a brown diet soda (good luck with the diet, that don’t work), wants “guarantees not goals for 30% development of low income housing” in inclusionary zones – or zones where development is allowed.

The most eloquent of all the dissenters (or supporters, for that matter) were members of the Cooper Square Committee who appeared knowledgeable and thoughtful in their discussion of the new plan. If there was one major complaint from these dissenters, it was that the Bowery was not part of the plan.

As one Cooper Square member pointed out, currently, the east side of the Bowery is zoned such that huge buildings like the Dildo of Darkness can be constructed, but on the west side, the zoning allows for much lower buildings. The Committee supports restrictions on both sides of the street and as a part of the new rezoning plan.

It would have been great to hear from the Commission why the plan doesn’t include the Bowery. Perhaps, like the plan for the new Astor Place park, it will come out in The Villager soon.

Take The “Poster Child” Poll

At today’s meeting, if there was one building that was seen as the poster child for why the new rezoning plan was needed, it would have been Blue on the LES.

Blue is pretty bad. But, what do you think?

Most Out of Place Building in the East Village and LES

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Audience at NYC Planning Commission Meeting

Audience at NYC Planning Commission Meeting


August 13th, 2008

Entry Filed under: East Village, New York City

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