The New York Times’ John Freeman Gill profiled the South Village this week, pointing out that unless the neighborhood is afforded landmark and other protections, its distinctive character may be crushed between impending Hudson Square developments and SoHo’s Cast Iron district. South Village neighbor Micki McGee was interviewed for the article and observed: “It’s hard to believe that right next to SoHo there’s this quiet, sweet little neighborhood. But pressures from north, south, east, and west on this triangle below Houston are so extraordinary that this neighborhood could just disappear.” Make sure that doesn’t happen: Support the South Village Neighbors today.
We are delighted that Community Board 2 voted on Thursday, June 20th to call on the Board of Standards and Appeals to reduce the mass of the building proposed for 72-80 Sullivan (aka 140 Sixth Avenue).
The bulk of that reduction should come from the proposed 18-story residential tower, lowered to a more appropriate 10 or 11 stories. The developer’s proposal was based on the inappropriate assumption that the mass allowed at this site for commercial uses (a 5.00 FAR*) would be permitted, rather than the 3.44 FAR that is standard for residential development in the South Village.
The Community Board also recommended: (1) the relocation of the proposed retail store entrance to the Sixth Avenue side of the development in a effort to preserve the residential character of the south end of Sullivan Street, and (2) the giveback to the neighborhood of some public garden space on the Sixth Avenue side of the development. The Board, along with the neighborhood, strongly endorsed the developer’s request to have the site rezoned for residential rather than hotel development.
None of this would have happened without the great turn out at the Land Use Committee and full board meetings, so many thanks to the neighbors who stood up and spoke out! Although this a great win for our neighborhood, the Community Board’s recommendations are by no means binding, so the the next step on the 72-80 Sullivan/140 Sixth development will be a hearing at the Board of Standards and Appeals. So far that hearing is not scheduled, but we’ll keep you posted!
* What is FAR? FAR is the Floor Area Ratio: The floor area ratio is the principal bulk regulation controlling the size of buildings. FAR is the ratio of total building floor area to the area of its zoning lot. Each zoning district has an FAR which, when multiplied by the lot area of the zoning lot, produces the maximum amount of floor area allowable on that zoning lot. For example, on a 10,000 square foot zoning lot in a district with a maximum FAR of 1.0, the floor area on the zoning lot cannot exceed 10,000 square feet. (from the New York City Department of Buildings Zoning Glossary).
An 18-story tower, retail space, and a parking garage have been proposed for the quiet Sullivan Street block between Broome and Spring. An application for a zoning variance has been filed for this location. The developer has long planned to build a hotel tower on this site, which the zoning for the site allows. He is now seeking a zoning variance to allow the development to be residential, which the zoning for this site currently does not allow. You can read more about the application by downloading the variance documents HERE.
An 18-story tower at this site is not appropriate, whatever the use. The tower will cast additional shadows on Vesuvio Playground and SoHo Square. The site is located within the South Village Historic District that has been proposed since 2006 (and which the City has still not agreed to move on). And nearly all the sites in the surrounding neighborhood which are zoned for residential development only allow new development at a much more limited scale – about 31% smaller than the proposed development.
- be at the size and density which is allowed for residential development in the surrounding area
- keep any tower developed on the south portion of the lot, where the tower will be somewhat less intrusive (as is proposed, but not required, in the variance plan)
- allocate 20% of the units as affordable middle-income housing, and,
- include a public-use space (either a meeting space in the retail facility, or a public outdoor space).
WHAT YOU CAN DO
ATTEND the Community Board #2 Land Use Committee public hearing on the variance on Wednesday, June 12 at the Little Red Schoolhouse Auditorium, 272 Sixth Avenue (Bleecker Street) and urge the Community Board to only approve a variance for residential use if the size of the development is consistent with what the residential zoning for the surrounding neighborhood allows and if the developer provides appropriate contributions to the life of the neighborhood in the form of affordable housing and/or community space. The meeting begins at 6:30 pm, and this is the 3rd and final item on the agenda.
WRITE to the Community Board at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your concerns and comments (please copy email@example.com).
PRINT AND POST this flyer in your building to keep your offline neighbors informed.
It’s been a noisy week for those of us who live near the Quinlan-Tavros demolition site at 178-180 Sixth Avenue where a Sleepy’s Mattress Store once stood. As it turns out, it’s been noisier than it ought to be: DiSano Demolition (ph: 718-961-3700) — the company hired by QT to demolish the Sleepy’s building — is not in compliance with New York City’s noise mitigation regulations for construction sites. They are required to:
• muffle their jackhammer and other equipment,
• post a noise mitigation plan, and
• comply with their noise mitigation plan.
They have done exactly none of the above. This is consistent with QT’s and God’s Love We Deliver’s complete disregard for the health and well-being of their neighbors. The noise regulation rules are only enforced if there are complaints registered. So if you live nearby and are suffering with the sound of jackhammering for hours on end, please complain about the noise – loudly and often.
The DiSano jackhammer-crane has been generating noise peaking at 115 decibels in our apartment — more than 150 feet from the demolition site and behind sealed double-paned windows. For folks closer – on the ground floors, for example – the din was much worse. This is a health issue for our neighborhood: noise at this level is damaging to your hearing and is linked to cardiovascular disease, such as hypertension.
It’s worth noting that NYU is being required by the City to provide sound proofing windows and special sound reducing air conditioners to Washington Square Village and Silver Tower apartments, as reported in The Villager this week. No such plan has been required of GLWD or QT, except for a few air conditioners for our neighbors at 188 Sixth Avenue.
HOW TO REGISTER CONSTRUCTION NOISE COMPLAINTS
1) BY PHONE: Call 311 and say that you want to make a construction noise complaint to a Department of Environmental Protection operator. They should connect you to a specialist. Complain about the noise level, complain about the lack of a noise mitigation plan, and complain that no noise mitigation plan is posted.
If you have a decibel meter in your smart phone, please report the decibel readings you are getting and your approximate distance from the jackhammer/crane. (There are more than 70 free or inexpensive decibel meter apps available for the iPhone, for example. I imagine many are also available for the Android and other smart phones.)
2) ONLINE: Go to the 311 Online page and complete the relevant information. [Please note this is a new link, updated 10/4/13: you now have to go to a link that says “Make a Complaint” and then choose from a drop-down menu. If you want to make a complaint for after hours construction and a complaint for noise, you will need to file two separate complaints.]
3) POST your Complaint Number on the Google Group if you are a subscriber to the Google Group.
4) CALL Speaker Christine Quinn’s office (212-564-7757) and tell her team what her $8 million dollar contribution of taxpayer funds to GLWD – her contribution of our tax funds – is doing to your quality of life. Let her know how you feel about this in light of her current campaign to occupy the Mayor’s office.
A neighborhood culinary treasure, Joe’s Dairy, closed up shop this past Saturday on Sullivan Street. Longtime creators and purveyor’s of the most delicious homemade, smoked mozzarella, and other delicacies, the closing of Joe’s is a cheese-lover’s catastrophe. Who can forget the first time they smelled that delicious smoked mozzarella, smoked right there, in the basement of their storefront? The dairy’s owners were rumored to have grown tired of the neighborhood’s new bustle and clatter, finding it no longer livable after 40 years here. We wonder, also, whether Jared Kushner’s recent purchase of the 156 Sullivan Street building had anything to do with the dairy’s decision to pack up and move on.
Before Joe’s closed up, we watched other changes: When we moved to the South Village in the early 1990s, there were two bakeries – Vesuvio’s on Prince, and Zito’s just above Bleecker. All of this deliciousness was nearby. And sometime in the mid-1990s, Sullivan Street Bakery opened just to the south of Spring. But now all the bread bakers have retired, passed away, or decamped, and our neighborhood is left with sweets – products with higher profit margins and slightly longer shelf lives. Don’t get us wrong: we love the new Dominque Ansel Patisserie on Spring. Check out their croissants. And Birdbath Bakery – that moved into the famous bright green Vesuvios’s storefront – makes a mean chocolate cookie.
But the bread bakers aren’t the only ones who have disappeared. The corner grocery store on Sullivan and Spring gave way to another nail salon the end of the 90s. (And, seriously folks, how many mani-pedi’s does a neighborhood need?) The green grocer on Thompson was converted into a high-end retail shop around the same time. And not long ago Porto Rican Coffee closed its doors on Thompson after 30 years on the block. This is the micro-catastrophe of hyper-gentrification: when the affordances that made a neighborhood a pleasure to live in can no longer afford to remain.
We have a Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation that does excellent work advocating to landmark the built environment. (And we hope they’ll succeed in lobbying the Landmarks Preservation Commission to landmark our section of the South Village soon!) But what we sorely need is some other sort of mechanism to preserve the more fragile fabric of our neighborhoods: ensuring that our grocers, bakeries, butcher shop, coffee shops, and even vanishing laundromats can survive the pressures of overdevelopment. In the meantime, be sure to shop local: H & H Kim and M & O Grocery are among our last neighborhood corner stores.
Goodbye to Joe’s Dairy. We’ll all miss you. Another great one is gone.
This morning the New York Times covered the South Village Neighbors challenge to the GLWD-QT development scheme at 180 Sixth Avenue. It’s fantastic to have the opportunity to air our concerns in a public forum, particularly since we were shut-out of the City Planning Commission discussions, unrepresented by our Community Board, and ignored by our City Council representative, Christine C. Quinn, who is a longtime advocate for GLWD — at the expense of her residential constituents. That said, we were not surprised to see that 80% of the ink went to the GLWD position: GLWD has a powerful public relations machine, a celebrity-studded Board of Trustees, and the deep pockets of their new real estate developer pals. Check back in the next few days to hear more about what the neighbors are saying about this story.
March was a productive month for our campaign to stop the God’s Love We Develop-Quinlan-Tavros scheme at 180 Sixth Avenue. Since our last update, the South Village Neighbors have:
• retained a prominent land-use attorney to begin our legal challenge. On March 29th the core group involved in the Stop 180 Sixth campaign met and voted unanimously to hire land-use attorney and zoning expert Stuart A. Klein to challenge the GLWD-QT scheme. Stuart comes to us highly recommended by SoHo Alliance, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, and other neighborhood groups. A legal committee met with Stuart and one of his associates the following Wednesday to map out our approach, which will begin with a challenge to the legality of the air rights transfer. A research committee has been conducting the basic discovery/document retrieval to support our legal team’s work and keep our costs down. Last week they visited three archives and secured some obscure documents that support our efforts. Many thanks to these two committees!
• consulted with the Office of the Mayor/Department of Citywide Administrative Services on the status of the air rights transfer. We have been in bi-weekly communication with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, Division of Real Property, to follow the status of the proposed air rights transfer. As of this past Wednesday, there has been no progress on the sale of these air rights, which is, of course, great news for us. The fact that several members of our group testified eloquently on the inappropriateness of the air rights sale at the February 27th DCAS hearing seriously slowed down this process. Our contact at DCAS tells us that it could be several weeks until anything is resolved with regard to the air rights sale. Our legal challenge, which has only just begun, is expected to delay this matter even further; we hope, in perpetuity. So a huge thanks to the group who attended this meeting and/or testified! We also thank Andrew Berman, who alerted us to this hearing, and Stuart Klein, who encouraged us to have a strong presence there even before we had him officially onboard!
• secured additional news coverage of our legal challenge: the neighborhood news service dnainfo.com ran a favorable story about our work at the end of March. You can read that HERE. If you have press contacts who may be helpful to us in this challenge, please be in touch.
• set up a new list-serv/Google group for internal communication. At the March 29th meeting we identified the need for an internal communication mechanism to allow people to share information and ask questions of each other in a more horizontal way. Two folks on our team explored a number of options and arrived at the conclusion that a Google Group would be the best way to manage this. If you’re on our mailing list, later today or early tomorrow you’ll receive an invitation to join the group, and I encourage you to sign up. You will have the option of receiving news as it is posted, once a day, or once a week. If you sign up with a Gmail account, you will have the additional option of being able to be able to access the discussion board and its online archive directly. This is helpful if you prefer to not receive emailed updates, or want to look back at past discussions.
• witnessed the arrival of two unpleasant pieces of yellow equipment. Friday evening at 8pm a rather formidable looking piece of equipment (that appears to be a pile driver) arrived at 180 Sixth Avenue. And last night at midnight, QT treated us to midnight delivery of another Komatsu behemoth. Their rig blocked traffic on Sixth Avenue, with backed up cars honking for half an hour, waking up everyone. This is an unpleasant reminder of what our future could look like if we don’t continue our campaign to Stop 180 Sixth Avenue.
If you live in the neighborhood and have been alarmed by this development, please be aware that: (1) at this time no construction permits have been approved for the development (so nothing can be built at this time) and (2) the current unapproved plans for an 80,000 square foot building cannot be approved until the matter of the air rights transfer is resolved. The last time plans were filed (03/05/13) they were not approved. However QT does have an approved permit (filed 12/12/12) to demolish the single story structure at 178 Sixth Avenue (that used to be Sleepy’s). So they may begin pulling that building down. Tearing down this building has tax advantages for them as it will lower the property tax assessment on this lot. However this does not mean anything about the overall outcome of our challenge, which is – thanks to your support – stronger today than it has ever been. [Correction: After this posted, we learned that they have an approved application for demolition, but that no permits have yet been issued. Apologies for any confusion this may have caused. – The Editors.]
WHAT YOU CAN DO – UPCOMING EVENTS AND NEXT STEPS
ATTEND the Landmark Preservation Committee meeting on the South Village Historic District. On Monday, April 15th at 6:30pm there will be an important Landmark Preservation Committee informational meeting regarding the proposed South Village Historic District. The meeting will take place at the NYU Meyer Building, 4 Washington Place (at Broadway), Room 121. As this is an informational meeting, no testimony is heard, but questions can be asked. I strongly encourage you to attend. If you are a property owner in the neighborhood you will learn more about the implications of landmarking. And if you are not a property owner, you are still welcome to attend. Several of our group will attend, and we’ll hand out informational material about our Save the Sunshine/Stop 180 Sixth Avenue campaign. For additional information about this meeting, visit the GVSHP website HERE.
CONTRIBUTE to the South Village Legal Fund. Thanks to your generosity, and the gracious fiscal sponsorship of SoHo Alliance, the Valentine’s Day campaign for the South Village Legal Fund has raised more than enough to kick off our legal challenge. Ultimately, this fight will may cost a good bit more than what we currently have on hand. If you have already supported the legal fund, many thanks for your support. If you haven’t yet had an opportunity to contribute to the fund, we encourage you to do so today. It’s easy. You can find instructions on how to donate HERE.
In a move that disappointed and angered South Village residents, the City Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises voted today to approve rezoning of the Hudson Square District without providing any landmark protections for the South Village neighborhood that the City’s own study notes will be endangered by the rezoning. The City Council will vote next week on this matter, and it is a near certainty that they will ratify the decision of the zoning subcommittee.
Perhaps in an effort to appear responsive to the concerns from the threatened historic neighborhoods, the City Council has secured a commitment from the Landmarks Preservation Commission to consider landmarking areas north of Houston Street sometime before the end of the year. While this could be good news for neighbors to the north – who have been faced with NYU’s rapacious development plans – it leaves the southern part of the South Village, which directly abuts the newly rezoned district, without any protections.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission has also promised to “survey” the southern part of the South Village in the coming year, with an eye toward possible landmarking at a future date. But, as many have pointed out, by the time the Landmark Preservation Commission gets around to landmarking the South Village there may be no landmarks left to preserve.
The South Village Neighbors Legal Fund has raised $3,400 in just two weeks. Donations have ranged from $20 up to a $1,000 pledge that we will match. We are only $1,600 away from our goal of $5000 to retain a land use attorney to stop the God’s Love We Deliver-QT development scheme at 180 Sixth Avenue. Even with all of this great work, we have to remember that this is what we’re up against: an 80,000 square foot, 15-story luxury condominium tower and ground floor retail space, built at our expense.
That’s why we’re redoubling our efforts:
- Last week a group of South Village neighbors testified against the GLWD-QT Development scheme at the Office of Citywide Administrative Services. The folks from GLWD and QT were awfully surprised to see us there, and the representative from the Mayor’s Office seemed fairly impressed by our arguments. While this testimony may have little impact on the Mayor’s decision regarding the air rights deal, it is part of the public record if we ever wind up in court with our opponents. Read more about it here.
- Six hundred fundraising flyers about the South Village Legal Fund have been distributed in buildings and businesses around the neighborhood this weekend. If you receive a flyer and don’t need it, please consider asking your drycleaner, bakery, coffee shop, drugstore, newsstand, barber’s shop or grocer to post it. We’ve found that neighborhood merchants are eager to help when asked by the people they see all the time.
- We’ve reached out to the Friends of Vesuvio Park for their support as the children’s pool at the playground will lose much of its summer sunshine if the GLWD-QT development proceeds as planned. Read more about this here. And next Sunday St. Anthony’s Church will include news about South Village Neighbors and our efforts in their parish bulletin.
If you have already supported the South Village Legal Fund, we thank you on behalf of the whole neighborhood. Perhaps you would consider speaking to a neighbor who hasn’t yet contributed? This is very much a grassroots, neighbor-to-neighbor effort to save our skyline, our playgrounds, and our sunshine across three affected public spaces: Vesuvio Playground (bet. Thompson/Sullivan), Soho Square (at Spring/Sixth) and Father Fagan Square (at Prince/Sixth).
And if you haven’t had a chance to give yet, we urge you to do so today. No contribution is too small. $300, $200, $100, $50 . . . it all helps. After the backhoes and pile drivers arrive, it may just be too late to stop them. We would not want you to regret that you didn’t act today.
HOW TO CONTRIBUTE:
|BY CHECK||VIA PAYPAL|
|1. Make a check to SoHo Alliance for $500, $300, $250, $100 or whatever you can afford (no contribution is too small).
2. Note South Village Legal Fund in the memo line.
3. Mail or drop off your check with Barbara North, who has kindly agreed to manage the bookkeeping on this: Barbara North, 100 Sullivan Street, Apt 1E, New York, NY 10012.
|1. Visit www.sohoalliance.org/join.html.
2. Enter the amount you’d like to donate and click on “PayPal”.
3. Just before you pay you will have the opportunity to designate your donation for the legal fund. When you see the “Your order summary” page, enter South Village Legal Fund in the box for description. This will earmark your donation for 180 Sixth Avenue challenge.
This past Wednesday a group of South Village neighbors testified again, this time at the New York City Office of Citywide Administrative Services, where they spoke out against the sweetheart deal that God’s Love We Deliver wants to pass along to Quinlan-Tavros Development at the expense of the city and the neighborhood. They also released a recent rendering of the impact of the GLWD-QT development on the neighborhood’s skyline.
Outlining the history and finances of the proposed development, one Sullivan Street neighbor pointed out that GLWD received an extremely favorable deal on the original purchase price of the 166 Sixth Avenue building, paying only $535,000 for the 18,000 square foot structure in 1993. The reduced price tag came with the stipulation that the air rights be held in perpetuity for community use. Specifically, the deed noted that the air rights could not be used for commercial development. Now, these same air rights are being sold for just that: a luxury condominium and retail high-rise development.
If that weren’t bad enough, GLWD is selling these air rights for less than market value to Quinlan-Tavros. The Wall Street Journal reported that GLWD will sell the valuable vertical real estate for $200-300 per square foot or for $5.5-6.5 million dollars. Comparable air rights in New York City go for $400-500 dollars per square foot, or up to $9 million dollars. Quinlan-Tavros is receiving a 30-50% discount on these air rights, saving between $3 and $4 million dollars, as GLWD passes along their sweet deal to private developers at the expense of the neighborhood and New York City’s taxpayers.
Meanwhile, the City is settling for just $765,000 as their share – taxpayer’s share, our share – of this deeply discounted deal. That’s less than the asking price for a studio apartment in the proposed condominium complex.
The neighbors have long known that the GLWD-QT scheme is bad for the neighborhood, which will lose sunlight at Vesuvio playground and at two other public spaces, but it seems it’s also a bad deal for all New York City taxpayers.