Saturday, April 18, 2015, this snippet is from mid-afternoon, but they started at 8am.
Our fight against the GLWD-QT development at 180 Sixth Avenue has been much in the news in the past year. The New York Times covered our challenge as early as May, with a report on the fight by journalist Ronda Kaysen (5/7/13). Not long after that, in mid-July, the Times reported on the development assaults to our neighborhood in a report by John Freeman Gill (8/13/13). And even the Times’ Real Estate section (10/20/13) — never known to frown on new luxury development — characterized the QT project as an “invasion”. Starting in January and throughout the year, we’ve had excellent coverage from The Villager. And, of course, the dangerous conditions at the building site were widely covered in late September, when 188 Sixth Avenue had to be evacuated due to hazardous conditions created by QT’s excavation work. We expect our legal challenge to be much in the news in 2014. Stay tuned.
ABC News was one of the first on the scene yesterday, when residents of 188 Sixth Avenue were evacuated after construction work next door on the Quinlan-Tavros luxury condominium development caused their building to shift. Within the hour reporters from all the network news channels and multiple radio and print venues were on hand.
It fell to Curbed to break the news of what, exactly, Quinlan-Tavros has in store for 180 Sixth Avenue. They’re going to start by changing the address to “One Vandam.” Much tonier than 180 Sixth, don’t you think? And then, this architectural monstrosity — reminiscent of the Borg spacecraft from the Star Trek series — will descend on our peaceful South Village neighborhood. Notice that the building towers over everything in sight. That’s exactly what they have in mind: building an out-of-scale, heedless-to-context nightmare that maximizes their height and square footage at the expense of everything and everyone in their way.
That’s why it’s so utterly irksome to so see the sign outside the construction site, where they’ve just torn down one of the oldest trees on the block. The finer print reads: “New York City has a variety of projects, both public and private, which when completed will improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.” Really? All New Yorkers? Tell that to the neighbors who’ve recently had the trees that shade their windows chopped down, the back walls of their gardens knocked over, the air quality in their neighborhood obliterated by dust and diesel fumes, and their homes subjected to the din of demolition and construction from dawn until dusk. But the architects of record, BKSK Architects, claim that “One Vandam” will be LEED-certified — a so-called “green building” — so that makes it all okay? Not really. Not at all. The only sort of green Quinlan-Tavros is concerned about comes off of U.S. Treasury presses. We’re not talking green, we’re talking greed.
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.
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.
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.
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.