The City Council vote approving the disposition of the PC Richards site on East 14th Street for development of a Tech Hub falls short of securing the neighborhood zoning protections we had advocated for in the 3rd and 4th Avenue corridors to the south of the development site. While the Mayor would not agree to a commercial downzoning, Councilmember Carlina Rivera did get the Mayor to agree to some limited protections for the nearly 60 buildings in the 3rd and 4th Avenue corridors, such as 1) the requirement of a “special permit” for new hotels in the area, which makes it unlikely that any will be built; 2) placing 7 buildings in the zone on the Landmarks Preservations Commission’s calendar; and 3) establishing an anti-harassment program in conjunction with HPD.
Even with these protections, there are a number of adjacent low rise buildings not calendared for landmarking, particularly along 3rd Avenue, that can potentially be acquired and assembled into a larger development site, putting them at risk of demolition by a speculator seeking to develop either a larger mixed use residential or commercial building. For example, 62 and 64 3rd Avenue at 11th St., next to the Moxy Hotel, recently sold for over $22 million. No one pays that kind of money with the intention of preserving a couple of 4 story tenements. We may find out in the very near future what leverage these preservation tools provide at this location.
While there are hundreds of coop and condo owners in the 3rd and 4th Avenue corridors who are likely to see their property values rise, there are nearly 1,000 tenants, and fewer than 100 of them are rent stabilized according to government data sources, leaving them with virtually no protection if their landlord is seeking to vacate and demolish their building.
Councilmember Carlina Rivera has reached out to stakeholders and issued a statement explaining her efforts to win stronger protections for the community and the many benefits that the Tech Hub can provide to disadvantaged communities on the Lower East Side, especially women and people of color who are underrepresented in the tech industry. There are many in the community who are pleased that the tech hub is moving forward.
Still, we know that even socially beneficial developments such as the tech hub can have unintended consequences, attracting more upscale development and intensifying displacement pressures that already exist in our community. Even if we had won these zoning changes, many tenants would still be facing displacement pressures and the potential demolition of some low rise buildings and displacement to make way for 80/20 housing or large community facilities such as a dormitory.
The Cooper Square Committee will outreach to tenants in the 3rd and 4th Avenue corridor who may be at risk of harassment and displacement, and tenants in that area are encouraged to call us if they see signs that their building is up for sale, or has changed ownership. We can help you organize. Meanwhile, the struggle continues to get the Mayor to listen to our community, and work with us to preserve its low rise character. It’s what attracted people to this community, and an important part of what makes New York a magnet for creative professionals.