Tag Archives: #rezoning

InnovationQNS: Another Worn Out Scheme

Oof, I knew exactly what we were in for the minute I saw Mitchie Taylor seated on the stage.

The presence of Urban Upbound’s notorious CEO at yesterday’s barely-advertised InnovationsQNS town hall could only mean one thing: this project is a scam and Big Sleazy is likely being compensated to promote said scam, as he had been with both Amazon HQ2LIC and YourLIC.

Mitchell Taylor, who owns a $2million home on Long Island, brings that sell out energy as he claims to represent the entire Queensbridge population while his history reflects an exploitation of that community for his own profit.

There’s also his repeated history of sexually harassing women.

And during the summer of 2020, as covid raged and people sought outdoor refuge, Taylor’s nonprofit security company infamously and conveniently profited when Gantry Plaza State Park, a public park, was used by the, ah, public while the wealthy inhabitants of the waterfront luxury towers whined and railed about too many unwelcomed humans visible from their lofty, shiny, windowed perches.

At yesterday’s town hall, as Taylor detailed a planned “community center” to “house neighborhood nonprofits” within the 27-story towers of InnovationQNS, I could not help but wonder that the only nonprofits which might end up using that space will be those umbrellaed under Taylor’s highly profitable Urban Upbound.

I also deeply resented how much Taylor was on his phone during the event: as ever and always, he has zero clue how he comes across.

Jamison Dovoll of Silverstein Properties; Mitchie textin; Tracey Appelbaum of BedRock Real Estate Partners; and Tracy Capune of Kaufman Astoria Studios

While we all watch him.

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The Betrayal of SoHo NoHo by the New York Department of City Planning

(aka, why NYC needs you, elected NYC Councilmembers, to send this “plan” back to the drawing board for a more thoughtfully developed proposal which guarantees truly affordable housing and will also vigorously protect every unit of already existing, long-term, deeply affordable housing in all its forms which exists in Lower Manhattan.)

December 9, 2021

To the Members of the City Council of New York,

Please vote “no” on the Department of City Planning’s proposal to rezone SoHo NoHo and then please advise DCP to revise its purposefully vague plan to include, as top priority, specific protection against the displacement of over a thousand New Yorkers, many elderly, who reside in Lower Manhattan’s already existing deeply affordable units. There are almost 700 such units in SoHo and NoHo in almost 200 still-viable structures which will be threatened with a rezoning: we must protect these vulnerable New Yorkers above all.

As a former stabilized renter in SoHo and as a lifelong New York City renter, I ask all of you for a nuanced consideration of this flawed rezoning proposal and to acknowledge New York City Planning failed on its pledged deliverables of the Envision SoHo NoHo plan and process. The DCP has not done its job with its rushed and remote ULURP process, its conditional exclusion of public input and its repeatedly expressed obvious bias for real estate development interests.

This gratuitous and ruinous rezoning is defiantly being held up by its proponents as an opportunity for “equity” and “housing justice,” but there is neither “justice” nor “equity” for the vulnerable, mostly elderly, renters of SoHo, NoHo and the adjoining areas of Chinatown and Lower Manhattan who will lose their homes because of the zoning adjustment.

There is also no justice for the middle-income property owners, the artists of SoHo and NoHo, who, after working with the City decades ago to devise a form of affordable homeownership in repurposed industrial spaces so to ultimately age in place, will now no longer be able to afford to pay property taxes on the units they fashioned with their own hands back in the 1970s. Why is there no special consideration for these New Yorkers? They deserve to stay in their homes: as a city, we owe this to any threatened resident but most especially to this population who literally developed a globally adored tourist destination and now our collective payment to these people is to kick them all out.

It is disturbing what will happen to these elderly NYC residents, who have long been productive and industrious citizens: it is cruel, dishonest and dystopian.

The Envision SoHo NoHo process did not invite many of these constituents yet did, oddly, heavily involve real estate development lobbying group Open New York from its inception: Open New York, a pro-development group which has bragged about being the architects of the SoHo NoHo rezoning were considered by DCP to be valuable stakeholders, despite the glaring fact that none of them live in the area and despite the fact that their interests are purely about new development, not about consideration of existing housing or the value of the lives and experiences of the tenants who live in them.

The DCP-led ULURP public engagement hearings were held via Zoom while a global pandemic raged; the first of these meetings was in October 2020. I had signed up to speak but was number 354 to have make such a request and was thus not called upon as the session was deliberately limited to two and half hours: 365 people had signed up to speak that evening and DCP allowed for less than 10% of them to have had any voice.

How is that legal, NYC Council Members? How is it legal, in any way, to limit public engagement during a (wait for it) public engagement session?

DCP assigned the role of rezoning Senior Planner to Sylvia Li who referred to both the residents and structures of SoHo NoHo as “relics,” often and readily admitted she did not understand loft laws or other Lower Manhattan anomalies while also displaying an uncomfortable favoritism towards real estate development lobbying group Open New York. The entire process was a sham: right in front of the eyes of the rest of us.

You are our elected representatives: DCP doesn’t listen to us, so please be our voice and send this inadequate rezoning back to the Planning drawing board; this is not a vote to stop all development, it is instead a demand for better development from DCP, not their current lazy effort as this thoughtless initiative which will solely benefit the worst type of developers and create the least affordable and barely livable housing.

Please vote “no.”

Thank you.

Dresdon’t: The Argument Against the SoHo NoHo Proposed Rezoning

(My spoken statement to the September 2, 2021 City Planning Commission’s hearing on the proposal to rezone SoHo NoHo)

My name is Connie Murray, I’m a lifelong New Yorker and a former SoHo resident.

I oppose the city’s plan to rezone SoHo NoHo as this proposal will likely not produce any affordable housing despite that very promise being this project’s top selling point of allegedly providing more opportunities to low-income New Yorkers. This rezoning will also eliminate tenant protections for over 1200 residents in over 600 buildings in their already existing deeply affordable homes. These are vulnerable, elderly and immigrant residents: they deserve to be considered in this process, they deserve to be protected and we all have a moral obligation to keep these folks in their homes.

As well, MIH affordable housing is not all that its name is cracked up to be. Recent “affordable housing” listings on NY Yimby reflect salary requirements above $80k for small studios and 1-bedroom units which rent for upwards of $3000 a month. These are not apartments for working class families: who are these developers really building for? They never create 3-bedroom units and via advertorials in real estate media, developers are even marketing their alleged affordable housing to households earning over $100k annually.

This rezoning’s proponents focus so heavily on this fallacy of its opposition being wealthy but in fact it’s the residents who are not wealthy and whose homes will be threatened who are here today, speaking out against this proposal. The very wealthy do not care, they can move, they have other homes, they have endless resources. It’s the residents without endless resources who are opposed to this plan, the people who are mostly elderly and mostly those who built these neighborhoods into what they are today. And now they are being shown the door out of this magical place they created with their own hands, money, sweat, love and tears. What a vicious betrayal by this city.

Adding to that betrayal is the false narrative promoted by Yimby zealots that these senior residents are members of the Ku Klux Klan and that their neighborhoods should be bombed like Dresden. Elderly residents have been bullied out of public engagement meetings because their pictures were taken and posted on social media so to shame them as alleged racists who no longer deserve to stay in their homes.

They do deserve to stay; they don’t deserve these lies. So let’s protect them.


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