Subject: Lower East Side rezone plan another Mike Bloomberg boondoggle
Lower East Side rezone plan another Mike Bloomberg boondoggle
Wednesday, July 16th 2008, 1:06 AM
NY Daily News
Wah Lee, a slight, middle-aged factory worker, stood in front of the Municipal Building Tuesday vowing a long fight to save her Chinatown neighborhood. All around her were dozens of Chinese and Hispanic residents of the lower East Side.
They held up placards with words like: "Stop Racist Rezoning" and "Chinatown/Lower East Side Are Not For Sale."
They brought a box of petitions with the signatures of some 10,000 of their neighbors - all opposed to the City Planning Commission's new rezoning proposal.
Theirs is a story that has become all-too familiar during the Bloomberg era: another stable neighborhood turned upside down by a massive rezoning.
The sheer number of these rezonings - from Columbia University to Hudson Yards to Greenpoint - Williamsburg to Willets Point, boggles the mind. City officials routinely claim it's for the good of the neighborhoods, but in the end a handful of well-connected developers and Big Box stores end up the big winners.
Small businesses and low-income New Yorkers keep getting pushed out. The latest rezoning, opponents say, is targeted at the largely white and upscale areas of the lower East Side below 14th St. and above Houston St.
It deliberately excludes Chinatown and the largely Hispanic areas east of Avenue D and below Delancey St. "Why are they leaving out the Asian and Hispanic areas when we represent 60% of the community board's population?" asked Josephine Lee, spokeswoman for the Coalition to Protect Chinatown/LES.
The city's plan would permit new luxury condos all along Avenue D, Chrystie St. and Allen St. - at the edge of the rezoned area, while establishing height protections for buildings inside it.
That kind of zoning, said Stan Marks of the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, is sure to create a wall of luxury buildings separating the white areas of the neighborhood from the low-income Hispanics and Chinese who have lived in the neighborhood for decades.
At the same time, "the city is allowing a Wild West construction climate to prevail below Houston," Marks said. "Hotels and condos are springing up and creating massive displacement without any controls," Marks said.
"We want a different plan, one that is more comprehensive and includes the whole community."
Rachaele Raynoff, a spokeswoman for the City Planning Commission, said no one is being excluded. The city, Raynoff said, "has worked collaboratively for three years with Community Board 3 on a rezoning plan to protect 111 blocks in the lower East Side and East Village from out of scale development and create new and affordable housing."
Those who oppose this plan don't speak for all of Chinatown, Raynoff added. "There has not been apparent consensus on priorities for [Chinatown's] future but we will continue to meet with diverse stakeholders."
The opponents delivered their petitions Tuesday to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Under the city's land-use review process, Stringer must first approve the plan before it goes to the City Council for a vote.
"All the body language we're getting from Stringer's aides is he supports this plan," Marks said.
"That's a big mistake." Carmen Boon, a spokeswoman for Stringer, said the borough president has an open mind. "Our office has met with representatives of this coalition to discuss their issues and concerns," Boon said.
"The borough president will be conducting his usual process of community consultation and review."
No matter what Stringer decides, Wah Lee and her neighbors say they'll keep fighting to save their Chinatown from this tsunami from the city planners.
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