CB3 March Agendas: Two Bridges Development, Marathon Madness, Essex Crossing Traffic

Renderings: New East River waterfront with proposed towers.

Renderings: New East River waterfront with proposed towers.

It’s a busy month ahead at Community Board 3. Here’s a look at some of the meetings you might want to check out in March:

–On March 14 (Wednesday), the land use committee will revisit efforts to curtail three mega-towers in the Two Bridges area. There will be an update on a zoning text amendment that, if enacted, would force a full land use review of the projects. The application was submitted by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Councilmember Margaret Chin in January. Separately, there will be an update on a community-led effort for a rezoning in the Two Bridges area.

–On March 15 (Thursday), the parks committee will hear from the Parks Department about a, “Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for the reuse of the Baruch Bathhouse site.” The community has been pleading for years for the rehabilitation of this building, so we’ll be watching this one carefully. Also the Economic Development Corp. will update plans for the Corlears Hook ferry landing. Community members have expressed concern about crowd control in the area. And the Parks Department will present designs for the new Corlears Hook dog run.

–On March 13 (Tuesday), the transportation committee will continue a discussion about contingency plans for the L Train shutdown. There will also be a presentation from organizers of the March 18th NYC Half Marathon (community members aren’t very happy about the lack of communication about the event, which is expected to bring more than 22,000 runners through the neighborhood). There will also be a discussion about traffic gridlock around the Essex Crossing development sites.

–On March 12 (Monday) the State Liquor Authority committee will examine applications from the CitizenM Hotel on the Bowery and the Holiday Inn on Delancey Street.

You can see the full agendas here.

Community Board 3’s Meeting Live on YouTube Tuesday Night

Community Board 3's January 2018 meeting.

Community Board 3’s January 2018 meeting.

Here’s a reminder. You can now watch Community Board 3’s monthly meetings from the comfort of your living room. No, it’s not the Winter Olympics, but there’s occasionally a dramatic outburst!

The meeting takes place tomorrow evening (2/27) at 6:30. If you’re interested in checking out the live feed or watching later, here’s the YouTube link.

We’re expecting a lively discussion regarding the Union Square Tech Hub. The land use and small committees conditionally approved a ULURP for the proposal earlier this month, but preservation activists are calling for stronger linkage between the proposed workforce training center/incubator and a rezoning in the immediate area (read more about the issue here).

The board is also expected to approve a resolution regarding the state attorney general’s recent settlement agreement with Rivington House’s former owners.

If you would like to attend the meeting in person, it will be held at P.S. 20, 166 Essex St.

State Liquor Authority Rejects Sons of Essex Team in Bid For 200 Allen St. Permit

200 Allen St./Google Image.

200 Allen St./Google Image.

The State Liquor Authority rejected an application today for a big new venue that had been in-the-works at 200 Allen St. In an unusual move, two elected officials — State Sen. Brian Kavanagh and City Council member Margaret Chin — both appeared in person to testify against the applicant.

The project, Dos Cientos, was the latest venture by real estate developer/nightlife operator Michael Shah (he’s behind Sons of Essex and Rochelle’s). It was meant to be a bi-level Mexican restaurant/bar for 200 patrons. The space, located near East Houston St., has been vacant since the demise of Preserve 24 in 2014.

Community Board 3 opposed the application in a May 2017 resolution. Kavanagh, Chin, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou backed it up with a letter to the liquor authority. Here’s part of the letter:

As detailed in the Community Board resolution, the applicants have a long history as bad actors in the communities where they operate. Community Board 3 has voiced their concern about Victor Jung. who the Board believes will have a lead role in the operations of this venue and who, in 2008, was convicted of a felony associated with his business operations, as outline in the May 2017 resolution. In addition, the resolution recalls that in 2014 the SLA found the applicants in violation for “improper conduct” and use of an “unauthorized trade name” in relation to another LLC known as 133 Essex Restaurant. In 2015, Manhattan Community Board 2 strongly called for the renewal of the applicants’ full on-premises liquor license to be denied for operating outside the Board’s stipulations.

Kavanagh and Chin, along with a representative from Niou’s office, communicated their concerns in person at a hearing in Manhattan today. It apparently helped sway the SLA, which voted against the application.


SLA.200 Allen Street 1-9-18 by The Lo-Down on Scribd

January 2018 Community Board 3 Meetings: Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, Ace Hotel Restaurants, Essex Crossing School

Workers continue to dismantle unstable portions of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol on Norfolk Street.

Workers continue to dismantle unstable portions of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol on Norfolk Street.

Community Board 3 is out with its January 2018 meeting agendas. Here’s a look at some of the issues that various committees will be discussing in the new year.

On Wednesday, Jan. 10, the land use committee will be briefed on the continuing demolition of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, the Norfolk Street synagogue that was devastated by an arson fire this past May. One of the towers has already been toppled. Work crews are now going to work on the second tower. We’ll presumably be hearing more next months about plans for a new development project on a parcel behind the synagogue wreckage. The Landmarks Preservation Commission has instructed the property owner to save as much of the historic shul as possible.

On Thursday, Jan. 4, the human services/education committee will discuss ongoing efforts to build a school at Essex Crossing. As we reported in November, State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou is trying to revive a campaign to fund construction of the school, which would be located on Suffolk Street.

On Tuesday, January 9 the State Liquor Authority Committee will review an application for two large restaurants with the new Ace Hotel at 223-225 Bowery. High profile chef Nick Morgenstern is set to run the ground floor and rooftop establishments.

You can see full meeting details here.

Next Week’s CB3 Meetings: Coastal Resiliency, Liquor Licenses, Essex Crossing Update

Coming up next week: an update on the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Project.

Coming up next week: an update on the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Project.

For your planning calendars, it’s a heavy week ahead for Community Board 3. Here are some of the committee meetings scheduled Dec. 11-15:

Monday, Dec. 11, 6:30 p.m. – Arts & Cultural Affairs Subcommittee meets to discuss, among other topics, a town hall meeting happening in January.

Monday, Dec. 11, 6:30 p.m. – State Liquor Authority Committee meets to review liquor license applications. Brigitte on Canal Street is hoping to add an additional basement bar; Pinks Cantina wants a wine and beer permit at 203 Chrystie St.; Essex Street bar, Old Man Hustle, is going for a full liquor license; a cafe called Bricia is requesting beer & wine at 79 Clinton St.; Eureka Gem has applied for a wine & beer permit at 114 Forsyth St,; and 95 Fusion Tearoom & Kitchen Bar wants wine & beer at 95 Chrystie St.

Tuesday, Dec. 12, 6:45 p.m. – Transportation & Public Safety Committee to discuss noise complaints regarding the U.S. Post Office on East Broadway.

Wednesday, Dec. 13, 6:30 p.m. – Land Use Committee meets to review “Settlement Housing Fund’s proposal to acquire Tanya Towers at 620 E 13th St. from FEGS bankruptcy and conduct affordable housing preservation/rehabilitation with sale of inclusionary zoning rights.” Settlement Housing Fund is, by the way, one of two non-profits which sold a parcel in the Two Bridges area to JDS Development Group for one of those residential mega towers. There will also be an update from the Essex Crossing developers.

Thursday, Dec. 14, 6:30 p.m. – Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Committee will receive an update from city officials on the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Project (that’s the flood protection initiative below Montgomery Street). The panel will also hear about a public art project in Sara D. Roosevelt Park, which includes a “freestanding native plant garden sculpture designed to support urban birds and engage community.”

Thursday, Dec. 14, 6:30 p.m. – Public Housing Subcommittee meets to discuss NYCHA’s Section 3/FEMA program.

Visit the community board’s website for more details and meeting locations.

Jamie Rogers Prepares to Step Down as Community Board 3 Chairperson

Jamie Rogers.

Jamie Rogers.

At the next meeting of Community Board 3, coming up Nov. 28, Jamie Rogers will announce he’s stepping down as board chairperson effective Dec. 31.

His decision was prompted by the election this month of his wife. Carlina Rivera, to the City Council. In January, Rivera will be sworn in as Council member in District 2, which overlaps with sections of Community Board 3.  Members of the City Council help the borough president appoint community board members. While Rogers is an appointee of Borough President Gale Brewer, not of District 2’s Council member (currently Rosie Mendez), he told us today he wants to avoid any appearance of conflict.

In accordance with CB3’s by-laws, the board’s first vice chair, Alysha Lewis-Coleman, will become chairperson. The second vice chair, David Ford will become first vice chair and an election will be held for Ford’s current position.  All executive committee posts will be up for grabs during regularly scheduled elections next spring/summer.

In addition to stepping down as chair, Rogers will end his tenure as a member of Community Board 3 when his current term end in March of next year. Rogers has served on CB3 for six years and was elected as chair in 2016. Alysha Lewis-Coleman is a longtime tenant activist and head of her tenant association at a Section 8 building near Sara D. Roosevelt Park.

Nine New Members Appointed to Community Board 3

Members of Community Board 3, June 2016.

Members of Community Board 3, June 2016.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer last week announced this year’s appointees to local community boards. Here are the nine new members of Community Board 3, which covers the Lower East Side, East Village and Chinatown:

–Robert Magliaro: School administrator and co-founder of The Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management. [Brewer]

–Jonathan Chu: Real estate developer, restaurant owner; Chu’s family recently opened Hotel 50 Bowery in Chinatown. He also owns the restaurants Nickel & Diner and Chikarashi. During the past year, Chu has served as a public member of CB3’s liquor licensing committee. [Brewer]

–Mei Lum: Owner of Mott Street’s Wing on Wo & Co, the oldest continuously run business in Chinatown. [Brewer]

–Lee Berman: East River Cooperative Board member, State Committee member. Berman is currently running to unseat the current male district leader in the 65th Assembly District, Part A. [Chin]

–Marnie Ann Joyce: Operations Manager of the Atlantic Theater Company.

–Clint Smeltzer: Project Assistant at the Paratus Group. Smeltzer previously served as a public member of CB3’s liquor licensing committee. [Mendez]

–Ryan Gilliam: Executive/Artistic Director of Downtown Art on East Fourth Street. [Mendez]

–Dean Diongson: Director of Information Technology, Royce & Associates, resident of Grand Street cooperatives. [Mendez]

–Luis Lopez: Former corporate middle manager; retired; resident of East 13th Street. [Mendez]

One member of Community Board 3, Anne Johnson, was not reappointed. She was out of town this past weekend, but we hope to speak with her sometime this week. Borough President Brewer’s press office did not respond to a request for information about Johnson’s status.

In a press release, Brewer indicated there was a 31% increase in applications this year for Manhattan’s 12 boards. Community board members are appointed to staggered two-year terms, with half selected by the Borough President and half nominated by City Council members. Next to the name of each appointee, we have noted whether they were appointed by Brewer, Council member Margaret Chin or Council member Rosie Mendez.

Here’s the complete list of appointees.

Two Bridges Environmental Review, Chinatown Rezoning on Tonight’s CB3 Agenda

One Manhattan Square towers over the Manhattan Bridge. Photo by Joel Raskin.

One Manhattan Square towers over the Manhattan Bridge. Photo by Joel Raskin.

The future of Chinatown and the Two Bridges area will be back on the agenda when Community Board 3’s land use committee meets tonight.

The panel will be crafting a response to the Draft Scope of Work recently published by the Department of City Planning for the upcoming Two Bridges environmental review. That environmental assessment will study the impact of three large-scale residential towers planned along the East River, from Pike Slip to Clinton Street. A hearing on the draft scope was originally scheduled for the end of the month, but at the request of local elected officials, it will now be held May 25. Local residents have many concerns about the projects, from the potential displacement of low-income tenants, to the loss of light and air, strains on the public transportation system and the impact on crowded public schools and medical facilities.

Two related discussions will take place this evening. The land use committee will be asked to support Extell Development’s application for a tax abatement at One Manhattan Square, the 80-story tower now under construction at 250 South St.. The project includes about 200 units of affordable housing in a separate building. The 421-a application was set in motion before the program expired. While the community board has little influence over the application, committee members are sure to ask the developers pointed questions about the unpopular project. Among them: the status of a long-promised replacement for the Pathmark Grocery store, a casualty of the luxury tower.

The panel tonight will also resume talks about a potential rezoning of Chinatown, a hugely contentious topic. The city previously agreed to entertain a limited rezoning, though some community members have rejected a piecemeal approach.

Finally, the committee will continue a conversation about the fate of 11 affordable condominium units at 242 Broome St., part of the Essex Crossing project. Last month, board members were dismayed to learn that these apartments were not guaranteed permanent affordability. Discussions have been taking place with city officials and the development team about the issue. Tonight, some of the questions they previously asked will be answered.

Tonight’s meeting takes place at 6:30 p.m. at University Settlement, 273 Bowery.

Public Hearing Next Week on Mahfar’s East Houston Street Rezoning Application

255 East Houston St., March 2016.

255 East Houston St., March 2016.

City Council member Rosie Mendez is encouraging locals to show up next week at a City Council hearing on a proposed zoning change along a two-and-a-half block stretch of East Houston Street. Mendez, the Manhattan Borough President and Community Board 3 are all opposed the change, which is being pushed by property owner Samy Mahfar.

Mahfar is planning a 13-story residential building with ground floor commercial space at 255 East Houston St. (near Suffolk Street). He’s preparing to demolish a building that once housed a low-income daycare center, which was displaced in 2010 after construction on a neighboring lot damaged the property.

A community facility is the only use allowed under current zoning. But Mahfar says attempts to find a tenant have been unsuccessful. So he wants to map a C2-5 commercial overlay in the R8 district (the change would impact parcels he controls, plus 18 other lots on the south side of the street). This alteration would allow a restaurant to occupy the commercial space.

The community board approved a resolution in May opposing the change. It stated that Mahfar has, “a well- documented history of illegal construction and construction harassment” in other buildings throughout the Lower East Side. The board also told the City Planning Commission, “The daycare (center) was forced to be vacated due to the open violations and the applicant’s failure to address them.” Most significantly, CB3 argued that the neighborhood lacks adequate community facilities and has lost a number of daycare and nursing facilities in recent years (Rivington House, for example).

The planning commission, however, approved the application July 13 (see below). Here’s part of the city’s rationale as explained by the planning board:

There is an existing C2-5 commercial overlay on the north side of East Houston Street between First Avenue and Avenue B, and the proposed action will create consistency in the permitted commercial uses along each side of East Houston Street, which includes a wide range commercial uses from retail shopping, grocery stores, and restaurants. Together, these commercial amenities provide much needed services to Lower East Side residents. The Commission believes that the proposed C2-5 commercial overlay on the blocks and lots on the south side of East Houston Street between the east side of Norfolk Street and the centerline of the block between Clinton Street and Attorney Street is in context with the surrounding zoning and reflective of existing uses.

The matter will be taken up by the Council’s zoning and franchises committee next Tuesday morning at 9:30 (in the committee room at City Hall). In a newsletter published yesterday, Mendez’s office wrote, “Council Woman Mendez does not support zoning changes at this time and would like to encourage the Community Board and constituents to testify at the City Council’s hearing on the application.”

During an earlier public hearing, CB3’s chairperson and Mahfar were quizzed by planning commissioners about the application. Mahfar, of course, disagrees with the community board’s assertion that he was responsible for displacing the daycare. You can watch the videotape of the June 8 meeting here.  [The East Houston Street discussion begins at approximately 15:45).

Followup: City Approves Lowline Proposal For Former Trolley Terminal


Lowline rendering; courtesy of Raad Studio/James Ramsey.

Almost five years after they went public with a headline-grabbing plan to create the world’s first underground park in an abandoned trolley station on the Lower East Side, founders of the Lowline have cleared a major hurdle. As we first reported Wednesday night, city officials have given their conditional approval for the ambitious project.

Representatives of the Economic Development Corp. (EDC) announced the decision at a meeting of Community Board 3. The Lowline responded to a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) put out by the city late last year for the old Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal. No other applications were received. In the next year, the Lowline is required to raise $10 million, submit schematic plans for the 60,000 square foot space and,  as a press release put it, “implement a robust community engagement plan.”

In an interview, Lowline Executive Director Dan Barasch said, “It was an extraordinary day for us. It feels wonderful that the city is an enthusiastic supporter of the project. We’ve enjoyed extraordinary support across the community. Now we have a real vote of confidence from the city.”

Alica Glen, deputy mayor for housing and economic development, said in a statement, “The Lowline represents an incredible fusion of technology and public space. For eighty years, this underground space has sat idle. Now we’re putting it to use for the people of the Lower East Side and for all New Yorkers to enjoy. We can’t wait to see this experiment unfold.”

Charlie Gans, an executive vice president, took the lead for the EDC at the community board, describing the Lowline as an innovative public gathering and cultural space. “We have decided to conditionally designate the Lowline,” said Gans. Over the next year, he explained, there will be quarterly meetings of a new Community Engagement Committee and 5-10 public design charrettes. The historic trolley space, inactive since 1948, is owned by the City of New York and leased to the MTA. If the Lowline organization meets the agreed upon commitments, Gans said, “the acquisition process” will begin next fall.  Shovels could be in the ground by late 2018.

Photo: Courtesy The Lowline

Photo: Courtesy The Lowline

Back in November, members of CB3 complained to the Economic Development Corp. about the lack of local consultation before the city officially issued the RFEI. As a result, officials extended the deadline for applications by a month. At the time, they said the community board would not have a role in the selection process, but that there would be many opportunities for feedback from local residents. On Wednesday evening, Gans called the city’s decision just “the first step in a long process” and said, “We’re going to be making sure that the Lowline is engaging with the community in a real way. That’s why this designation is conditional.”

For some community board members, these assurances fell far short of their expectations. Damaris Reyes, executive director of the housing advocacy organization, GOLES, is an outspoken critic of both the city’s handling of the former trolley space as well as of the Lowline proposal itself. Referring to last winter’s discussions between CB3 and the Economic Development Corp., she said Wednesday evening, “I feel so dissatisfied and so disappointed that you did not respect this community board enough to come to us the right way.”

Realistically, she argued, no developer could have pulled together a compelling proposal in the short amount of time between the publication of the RFEI and the submission deadline. “The Lowline,” she said, “has had an unfair advantage of working on this and putting together all the details, the renderings, for several years now.” Reyes added, “I just want to say that I’m really disappointed in the way that EDC is now coming here to tell us there was one applicant, that they’re designating the Lowline as the applicant, not recognizing that perhaps you need to go back to the drawing board and rethink this, because there could be a million and one uses for that space, and that you disregarded what we said, the challenges that we are facing in our community.”

In 2012, Community Board 3 voted 44-0 in support of the Lowline project. Many board members continue to be enthusiastic backers of the underground park vision. Others have their doubts, including MyPhuong Chung, chairperson of the land use committee. While acknowledging the city’s efforts to give applicants an additional month to submit proposals, Chung told city officials, “we didn’t have any input in the decisions that were made,” and noted that gentrification has only become a bigger issue on the Lower East Side since the board endorsed the Lowline four-years ago. Referring to pressures on the community, she said, “these are real issues and, moving forward, we need to address them. Please know that we’re serious about this.”

Other land use committee members questioned whether the Lowline would be a drain on public funds that could be used for other purposes, whether the space would be frequently closed to the public for private events and whether, as public member Harriet Cohen put it, would be overtaken by “hot dog stands and concerts.”

The Lowline Lab in the Essex Street Market. Photo courtesy of The Lowline.

The Lowline Lab in the Essex Street Market. Photo courtesy of The Lowline.

Committee member Dominic Berg was board chairperson when the Lowline went public in 2011. He was supportive of the project then, and continues to believe in it to this day. He suggested that other developers interested in the space could have started to work on ideas years ago. “This is a project that has been very, very well publicized for a long time,” said Berg. “The Lowline has been methodically working with the community… reaching out to all of the community leaders, trying to make sure that they are listening to the community and clearly trying to do what’s right for the community.” 

Another longtime supporter, Councilmember Maragret Chin, urged people concerned about the project to become involved. She sponsored the first meeting of the Community Engagement Committee last month, along with Daisy Paez, tenant president of the Grand Street Guild apartments. She called the Lowline’s use of sunlight channeling technology for the park and the organization’s youth programming “amazing.” Chin told board members, “We can all have input… It’s really what we make of it. So I really encourage all of you to work with us and to work with EDC.”

Lowline co-founders James Ramsey and Dan Barasch. File photo.

Lowline co-founders James Ramsey and Dan Barasch. File photo.

When it was finally his turn to talk, the Lowline’s Dan Barasch said, “Our approach has always been, very consistently, that we simply want to take the space and turn it into a beautiful public gathering space that is used for the entire community, designed in close partnership with the community.”  He encouraged anyone who’s interested to take part in the next community engagement meeting (it’s happening July 25.) Barasch said the committee, “will talk about real things — hours of operation, whether or not there’s retail, whether or not there’s programming happening in the space.” None of these things, he said, are “etched in stone.”

EDC officials have said they felt some urgency to develop the underground space now in order to capitalize on Essex Crossing, the large-scale residential and retail project now under construction in the immediate area. The developers are bullish on the Lowline, which they believe will draw locals and tourists alike to Essex Crossing’s shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. During this week’s meeting, Tim Laughlin of the Lower East Side Partnership said he’s convinced the subterranean park will also provide a boost to the neighborhood’s existing independent businesses. “I have long thought that the Lowline, as a project, would be a driver for small merchants,” said Laughlin. He cited the Lowline Lab, a prototype that opened in the Essex Street Market last October. The weekend-only community space has attracted 70,000 visitors. A food festival held in February drew a large crowd and led to big sales increases for Essex market vendors, Laughlin said.

There were, however, differences of opinion about the Lowline’s potential positive impact on local businesses. Cathy Dang, executive director of the advocacy organization, CAAAV, said she watched a longtime diner on Hester Street struggle after the opening of an art gallery. While the owner was, at first, optimistic about the arrival of a new clientele, he now believes the changes in the area have actually cost him business. Dang said she’s concerned the Lowline will have a similar impact. Laughlin countered that Essex Crossing and the Lowline together will, “drive foot traffic” and “support cultural institutions, support small businesses — both ones that have been here for multiple generations and ones that are new.”

At one point Wednesday night, Damaris Reyes asked Barasch whether his organization had released a community impact study conducted by the Hester Street Collaborative for the Lowline in 2015. The exchange offered a glimpse of the contentious history between certain community activists and the Lowline team over the last few years. During the meeting, Barasch acknowledged that the study had not been published. Reyes contended that opinions of Lowline detractors, such as herself, were initially discounted during the research phase of the project. Barasch said this assertion is untrue.

[This past March, The Lo-Down interviewed Barasch, Reyes, Hester Street Collaborative’s executive director and others about the research study. The initiative, paid for by the J.M. Kaplan Fund, was envisioned as a collaboration with GOLES, CAAAV and the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council. These groups initially agreed to participate in surveying their constituencies. Leaders of all three organizations told us they ultimately decided against taking part due to insufficient funding for robust outreach efforts. Members of the groups did participate in interviews conducted as part of Hester Street Collaborative’s survey. We’ll have more about this community engagement exercise in a future story.]

In the next several months, members of Community Board 3 will be seeking assurances from the Lowline team and from the city that the underground space will, in fact, operate for the benefit of the local community. City officials acknowledged that the former trolley space will eventually go through the city’s land use approval process (ULURP).  Hearings before the community board and City Planning Commission will be required, the Borough president will weigh in and the City Council must vote on the final land disposition.


Jamie Rogers Elected Chairperson of Community Board 3

Jamie Rogers making his pitch last night to lead Community Board 3.

Jamie Rogers making his pitch last night to lead Community Board 3.

Members of Community Board 3 chose a new leader last night. He’s Jamie Rogers, who owns Pushcart Coffee, a small business with locations in Chelsea and Murray Hill. Rogers succeeds Gigi Li as board chairperson. She wasn’t able to run for a fifth one-year term due to CB3’s term limits.

Rogers defeated Enrique Cruz 34-11 after both candidates delivered brief statements and answered questions submitted by members of the all-volunteer board. Alysha Lewis-Coleman was elected first vice chair, defeating Chinatown activist Karlin Chan 42-5. Herman Hewitt was elected second vice chair, while Meghan Joye (secretary), Christian De Leon (assistant secretary) and David Crane (treasurer) also won positions as executive officers.

The election followed an especially contentious public session of the community board. A group known as the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side led a protest against the board’s handling of a community-based Chinatown rezoning initiative. Board leaders were denounced as “sell outs” for failing to — in the eyes of the protesters — forcefully advocate for all aspects of the plan.

In internal conversations leading up to last night’s vote, some board members were critical of CB3’s office, particularly District Manager Susan Stetzer, who they believe has too much influence over meeting agendas and other administrative functions. This issue was not addressed specifically by the candidates but was alluded to in their statements.

Following the vote, Rogers told The Lo-Down he wants to make sure CB3 is, “addressing concerns the board has with how we manage our staff, that we’re addressing concerns with transparency of our leadership, that we’re addressing concerns with appointments to various leadership positions.” CB3, he added, must be a “supportive board to its members” and must work harder to fully represent all aspects of the diverse Lower East Side community.  “Tonight,” he said, “was a real indication of the pain and anger and frustration people are feeling that’s directed at the board, but it’s a much larger problem that we as a board need to address.”

While the votes were being counted last night, members of Community Board 3 posed for a "class photo."

While the votes were being counted last night, members of Community Board 3 posed for a “class photo.”

Rogers will have a full plate in the months ahead. In addition to running his business, he’s campaign treasurer for City Council candidate Carlina Rivera (who is Rogers’ wife). He’s also president of CoDA, a local Democratic club. Rogers. formerly a corporate lawyer, was appointed to Community Board 3 in 2012. He lives in the Grand Street cooperatives.

Enrique Cruz founded an organization called ALBOR, the Association of Latino Business Owners and Residents. He’s a lifelong Lower East Side resident and real estate developer. In recent years, he’s advocated for small businesses on Clinton Street, for greater diversity in community board appointments and for a more assertive stance against predatory landlords. He first became engaged with community board politics during a 2013 controversy over a Rivington Street restaurant he and other local businessmen were seeking to open. In the past, Cruz has been an outspoken critic of the board’s staff.

During last night’s board meeting, Cruz said CB3 leadership needs to more proactively reach out to members, making sure that everyone plays a role in shaping board policies. “We can be more inclusive, we can be more cohesive,” he said. Referring to the protests earlier in the evening, he added, “I think our community board is a good one. Some of the things that were said, while I understand the frustrations of some of the residents who were here today, I do know the hard work that all 50 members, who do this as a volunteer position, they do it with their hearts and they come here to try to make a difference.”

Council member Rosie Mendez and representatives of other elected officials honored Gigi Li last night for her service to CB3.

Council member Rosie Mendez and representatives of other elected officials honored Gigi Li last night for her service to CB3.

Candidate Statements: Enrique Cruz, Jamie Rogers Compete to Lead CB3

Enrique Cruz (left), Jamie Rogers.

Enrique Cruz (left), Jamie Rogers.

Tomorrow evening, the 50 members of Community Board 3 will be choosing a new chairperson and other executive officers. After four years, Gigi Li is stepping down due to new term limits imposed by the board (she’s a candidate for Sheldon Silver’s former assembly seat).

There are two candidates for chairperson: Enrique Cruz and Jamie Rogers. Anne Johnson was also in the mix, but decided to withdraw her name from consideration. While members from the community at-large don’t get a vote, the outcome of the election will definitely be relevant to the greater Lower East Side. With this in mind, we’re providing space here for statements from the two contenders.

Jamie Rogers:

My name is Jamie Rogers, and I am running for Chair of Community Board 3. I’ve served on the Board for four years and during that time served as Assistant Secretary and on our Economic Development and Transportation Committees.

I joined the Board for the same reason I live in our community: I cherish the diversity and history of the neighborhood and the passion and creativity with which we fight to preserve it. As Community Board members, our principal mission is to take the voices of our neighbors and transform those voices into thoughtful resolutions. Those resolutions influence, guide and motivate our elected officials and agencies to help protect what makes our neighborhood unique.

I am a small business owner of community coffee shops and lawyer. I know firsthand the challenges of building a sustainable business that pays a living wage and meets the demands of ever-escalating commercial rents.

In addition to my time on CB3, I served as a Team Leader for Americorps, where I worked with non-profits and city agencies all around the country. Through that experience, I learned ways in which diverse communities work together to combat inequality.

As Chair, I will ensure that our board is a supportive, welcoming and dynamic body that fights for the community we all love.

I will run board meetings fairly and efficiently, allocating members’ valuable time to hearing community input, understanding the issues we face, respectfully voicing opinions of members and formulating strategy for action.

I will manage board resources and staff professionally, help all community members work with our staff to accomplish the community’s goals and provide constructive feedback to staff so they have the tools they need to do their best work for our board.

I will make leadership opportunities available and accessible to all members, make every leadership appointment a transparent process and support board members at all levels to give them the training, feedback and access to resources they need to succeed.

I will put infrastructure in place to increase our recruitment and outreach efforts in the community to ensure that every member of our community has a clear path for participation and understands board procedures.

Most importantly, I will work with each member to build and sustain a community board we are proud to be a part of and our neighbors are proud to be represented by.

In conclusion, I will work tirelessly to lead and serve the board. I am running for chair because I value the hard work and time we all put into representing this diverse community, and I want to do everything I can to transform our hard work into meaningful community benefits for everyone.

I look forward to working with everyone in the community to building a better board and a stronger resilient home.


Enrique Cruz:

Tomorrow there will be another Full Board meeting of our Community Board 3. Every last Tuesday of the month, Community Board 3 meets to discuss the issues and matters that affect our community. These meetings are open to all of the public and are important ways for the community board to hear from the community.

Community Boards are local representative bodies and there are 59 community boards throughout the city of NY. Each Community Board has up to 50 unsalaried members. The Borough President appoints the members of which half of them are nominated by the community’s Council Members. The Community Board members are mostly selected from community members who have applied and are active and involved in the community.

While Community Boards work in an advisory capacity, they deal with a wide range of issues including, land use and zoning, community’s needs assessment for city budget use, municipal facilities in the community, licensing, permits, and many more issues concerning our community.

My name is Enrique Cruz and I’m a Community Board 3 member and I’m running for the position of Chair. I’m a native of the Lower East Side, having been born here in the early 70s and a part of this community all my life I felt it was important to be a part of my community board as well.

At tomorrow’s Full Board meeting, the members of the Community Board will have an election to vote for all officers of the board. I chose to run for Chair of the Board so that I together with all of the members of the board can work on making our Community Board a better one.

If elected, I will commit to making it a priority that all of the board members are included in setting the board’s agenda. Every board member brings with them their own distinct perspective and experiences which should be utilized to widen and strengthen the board’s view of the issues facing our community. It will be a priority to work with the committee chairs that are appointed to ensure that the committees are open, transparent and inclusive of their members and the community.

Secondly, I will commit to working on creative and efficient ways of accessing the information that our members need to make the most informed decisions possible. If our board is not able to access the proper, relevant and thorough information it needs, it will not be in a position to make an informed decision. I will make it a priority that the board and district office work to gather the best and most relevant information possible so that our board can make more informed decisions.

Lastly, while our board receives issues and items that our thrust at us and we must react to them. I will commit on working to make our board more pro-active as a body. It is one of my priorities that we work on issues that we can see on the horizon and instead of waiting to react we instead deal with them mindfully and holistically.

I’ve witnessed for decades what our community has gone through and continues to experience. Whether it is the systemic displacement of our rent regulated neighbors, the exodus of our small neighborhood businesses that are unable to afford the rising rents, the lack of quality education for our children, the health institutions closing or “downsizing”, the massive developments being erected on numerous sites, the proliferation of nightlife establishments or the lack of services to our aging community; we have a lot of work ahead.

I look forward to facing these challenges together as a community and through the hard work of our Community Board. It is important that our Board continues to strengthen itself through the work of its members and the participation of our community.

Local Activists Take a Stand Against Governor’s Plan to Change Liquor Laws

Handout photo.

Handout photo.

On Friday, community activists and local elected officials rallied against legislation proposed by Governor Cuomo to change the state’s liquor laws. They say the amendment to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law would make it harder for community boards to act against problem bars.

In April, the governor’s “blue ribbon panel” in charge of modernizing the 80-year-old law released it recommendations. They included streamlining applications for liquor licenses, eliminating the Sunday morning ban on liquor sales and weakening the “200 Foot Law.” That provision prevents bars and restaurants with full liquor licenses from opening within 200 feet of a church or school.

Last month, Community Board 3 approved a resolution calling on the governor to provide opportunities for feedback about the proposed changes from Manhattan community boards. The resolution stated that the commission included heavy representation from the nightlife and brewing/distilling industries. Only one representative of a New York City community board was allowed to attend.

In a news release from CB3, Chairperson Gigi Li said, “Community Board 3 requests that an additional meeting of the Working Group be convened to allow for participation and recommendations from diverse community boards, particularly those in Manhattan, that must plan and serve their communities based on implementation of New York State Liquor Authority decisions and the (state’s liquor laws).”

In that same press release, State Sen. Daniel Squadron added, “I’ve long supported a key role for community boards in the liquor application process — it doesn’t make sense that community boards weren’t given a meaningful role in developing proposed changes to the liquor law… Provisions that impact our communities and raise real concerns should not be pushed forward without engaging those communities.”  City Council member Margaret Chin said, “Our neighborhoods, which are already over-saturated by late-night establishments serving alcohol, need more transparency in the liquor license granting process, not less… I urge our state elected officials to ensure that the community is consulted on any changes to the law and that all voices are heard.”

This morning, we contacted the office of State Assemblywoman Alice Cancel. We were told that she also opposes the legislation.

A spokesperson from the governor’s office told DNA Info, “The legislation brought forward was the product of extensive and thorough review, and will not only modernize these outdated and arcane laws, but also increase opportunities for businesses to grow and thrive.”

If you’d like to have a look at the legislation and its sponsors, click here. CB3 is urging local residents to contact the governor with feedback about the proposed changes.

At CB3 Liquor Meeting, a Rough Night For the New Team in Le Baron Space

32 Mulberry St.

32 Mulberry St.

Something possessed us to stop by Community Board 3’s liquor permit hearing last night (we will never learn). Here’s what happened during the three hours we were there.

The applicants of a Japanese restaurant in the the old Le Baron night club space on Mulberry Street were forced to withdraw their application. Jake Smith, a former television producer, is partnering with Kazuo Yoshida of the highly regarded Williamsburg sushi spot, 1 or 8.

Smith said he wanted to open a high-quality izakaya, including a small omakase bar and a more accessible (affordable) dining room. The place would be open until 4 a.m., catering to restaurant industry types. But Chinatown neighbors, including community board member Karlin Chan, lobbied against the application. They have bad memories of the now shuttered Le Baron, which they say brought noise, black cars and many disrespectful interlopers to Mulberry Street.

Gianni Cionchi (who works for a well-known Manhattan restaurant group) spoke in favor of the concept, but did more harm than good. Apparently trying to counter fears that the restaurant would morph into another club, Cionchi said the new venture would bring “an elevated dining experience” to Chinatown. It wouldn’t be catering to a “low-income clientele,” he added, alluding to the historic demographic makeup of the neighborhood. These comments did not sit well with Community Board 3 Chairperson Gigi Li, a Chinatown resident. “There are about 10 things you just said that were extremely offensive,” she told Cionchi (he later apologized for the statements). 

Li said she was concerned that the applicants failed to do enough community outreach. She also expressed worries about Smith’s co-applicant, Ron Castellano, who was one of the partners of Le Baron. There were questions, as well, about another partner, Max Levai, an owner of the controversial club, Happy Ending. Smith and Castellano said Levai (an art world insider) had agreed to supply art for the new restaurant in exchange for part ownership in the business. Castellano is a well-known figure on the Lower East Side. In addition to his nightlife ventures, he’s responsible for restoring The Forward Building and the Jarmulowsky Bank Building, and for starting the Hester Street Fair. He said the complaints about Le Baron were unwarranted.

In the end, Li persuaded Smith to withdraw his community board application. She encouraged him to become more familiar with the neighborhood and to reach out to more local residents before taking another run at a liquor permit. Committee Chair Alex Militano said the State Liquor Authority would likely be looking into whether a new permit at 32 Mulberry St. would violate the 200 Foot Rule. That provision of state law prohibits full liquor licenses within 200 feet of churches and school buildings. There are at least two churches in close proximity.

In other news last night, the committee approved a permit for Saluggi’s, the new Italian restaurant coming to 399 Grand St.  Closing hours will be 1 a.m. weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends. Owner Bill Wall said he would come back to the board at a later date for permission to use a patio located in front of the restaurant.

Also, the large restaurant group that runs Serafina won approval for a branch of the Italian restaurant at 98 Rivington St. Although the applicants sought later hours, the committee agreed to a 2 a.m. closing time on weekends.

Finally, the committee gave approval to hotel magnate Ian Schrager for his nightlife multiplex at 215 Chrystie St. The new Public Hotel, built on the former garden of an affordable housing complex, will boast 11 liquor permits. Most of the details were worked out between the Schrager team and community board members last month. But the applicants returned with several alterations in the agreement meant to give them more flexibility.


Seven New Members Join Community Board 3

Alan van Cappelle.

Alan van Cappelle.

Usually at about this time, the Manhattan Borough President’s Office puts out a master list of annual community board appointments. We haven’t seen this year’s version, but the new appointees have been added to Community Board 3’s website. So here you go:

Alan van Cappelle has been president and CEO of Education Alliance since 2014. Previously, he headed the Empire State Pride Agenda and Bend the Arc, a Jewish organization dedicated to social justice. Van Cappelle lives in the Grand Street cooperatives with his husband and two children.

Christian De Leon is a program coordinator for the YMCA and a former Community Board 3 intern. He’s an urban studies major at CUNY Hunter.

Veronica Leventhal is a Beacon program director at University Settlement, based at East Side Community High School.

Wilda Escarfuller is a writer who graduated from Columbia University with a master’s degree in Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

Robin Schatell is director of public programs at the Madison Park Conservancy. She’s also an occasional arts contributor to The Lo-Down. Schatell lives on Grand Street.

Joyce Ravitz is a longtime community activist who previously served on CB3, and is now rejoining the board.

Sameh Jacob is a former owner of Le Souk, a controversial restaurant that was first located on Avenue B, and is now on LaGuardia Place. His name was invoked during a liquor committee meeting earlier this week.

It’s going to be a year of change at Community Board 3. Chairperson Gigi Li is stepping down after leading the board for four years. She’ll be a candidate in the Democratic Primary coming up in September in the 65th Assembly District. The 50 members of CB3 will elect a new chair this summer.