Coalition Presents Zoning Plan to Chinatown Working Group

Note: an original version of this story erroneously stated that the Coalition plan would mandate 100% affordable housing in Chinatown and the LES.  The proposal does call for 100% affordable housing in specific areas, such as the Seward Park development site. But it also allows developers to receive density bonuses, if the community agrees and at least 60% of the housing is affordable.

The Chinatown Working Group (CWG), a community planning organization, is locked in a seemingly endless debate about how to govern itself.  But that hasn’t kept CWG members from developing their own proposals to deal with the thorny issue of affordable housing in Chinatown and beyond.

Back in December, we reported on a new zoning study conducted on behalf of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, a non-profit housing developer and advocacy group. This week, another CWG player, the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side, took its turn.

Two Bridges Details Plan to Preserve Affordable Housing

Earlier this week, members of the Chinatown Working Group (CWG) met to discuss proposed changes in the community organization’s governing structure.  While these deliberations drag on, the CWG’s comprehensive blueprint for the neighborhood remains in limbo.

When the full board meets next week, however, they’ll try to move forward with some of the less controversial aspects of their proposal, including “action plans” for  education, immigrant services and parks. Members will also hear a revised plan from the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council addressing zoning and preservation (a subject that has caused great dissention on the CWG).

Good Morning!


Photo by Joel Raskin.

The rain will stick around most of the day and evening. Muggy — with a high of 72.

Chinatown Working Group Charts New Course

In a sometimes tense two-and-a-half hour meeting last night, the Chinatown Working Group (CWG) chose new interim leaders, created a new committee to look at overhauling the organization and scheduled a vote on several “action plans” covering important neighborhood issues.

Members elected two new co-chairs, Gigi Li and Mae Lee, who agreed to head the two-year old community planning group until the end of the year.  Thomas Yu and Jim Solomon, the previous chairs, decided not to accept nominations to serve another term.  Under the present governance structure, one co-chair represents the three downtown community boards (1, 2 and 3), while the other co-chair represents community-based organizations. Gigi Li, member of Community Board 3, was elected as the community-board representative.  She is co-director of the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition.  Mae Lee will serve as the community organization representative. She is executive director of the Chinese Progressive Association.

Chinatown Working Group Looks at Restructuring

Last month's Chinatown Working Group meeting. During the summer, it looked like the Chinatown Working Group (CWG) was on the verge of finalizing a comprehensive neighborhood development proposal for submission to the city.  That was before a blow-up over the hiring of a planning consultant to help refine a 197A Plan and a more recent campaign by some participants to restructure the 51-member organization in the name of greater democracy. Now it appears likely the CWG will spend the remainder of this year regrouping and will not be ready to forward their proposal to the Department of City Planning until sometime in 2011.

Chinatown Working Group in Limbo

A few weeks ago it looked like a community planning organization was at long last poised to finalize a comprehensive proposal for Chinatown’s future. But following a dispute about the hiring of planning consultant, it appears the Chinatown Working Group (CWG) is going to be in limbo at least until next month.

Possible Solution to Chinatown Planning Dilemma

Photo via Chinatown Working Group web site.

Several days ago we reported on the latest controversy surrounding the Chinatown Working Group (CWG), a collection of 50 community organizations developing a blueprint for the neighborhood. Several members were displeased that the NYC Economic Development Corp. would be controlling the selection of a planning consultant, who will be hired to assist the CWG.

Tempers Flare at Chinatown Working Group

As summer 2010 draws to a close, new doubts are swirling around an unprecedented community planning initiative in Chinatown.  Hot tempers and an atmosphere of mistrust have consumed the Chinatown Working Group (CWG) in the past week — threatening to derail months of intensive work by more than 50 neighborhood organizations.

As we have reported, eight members of the CWG wrote an “open letter” to Michael Bloomberg April 13th protesting the city’s insistence on controlling the selection of a planning consultant to help prepare a comprehensive community plan.  The co-chairs of the Chinatown Working Group responded with their own statement, refuting many of the claims in the letter and saying the concerns about city interference were “premature.”  Hard feelings from the dispute then spilled over into a Thursday meeting, leading to an angry outburst and a dramatic confrontation among supposedly liked-minded advocates of affordable housing.

Chinatown Groups Split Over City Involvement

Last month, we wrote about a new conflict that had arisen on the Chinatown Working Group, a coalition of more then 50 organizations trying to come up with a long range community development plan.  Some of the groups represented felt as though the city was exercising too much influence in the selection of an urban planner, who will help refine the proposal.  As DNA Info reported yesterday, those groups are now stepping up their criticism:

Chinatown Working Group: LES Question Unresolved

Mott Street

It seemed so simple. Members of the Chinatown Working Group (CWG) were being asked to approve a fairly routine document — a job description of sorts for an urban planning consultant who will begin working with the organization later this year.  But last night, at the American Legion meeting room on Canal Street, the proceedings became complicated and contentious in a hurry.

Chinatown Zoning Proposals Presented to CB3 Tonight

Members of the Chinatown Working Group will present revised zoning proposals to Community Board 3’s land use committee tonight. The coalition – representing 50 neighborhood organizations – intends to submit a comprehensive community development plan to the city in the next several months.  This summer they’ve been seeking input from all three downtown community boards (1, 2 and 3).

There’s always an interesting dynamic when the Chinatown Working Group (CWG) appears before CB3. The organization was an outgrowth of the community board’s controversial rezoning of the neighborhood in 2008, which excluded Chinatown and the Two Bridges area.

Activists Ask Feds to Assess Park Row Security Threat

The Chinatown Working Group (CWG) did not request a meeting with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. On the contrary, the White House asked him to pay a visit to the community planning organization yesterday. But presented with the opportunity to discuss the neighborhood’s most pressing transportation problems, they made the most of the unexpected offer.

As the panel, representing 50 downtown groups, nears the completion of a comprehensive blueprint for Chinatown’s future, one transportation issue  in particular looms large.  Even the location of yesterday’s meeting was designed to underscore their point — the time has come (almost a decade after 9/11) to reopen Park Row.

Residents Voice Concerns About Development at Chinatown Town Hall

IMG_0768 A large crowd came to a town hall meeting last night to speak out about the problems impacting Chinatown and its neighboring communities. The forum was sponsored by the Chinatown Working Group, a coalition of community organizations. The participants were greeted by protesters outside chanting, "Chinatown not for sale… Lower East Side not for sale."

Chinatown Working Group Chairman Jim Solomon said the idea is to come up with a comprehensive plan for the neighborhood encompassing housing, education, open space, cultural preservation, transportation and social services by the end of the year. Acknowledging skepticism that the organization's plans will actually be implemented, he emphasized the involvement of a broad cross-section of the community and elected officials. Solomon expressed some frustration that the protesters chose to stand outside rather than join the conversation.

It was impossible to miss the political subtext last night. City Councilman Alan Gerson, facing several challengers in September's primary election, addressed the forum, saying he's accomplished a lot for Chinatown but that "there is much more to do."  Gerson reminded the crowd that he has pressed the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to withhold funds for the Chatham Square street redesign until community concerns are heard. He called on the LMDC to release $10 million to expand affordable housing in Chinatown and the Lower East Side.

Chinatown Forum Tonight

This evening the Chinatown Working Group, a coalition of community organizations, is sponsoring a town hall meeting at P.S. 124. The forum will cover the problem of escalating rents, traffic and parking issues and  education. The meeting is at 630pm, the Yung Wing School, 40 Division Street.