Editor’s note: The following opinion piece was submitted by K Webster, a new member of Community Board 3 and a longtime community activist. The Lo-Down accepts unsolicited op/ed articles. Submissions should be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s a lot of interest in CB 3’s decision to suspend the LES Dwellers neighborhood group for three months. Here’s the full text of the letter sent by Chairperson Gigi Li to the Dwellers on October 1.
The Manhattan Borough President’s office announced the appointment of 76 new community board members today. There are eight new members on Community Board 3, which covers the East Village, the Lower East Side and most of Chinatown.
Among the appointees: Teresa Pedroza (pictured above), the grandmother of Dashane Santana, the 12-year old girl who was killed on Delancey Street last year. New safety measures were implemented on the dangerous thoroughfare after her death. Pedroza is a resident of the Baruch Houses and a member of Good Old Lower East Side. City Council member Rosie Mendez recommended her appointment.
Community Board 3 is out with the agenda for its April 8th liquor licensing hearing. There are some potentially interesting items here, including a new proposal for the Alias space at 76 Clinton St. More details as full applications are posted online.
As we have reported, Soho House planned to go before Community Board 3 next month, seeking support for a liquor license at 139 Ludlow Street. But the operators of the members’ club have decided to take some more time for community outreach before moving forward with their Lower East Side expansion plan, so the liquor application has been withdrawn, for now.
Soho House staff held several open houses the past two weekends inside the former funeral home on Ludlow Street. Letters were sent to around 1800 residents in the immediate area, explaining the project and inviting people to stop by to check out the plans. Yesterday afternoon, the community board was notified of the withdrawal.
It was a rough night at Community Board 3’s March liquor license hearing for the New Kings of New York Nightlife. Mark Birnbaum and Eugene Remm of the EMM Group wanted the board’s blessing to move the dance floor at their huge Bowery club, Finale, to the ground floor (from the basement). The committee voted 5-2 (with one member abstaining) against the application.
Residents of 199 Bowery, where the club is located, have filed a lawsuit against the EMM Group, claiming that late night noise and crowds have made their lives miserable. More than a dozen opponents of the club testified last night. Committee Chair Alex Militano says Remm and Birnbaum appear to have pulled off a “bait and switch,” promising to open a “bar/restaurant/bakery/lounge” and then morphing into a full-fledged night club. In their defense, the nightlife impresarios said they were making a real effort to address resident concerns. They said there’s an adjustment period any time a club opens. CB3’s full board will vote on the application later this month before forwarding a recommendation to the State Liquor Authority.
The New York Times reported today that Yo! Bus is “rushing to fill the void left by the shutdown of Fung Wah,” the Chinatown bus company which was forced out of service by the federal government last week due to safety concerns. Yo!, a joint operation of Greyhound and Peter Pan, began service from Pike Street last December. The company was forced to move from a proposed location in front of Seward Park after a neighborhood uproar.
Following the Times report, YO! put out a press release today announcing six daily round trips between New York and Boston, a route previously served by Fung Wah. The new service begins on Thursday from the same Pike Street location, near East Broadway. As the Times story indicated, the Department of Transportation “updated (Yo!’s permit)” to allow the additional stops.
Editor’s note: Last week, we published an op/ed from Jenifer Rajkumar, a district leader and prospective City Council candidate, concerning the Seward Park development project. Today, here’s a related opinion piece from Dominic Berg, who was the chairperson of Community Board 3 from July 2008 – June 2012. He continues to serve as a member of CB3 and is a member of the Seward Park RFP Task Force. This Op/Ed is not an official statement of Community Board 3:
As the former Chairperson of Community Board 3 who oversaw a community consensus on this project, I would like to provide recent historical context about the progress taken thus far on the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA).
The deal that allowed this development to move forward after over 40 years of inaction was a result of true common sense community consensus on what is best for the Lower East Side. I often said that we knew we had a deal because everyone gave up something and all felt a little out of their comfort zone. Every vote taken by the full Community Board on this project was unanimous.
Recently Community Board 3 sent a survey to neighborhood block associations and followed up with a letter outlining various procedures these groups should follow. Block associations deal with lots of different issues — their organizing efforts to oppose, or at least to restrict, liquor license applications at bars and restaurants being the most high profile.
According to the letter, CB3 has updated its list of block associations following Hurricane Sandy, when communication with local residents was all but impossible. It became apparent that the board’s contact list was really out of date, partly due to the fact that local organizations tend to come and go in response to various “hot button issues” on specific blocks. Keeping updated information is a challenge. CB3 typically refers liquor license applicants to block groups. The same goes for film production studios looking to shoot in the neighborhood, as well as organizations applying to hold block parties.
The next big housing battle on the Lower East Side is upon us. In the past month, officials with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) have been briefing elected officials and some tenant leaders about plans to lease a huge amount of property alongside public housing to private developers for market-rate apartments and retail. Last night, at a meeting of Community Board 3’s land use committee, activists began to mobilize against the proposal, one tenant leader saying in regards to NYCHA, “if you want a war you’ve got a war.”
The cash-strapped agency has been talking about selling or leasing some of its property for years. A 2008 report from the Manhattan Borough President found that the housing authority has more than 30 million square feet of unused property rights (including parking lots, playgrounds and open space). In September, NYCHA Chairman John Rhea signaled that he was preparing to move ahead with the leasing plan as a way of narrowing the authority’s annual $60 million budget gap.
Community Board 3 just published the agenda for next month’s liquor license hearing. There are several interesting items listed, including a return engagement by the management of the Sunshine Cinema, which is transforming the East Houston Street landmark into a “dinner/drinks/and a movie” venue. Back in December, CB3 turned the Sunshine team away, saying their application was incomplete.
Also on the agenda, a business dubbed the “Cow Theater” is seeking a wine and beer permit at 21 Clinton, Currently the home of the Living Theatre (the legendary theater company is moving out of the space after its current production ends). The new applicant appears to be Tyler Maganzini, who runs the Black Mountain Winehouse in Brooklyn.
The new, upscale hotel at 180 Ludlow Street is expected to open by next spring. That was the word from the hotel owners, who went before Community Board 3’s SLA Committee earlier this week, winning the panel’s blessing for a liquor license. The long-suffering development site was bought by BD Hotels two years ago for $25 million. The high flying group, led by Richard Born and Ian Druckier, offered a few new details about the project, which is destined to be a Lower East Side game changer.
The 20-story hotel will include an Italian restaurant not unlike Gemma, the trattoria in the Bowery Hotel (one of this group’s many Manhattan holdings), a small patio on the Orchard Street side of the building and a lobby lounge. Food service will be available 24 hours; liquor will be served until 4 a.m. They submitted a letter of support from their neighbor, The Ludlow apartment building, as well as petitions from local residents containing 150 signatures.
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