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CB3 Hosts Forum on Special Retail Zoning District

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Alex Shoe Repair on Secons Avenue closed up shop in 2015. Photo by ilyse Kazar.
Alex Shoe Repair on Secons Avenue closed up shop in 2015. Photo by ilyse Kazar.

Coming up next week, Community Board 3 will be hosting a public forum on a proposal to bring a special zoning district to the East Village as a way of protecting independent small businesses.

It takes place Wednesday, June 7, 6:30 p.m. at the Sirovich Senior Center, 331 East 12th St. Here’s some background about special districts from an information sheet prepared by CB3:

A special district is an overlay used as a tool to supplement and modify the underlying zoning in order to respond to distinctive neighborhoods with particular issues and goals. The City Planning Commission has been designating special zoning districts since 1969 to achieve specific planning and urban design objectives in defined areas with unique characteristics… Examples of various types of special districts can be seen across the city, including on the Upper West Side, Battery Park, Harlem, Hudson Yards, and Little Italy.

Why a special district in the East Village and why now?

CD3 has experienced a dramatic loss of small “mom & pop” businesses in the past 10+ years, and a resulting decrease in the diversity and affordability of local goods and services. Driven by a combination of high commercial rents and real estate taxes, competition from an over-proliferation and concentration of destination nightlife businesses and national chain stores who can afford exorbitant rents, and a lack of daytime foot traffic, the loss of small businesses has been sustained in recent years.

What are the goals of a special district in CB 3?

  • preserve the unique, individual character of our neighborhoods
  • facilitate a diverse, affordable, and appropriate mix of retail and service providers that meet local needs
  • encourage daytime businesses that do not have a disruptive effect on residents
  • support existing businesses serving local needs
  • limit the ground floor presence of inactive street wall frontages
  • promote strong and affordable neighborhoods that are inviting to all New Yorkers, especially families

How will a special district affect certain uses?

The special district is not meant to push out existing businesses and nightlife establishments. Rather, the effort is to strike a balance and create a level playing field for small businesses. In the current proposal, eating/drinking establishments, banks, and chains would have restrictions on maximum total size (2,500 square feet) and maximum street wall width (25 linear feet). They would also be prohibited from combining storefronts across separate buildings. Additionally, there would be restrictions on how much of a block’s street frontage can be occupied by a particular use – for example, no more than 25% of any given block’s street frontage can be occupied by eating/drinking establishments and there cannot be more than 1 chain store or bank per block.

The board’s proposal envisions establishing a special district from 14th Street to East Houston Street and Second Avenue to Avenue D (it would not include storefronts on Houston and 14th streets); and St. Marks Place between Second and Third avenues.


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