(Opinion) Seward Park Residents Must Vote “Yes” on Air Rights Deal

Southwest view; development plan with air rights.
Southwest view; development plan with air rights.
Southwest view; development plan with air rights. Renderings are designed to illustrate massing alternatives. Actual architectural designs have not been publicly released.

The following opinion piece was written by Uzi Silber, a resident of the Seward Park Cooperative.  On Tuesday, members of the co-op will vote on a $53.7 million offer from developers who want to acquire air rights from Seward Park (more background here). The Lo-Down routinely accepts op/ed submissions relevant to the Lower East Side community. Opinion pieces do not reflect the editorial position of The Lo-Down, but only the viewpoints of each individual author. To submit an editorial/letter to the editor, use the following email: info@thelodownny.com

Seward Park, where I’ve lived with my family for the past generation, has always been a community of opinionated iconoclasts. Lately we’ve been embroiled in an especially vitriolic mini civil war revolving around the sale of some of our valuable air rights.

Many residents contend that the issue is confusing and complicated. Actually, it’s neither: it’s merely clouded – by a lot of hot air.

Once all the irrelevancies, non-sequiturs and lesser items are cleared away, it’s pretty simple: tall apartment towers will rise beside our property. Either we vote YES and receive $40 million after taxes for our air rights — or vote NO, and get zero. That’s it.

It hit me again yesterday, as I gazed up at all the scaffolding and netting between buildings 3 and 4, and the steel bars holding up so many of our crumbling balconies. I mulled the eye-popping price tag for all this elaborate equipment needed just to prevent debris from landing on our iconoclastic and opinionated heads.

And then I asked myself: who would I rather have pay for all this: us, or the developer?

Interestingly, the two camps transcend demographics: It’s not about who we are or what we do – but whether we’re deluded or practical. In a nutshell, NO voters are focused on ‘What If’: what if the developer somehow coughs up another $30 million, or what if we build on the Apple Bank site ourselves one day?

In contrast, YES voters are focused on ‘What Is’: we need the money right now to fix our buildings, pay down debt, shore up our finances, protect the most vulnerable among us — while pocketing four months of maintenance.

The NO side offers absolutely no financially-based reasons for not accepting the $53 million on the table and provides no real solutions for dealing with our serious financial challenges, while helping the most vulnerable in our community.

Bottom line: YES voters are grounded in reality. NO voters are peddling fantasy.

So on Tuesday, don’t be an airhead: vote YES for selling air rights.

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