Monday, April 30, 2007

Waiting for The Other Shoe

Community Board #2 is preparing for elections once again and the forces of reform are still completing the mission supported by Borough President Scott Stringer. New members were appointed and those whose agenda did not clearly have the community in mind were allowed to exit, stage left. Under current Chair Maria Derr, protege of Bob Rinaolo and rumored aspirant to Deborah Glick's Assembly seat, the most controversial Board in Manhattan is now about to hold new elections. Some hope that the process of reform will be completed through the electing of community activists rather than business owners and their associates who, history has shown, have more interest in furthering their own interests than those of the community. The Chamber of Commerce is watching this election.

Roughly 20% of the Board is hardcore holdovers and sympathizers from the Rinaolo/Derr era who seek to maintain control of the Board for simple reasons - money and power. These are well-informed people who are savvy manipulators of the arcane Community Board election process. Many have learned tricks of the trade at the knee of former Board Manager Arty Strickler - a fox who was keeper of the secrets and one who performed not a few dubious manipulations in the service of - well, basically, Arty Strickler.

At the next meeting, nominations will be made from the floor of the Full Board and it will be instructive to see if any these holdovers have been designated to carry the mantle of the old guard. Clearly, an attempt had been made to stack the Nominating Committee, but that failed and reform-minded board members control that committee whose Chair is Ed Gold.
Gold is a long-time member of the Board whose pragmatic approach to community activism is rooted in Greenwich Village politics. Furtunately, there's not much wool that can be pulled over his eyes.

If you think Trump is the first one to force the Hotel/Condo concept down the throats of communities like Hudson Square - or, the last one to do so - you're wrong on both counts.

As to the latter, which is more important, it seems that the line is forming to take advantage of the lack of intelligent zoning in Hudson Square.

Apparently, not more than a few blocks away from Trump "SoHo" on Spring and Varick is 515 Greenwich, a corner parcel where another Condo/Hotel is reportedly under consideration. Trump's project is 45 stories; this one would be 38 stories.

Borings are already in progress by the developer, Mark Epstein, and the rush is on to get this development done.

There was some hand wringing at a recent meeting among those who had an interest in this affected community since it is clear that the only route to take on this issue is to push City Planning to re-zone Hudson Square. Contextual Zoning would limit the size of buildings and their bulk.

Christine Quinn's office hosted a sit-down for the purpose of learning what the various interested views were. While cordial, the meeting underscored the fact that there is no political consensus on how to handle this pressing issue - other than to change the zoning.

Gossip has had it that the 9 story condo development at 140 Avenue of the Americas may now become a hotel -- but this has not been substantiated. This has not been a welcomed piece of rumor-mongering to Sullivan Street neighbors.

Moondance Diner is about to go the way of kitchen grease -- and while there is an attempt to save the building, the last chicken-corn soup is about to be served before the wrecking ball moves in. Another 9 story condo is approved for that site.
There have been efforts to save the diner but even if successful it would only move Moondance to some other location.

With all of the parking lots and gas stations disappearing, where's Joni Michell when you need her?
SoHo could use a little paving over with a few more parking lots.

Last, but certainly not least, please attend the hearing on May 3rd at PS 41 (at 7 pm). The issue that concerns most SoHo and Hudson Square residents is the protection of the ballfields now located on Pier 40. The new development by the Related Companies would create what many activists are calling a plan that would destroy sports for the kids downtown -- in an area that has few parks. In fact, in SoHo, there are literally no parks. Attend the hearing and speak your mind. Ask questions, make comments, and find out what the real agenda is.