Andrew Berman speaks at the general meeting as Judy Richheimer, CRDC's VP, looks on.
The Coming Tsunami of Upscale Development
By Donathan Salkaln
If the future threat of another Superstorm isn't enough, our city might be facing a tsunami of market rate and luxury housing, according to Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Historical Society for Preservation Society, in addressing the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club's February 18th general meeting at Hudson Guild's Elliott Center.
"If you want to know the effect of our Mayor's proposed rezoning plan for affordable housing, you can just look out the window," Berman said, comparing Mayor De Blasio's Zoning for Quality & Affordability (ZQA) and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) proposals, currently before the NYC Council, to when NYC rezoned West Chelsea and Hudson yards, as well as Williamsburg, Greenpoint, in 2005. "The new zoning laws back then allowed residential development where no residential was allowed and significant up-zoning, with incentives that included affordable housing," Berman told attendees. "The developers did include affordable housing and according to NYC records, 25% of the units created were affordable while 75% of them are ridiculously expensive and we all know what the overall impact has been. If you look at what has become of these neighborhoods in the past ten years, they are probably among the most rapidly gentrifying most increasingly un-affordable neighborhoods anywhere in New York City!"
Berman gave the attendees a math lesson of the Mayor's plans which reminded me of a pyramid scheme for developers: "If there's an empty lot and the current zoning would allow a developer to build a 100 units of market rate or luxury unit building," Berman reported, "the Mayor's plan will offer the developer to build an additional 100 units on that plot of land, but with the requirement that 50 of those additional units be affordable." He adds, "Think about the profound effect of the tsunami of additional market rate units will have on the neighborhood. It will dramatically change the way they look and feel"
A New Yorker might want to consider more math: According to Mayor De Blasio's goal of 200,000 affordable housing in ten years, it will bring with it 600,000 more market rate and luxury units, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of high-end units built where developers don't opt for his up-zone plan. The City will get well over a million new upper-end units while watching our communities get dug up and the price of living draining our wallet. Just think about all the chains, banks, and high-end stores that will mow us down as they follow their migration chasing wealth.
Judy Richheimer, CRDC's Program Director and Vice President, pointed out that she had invited the Mayor's Administration to participate in discussion of these new zoning changes, but they chose not to attend.
Berman, who has served on many affordable housing boards, including Tenants & Neighbors, Housing Conservation Coordinators, and CB 4 Affordable Housing Oversight Task Force, did acknowledge that, since 2005, more affordable housing was built in Chelsea, Hudson Yards and Greenpoint than any other neighborhoods in New York City, but stressed the consequences of such plans. His solution would make affordable housing a requirement of all development across-the-board, "without sacrificing the rules and regulations that we fought hard for, that are far from perfect, but do some good in maintaining a balance regarding new developments and making sure they they don't overwhelm our neighborhoods."
Another Developer-Friendly Bill Before City Council
When it comes to fighting for architectural history as part of NYC's landscape, no one has more heart and commitment than Andrew Berman. And Berman again warned the meeting of another bill (int 0775) before the city council that is very slanted in the developers favor. It calls for establishment of a 1 to 2 year period of time for the Landmarks Preservation Commission to take action on any item calendared for consideration of landmark status. Berman said such a new law is not practicable as the Landmark Commission's resources are very limited and, adding to the dilemma, owners of properties under consideration of landmark status, are requesting so much more additional information hat the process gets drawn out, beyond the resistance to development.
"In it fifty years of the commission's existence, it has considered around 35,000 different sites that have been either designated or not designated," Berman begins. "Had this "do or die deadline" of new system had been in place for the last fifty years, only half of the buildings and neighborhoods would have been designated landmarked. This includes some of our most beloved landmarks such as as Rockefeller Center, the Woolworth Building, and Grand Central Terminal." He said.
Jerrold Nadler, Again, Goes to Battle Over the Iran Deal
In addition to the meeting's general program agenda was the club's federal endorsement elections. Both Congressmembers Jerrold Nadler of the 10th Congressional District and Carolyn Maloney of the 12th Congressional District, came to the evenings festivities, seeking CRDC's support in their re-election bids. There was much urgency in Nadler's message.
For the first time in 20 years, Jerrold Nadler, will have an opponent, come this June's Federal Democratic Primary Election. Nadler, who represents the largest Jewish and Orthodox district in the country, is expecting to be opposed in the primary due to his backing of the Iran deal. A very angry portion of his 10th congressional district, mostly located in Brooklyn, which has historically added up to 20% of the districts votes will be campaigning hard for his demise. Because of past weak turn-outs in June, he is afraid his very angry and determined constituency will skew the election in favor of his opponent. "We're going to need to double or triple the turnout in Chelsea, the Village and the Upper West Side," Nadler said, calling for the democratic club's to get 5 to 6 times the usual number of petition signatures, while using the effort as an organizing opportunity to get the vote out.
Nadler Gets More Money for Transportation
Nadler, a ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, gave the club a "roads & rails" report on Washington. "We enacted, for the first time since 2005, a major transportation bill," He said, with pride. "Because of the Republican's insistence of no new revenues or taxes, the spending on highways, bridges, roads, tunnels, and mass transit has been at a very inadequate level of $34 billion a year. We had to increase that. There's a $3 trillion backlog." Nadler managed to broker a deal that shortened the life of new bill from six years to five, thus increasing appropriations to $60 billion a year. Nadler also wrote and got passed an amendment to the bill concerning the gas tax, also called the Highway Trust Fund, where 80% goes to highways and bridges and 20% goes mass transit. Due to the low cost of gas that has depressed the revenue stream, Republicans wanted to eliminate the 20% mass transit guarantee and have all the money go to highways. Nadler fought that idea by putting together a coalition of Democrats and suburban Republicans and had the bill retain the mass transit money.
He also got significant money for Amtrak and managed to add $6.5 billion dollars in much needed funding for rail freight improvements.
Lochner or Lochness Monster
Nadler, who is senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, is very leery of the open seat on the Supreme Court. "God forbid we elect a Republican president. To me. this may be the most important issue." He warned that for the next thirty to forty years we might have five justices who might throw out economic regulation and bring the country back to the Lochner Era (1990's till 1937). He pointed out that the Lochner case was brought up by four members of the Supreme Court during discussion of the recent Obama Care case. Lochner would strip many economic powers from Congress, the Senate and the President.
No Primary Opponent for US Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney
Carolyn Maloney, representing the 12th Congressional District, reported, with much relief, that her opponent in the Democratic Primary had dropped out of the race that very evening. She looked forward to running unopposed and related to those at the CRDC general meeting a few of her many congressional highlights.
Maloney spoke of how she and Jerrold Nadler worked hard to get the 9/11 Memorial Bill to pass in Congress this past February 10th. Said Maloney, "It gives healthcare and compensation to the men and women who rushed down to ground zero and risk their lives to save others. It's in a billion-dollar program and we worked on this thing for 14 years. I'm thrilled that it was signed into law."
Maloney also spoke of her past congressional accomplishments. One of the first bills President Obama signed in the law, was Maloney's Credit Card Bill of Rights. "According to the Pew Charitable Trust, this bill, by cutting out abusive practices by financial institutions, saved consumers $10 billion a year. NYU and Columbia more recently did a study and found the bill saved consumers $16 billion a year," Said Maloney. "I call it the Maloney stimulus package, because it puts the money in consumers hands." In all, Maloney has authored over 60 bills. "One of the reasons I'm running for office is a want to continue working for the community and helping people." Two of the largest construction projects in the country are in her district, the Second Avenue Subway, and the other is the East Side Access project. Maloney has also secured funding for the L train. She said, "This project will totally modernize it, rebuilding the damage from Sandy and the 100 years of wear and tear," Maloney has also procured money to go toward a high speed rail between New York and Boston.
Maloney, who chairs the Joint Economic Committee for the Democrats in Congress, gave the group an over-view of the last eight years in Washington. "When President Obama took office we were shedding over 800,000 jobs a month. Under his leadership we have create over 14 million jobs, we have cut the deficit, unemployment has been halved —it's not enough and we need to do more, but we are certainly moving in the right direction."
In a lighter moment, Maloney was very happy to announce that "the Governor, Mayor, and the Chinese government have all agreed that New York City should have two great pandas. "After working hard on responding to the 9/11, the financial crisis, and then Sandy, it's time now for something that makes people happy. Pandas!" She concluded.
The CRDC not only voted to endorse both Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney for Congress, but also voted for approval of a resolution to provide free legal aid to residents facing eviction.
SPECIAL THANKS goes to State Committee Woman, Francine Haselkorn in supplying a nice spread of refreshments. A big cheer also goes to both CRDC President David Warren and District Leader Steven Skyles-Mulligan for helping Judy Richheimer with the evening's program. A big applause for CRDC Treasurer Brent English and others that helped with the ballots. Also in attendance was former NY State Senator Tom Duane and District Leader Sylvia Di Pietro.