PROGRESS REPORT: Low heights, parks, small shops help us thrive

Deborah Glick.

BY DEBORAH GLICK | We continue to see dramatic changes to our neighborhood as development pressures rise. We often fear embracing the future means we will lose the essential nature of our past, but this does not have to be the case.

The city has proposed the creation of a “Tech Hub” on 14th St. between Fourth and Third Aves., which is currently under review by the City Planning Commission through a ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure). This is a great opportunity for people to be trained for jobs of the future, which are already here. But the Tech Hub itself, larger than the current P.C. Richard & Son building, will inevitably change our neighborhood’s character. We have long enjoyed the low-rise nature of our blocks, which allows for light and air to penetrate to the sidewalks, and for a sense of community where you know your residential and commercial neighbors. I have fought alongside many great community organizations, such as the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and the Cooper Square Committee, to keep this community fabric intact, and will continue to do so.

I hope that we can advance the Tech Hub while also ensuring that it does not become a precedent for larger undesired construction in the neighborhood. I will continue to support a rezoning on Third and Fourth Aves., as well as University Place and Broadway, that implements reasonable height and bulk restrictions, so that we can move toward the future without losing the essential elements that have made our neighborhoods unique.

The West Side is chronically park-starved, and as more development leads to an increase in the number of residents, the need for Hudson River Park to provide active and passive recreation space is further exacerbated. We must also look to balance the demands placed on Hudson River Park to ensure that it continues to thrive in the future. While I am pleased that we were able to get $50 million in the state budget for capital build-out in Hudson River Park, that cannot be the end of state support.

Following last year’s efforts of the Community Board 2 Future of Pier 40 Working Group, I continue to have conversations with stakeholders about how best to ensure that our finite resources, such as Pier 40, are able to address the needs of the community as well as the financial needs of the park.

The governor and mayor must recognize that the park’s long-term cost is a public responsibility and should not be shouldered solely by commercial developments within the park. I will continue to work on behalf of our neighborhoods to remind both the mayor and governor of the importance of this resource to us and the entire city.

Our neighborhood shops continue to be pushed out by greedy landlords demanding unrealistic and unacceptable rents. So instead of the grocery store, dry cleaner or corner bodega, our neighborhoods are awash with empty storefronts, or shops targeting tourist shoppers, not locals in need of basic neighborhood services. With each store that is gone, we lose not only the service it provided, but also foot traffic, which threatens the remaining stores.

Businesses in Manhattan, south of 96th St. are subject to a commercial rent tax under which a business is assessed effectively a 3.9 percent tax of its annual rent if rent exceeds $250,000 annually. Unfortunately, with rising rents, this no longer applies to just big-box stores. So, while businesses are often paying more than their fair share, landlords have been allowed to drive up rents, and drive out tenants unchecked.   

I have introduced a bill that would impose a monthly vacancy fee for commercial storefront spaces after they remain empty for four or more months. The fee would be 3.9 percent of the last rent payment received for the space, and would apply to any vacant storefront south of 96th St. in Manhattan for which annual rent exceeds $150,000 per year. Funds collected by this fee would be deposited into the Borough of Manhattan Micro-business Loan Fund, which would be used solely for assisting micro-businesses in Manhattan.

Our city continues to grow and evolve, and I endeavor to ensure that it does so without compromising the foundation of what makes the city a desirable home. 

Glick is assemblymember, 66th District (Greenwich Village, Soho, Noho, Hudson Square, Tribeca and part of the East Village)

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