FLASHBACK: Rents up in ’72; Lee over Diether in ’77

BY GABE HERMAN | Page One of The Villager on Feb. 3, 1972, included an article about local businesses struggling to survive against rising commercial rents.

Carol Blaine Fashions at 403 Sixth Ave., and Dini’s Gifts and Cards at 407 Sixth Ave., were closing due to rents nearly doubling, according to the businesses. And Balducci’s Market at 1 Greenwich Ave. was relocating because its rent rose from $19,000 to $40,000 per year.

The article, by Marc Cottone, said, “This latest development in a Village trend begun in 1960 on MacDougal and Bleecker Sts. is seen by many Villagers as a reflection of a city-wide trend begun more than a decade ago with urban renewal programs.”

Greenwich and Sixth Aves. in 1972 was a little too “honky-tonk” for some locals. (Villager photo)

Also on Page One was a summary of a “raucous” City Planning Commission hearing at which Villagers demanded “restoration” of the area’s historic character, and community input on government projects.

The article said most objections focused on the growing “honky-tonk” atmosphere at Eighth St. and Sixth Ave. Villagers wanted restrictive zoning to get rid of fast-food establishments and tourist businesses that “cater to transients.”

Paul Goldberg, of Waverly Place, enjoyed the snow in early 1972. (Villager photo)

Also at the hearing, Soho artists called for restrictive zoning in their neighborhood to prevent an influx of large industry and tourist establishments.

Rita Lee came from northern Manhattan but she won the job for C.B. 2 district manager. (Villager photo)

Exactly five years later, on Feb. 3, 1977, The Villager reported that Community Board 2 rejected one of its own in selecting its first district manager.

In a rare roll-call vote, the board chose Rita Lee, who lived in northern Manhattan. She was chosen over Doris Diether, who had chaired the board’s Zoning Committee for the previous 13 years.

At the time, the district manager position was a new post, created to apply pressure for improved city services for the local area.

“This is the kind of community where I’d like to work nine-to-five and five-to-twelve to preserve,” Lee told the board.

She said it was important to rely on volunteers for getting projects done when city agencies didn’t deliver.

“You have to be imaginative in helping people,” she said.

Lee retired in 1996.

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