Village Preservation decries 14th St. Tech Hub, again

BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | Members of the Village’s leading preservation group protested the 14th St. Tech Hub, during its groundbreaking ceremony earlier this month. 

Village Preservation has repeatedly decried the development of the Union Square Tech Training Center, at E. 124 14th St., arguing that promised protective measures should have been implemented and that the project is an extension of “Midtown South” and “Silicon Alley” into the Village. The preservation society is also calling for an investigation into what it calls a “sweetheart deal” for RAL, the project’s developers. 

Activists with Village Preservation protested at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Union Square Tech Hub on E. 14th St. (Courtesy Village Preservation).

“Rather than a cause for celebration, the groundbreaking ceremony for the 14th St. Tech Hub calls for serious examination of the corrupt process which led to its approval and the sweetheart deal it had to several donors to the mayor,” the preservation group said in a statement. 

“This sad saga is rife with broken commitments and promises made by both the mayor and Councilmember Carlina Rivera regarding protections and mitigations for the surrounding neighborhood,” the statement added. 

During her 2017 City Council campaign, Rivera expressed support for the Tech Hub, but only provided the city enact some zoning measures to protect the surrounding area from what the preservationists warned would be an ongoing surge of commercial and residential development. Yet, last August, the City Council unanimously approved the Tech Hub without protections or height caps for the surrounding area.

On Aug. 5 construction began on the the Union Square Tech Hub as protesters gathered to call for a stop to the spreading of “Silicon Alley” and “Midtown South” into the Village area. (Courtesy Village Preservation).

After the groundbreaking, Village Preservation released a report outlining information found via Freedom of Information Law requests that reveal lower rent payments for RAL than the site’s previous tenant.

According to the records, RAL is set to pay around $5 million for the first three years it occupies the property, or about $1.6 million a year. For the following five years, the developer would pay $2.3 million a year. The previous tenant, PC Richard & Son, paid $1.7 million annually for a two-story building.

Other documents in the report show the city has no written record of why RAL was selected to take on the project over other bidders that did ask for an upzoning request, allowing for the creation of more commercial office space.

In 2015, RAL made a least a $10,000 contribution to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s nonprofit Campaign for One New York, according to the New York Post.

The Union Square Tech Training Center is scheduled to open by 2020. The 21-story building will include a digital-skills training space operated by nonprofit Civic Hall, in addition to a co-working space for startups and established tech companies alike.

One floor will have space for community organizations, as well as a food hall, retail spaces, and small businesses, according to the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

9 Responses to Village Preservation decries 14th St. Tech Hub, again

  1. The Luchow’s building should have been landmarked, and it would have prevented some of this 14th St. disaster.

  2. It is linked in the article, but see the report here:

    It shows all the competing as-of-right proposals and that the original RAL/Suffolk proposal had no 100% market-rate office space and more “community facility” space than what was approved in the end. Those entities happen to be contributors to the Mayors mayoral and presidential campaigns. And the EDC has no written notes to compare and rate proposals that in some cases projected $1 billion in revenue.

  3. Paula East Village

    It is absolutely shameful that Carlina caved to de Blasio on this deal. Yes, we need tech training, but there was no need for a huge upzoning and handout to the Mayor’s real estate industry backers. Village Preservation exposed the City’s backroom deal… and now she is caving on the East River Park resiliency plan… destroying the park for 4 years. SHE NEES TO STAND UP FOR HER CONSTITUENTS and not let de Blasio or the real estate industry PUSH HER AROUND!

  4. Thanks, The Villager, for this article and for past coverage that has illuminated the shady back-story of this project and how the city (and the Mayor) have ram-rodded it to be built. What is most appalling is how CM Carlina Rivera utterly caved to the developers and to the Mayor in supporting this, hours before the crucial city council vote on it. After promising her prospective voters (like me) for weeks and weeks prior that she would support it ONLY on contingency of the council securing zoning protections outlined by GVSHP. I will not vote for Carlina Rivera again because of this. She is no Rosie Mendez (who, day by day, is more and more sorely missed by her former constituents). Nor would I vote for Bill deBlasio. For any office.

  5. I walked by during the protest and spoke to a man who was holding a “Mayor’s Corrupt Tech Hub” sign and protesting. He didn’t know what exactly he was protesting but he said he was homeless and that a member of GVSHP paid him to hold the sign and bang on the construction fence during the ceremony. It doesn’t get any shadier than that!

  6. East Village Resident

    As a long time East Village resident, I am grateful for the Villager coverage on this topic. CM Rivera’s spineless waffling on the Tech Hub and ESCR plan is a disgrace. We deserve better from our elected officials.

  7. DeBlasio and other politicians facilitating these sweetheart deals for certain developers threaten the fabric of our city. They chose Wall street not main street, and no amount of well-paid PR flacks can hide their betrayal. This tech hub deal is rotten.

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