Rally to Save 112-120 East 11th Street — One Year Ago Today

It seems well over a year ago when we rallied outside 112-120 East 11th Street to protest the demolition of these five tenement buildings with a history of rent stabilized units in them.   Over one hundred people joined us that warm August day.  This block of the East Village had been identified by the New York City Landmarks Commission as a potential “East Eleventh Historic District” as part of an environmental review of the area conducted in 2008 for the East Village rezoning, and we were rallying to protest the city’s refusal to follow through on this 2008 evaluation and landmark these buildings now that they were threatened with demolition.

From the rally 8.22.16

The five structures in question were an ensemble largely designed in the Beaux Arts style.  All were five-story, old law tenements built between 1887 and 1892, just across from the landmarked Webster Hall.  Knowing that demolition of these buildings was a possibility GVSHP, wrote to the Landmark Preservation Commission  in June requesting that they take action.  Unfortunately, we did not even get a response for months, until AFTER the city approved the demolition application.

What changed since the LPC identified these buildings as “landmark-eligible” in 2008?  Only the ownership.  The buildings had been purchased by David Lichenstein, a major donor to the Mayor, one of his political allies, and one of his appointees to the Economic Development Corporation.  Lichtenstein and his Lightstone Group planned to tear down the residences to build a 311 room Moxy hotel.  Today, YIMBY revealed new renderings of this planned development here.  EVGrieve reported on the renderings on the plywood fence where they chose to use a pencil drawing instead.

According to Patch, Lichtenstein bought the five buildings as part of a $127 million deal. They wrote, “Dozens of tenants who lived in the buildings were given just a month-and-a-half’s notice to leave their homes after the deal set their buildings up for a sweeping demolition.”  How do these demolished units tally into the Mayor’s much touted housing numbers?

Lichtenstein confessed to donating $50,000 to the Nassau County Democratic Committee after a request from de Blasio’s head fundraiser, Ross Offinger.  Offinger was under federal investigation for the political donations the Mayor solicited, the Albany Times Union reported in an article entitled Real estate developer behind mystery $50,000 donation.

The Moxy brand of the Marriot is geared towards serving globe-trotting millennials. The Moxy Times Square is set to open September 2017, with the largest rooftop bar in the city at a whopping 10,000-square-foot. The coming Moxy on 11th Street  is planned to have numerous bars and lounges from the bottom to the top of the 13 story building.

We rallied again in October, with community groups and labor union allies from Local 46 Metallic Lathers & Reinforcing Iron Workers  and LiUNA Local 78  and New York City District Council of Carpenters.

The area between 3rd and 5th Avenues, Union Square and Astor Place, is seeing a wave of demolitions of low-rise and residential buildings to make way very large luxury condo, tech office, and hotel buildings like this.  This is happening largely because this area is the only part of Greenwich Village and the East Village lacking in both adequate zoning and landmark protections, AND because of the tech building boom coming down from Union Square and up from Astor Place, as “Silicon Alley” seeks to extend into this area.

Now the Mayor wants City Council approval to put a huge new ‘Tech Hub’ on 14th Street on the NYCEDC owned PC Richards site that will only accelerate the pressure for demolition and overdevelopment in this area.  We need sensible zoning protections now. GVSHP, neighbors, and elected officials have called for the Mayor to rezone the area to prevent overdevelopment, protect its residential character, and to help preserve and create affordable housing.  He has adamantly refused. Read more here.

And click here to send an email to elected officials about this issue today.  If we do not pair sensible and modest rezoning with any approvals of the Tech Hub more demolitions and gargantuan commercial developments are sure to come.   We rallied one year ago today to save five residential buildings that were sadly demolished, but the fight continues to protect the rest of our neighborhood.


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Harry Bubbins