Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Real Estate Developer Blocked in East Village
In the East Village, Public School 64 (PS64), once a community center, was bought by a developer. It was recently made a landmark. Attempts by the developer to create more luxury housing in the already gentrifying neighborhood are being blocked by the local community. It's great to see that people in a neighborhood are able to get together and, with their elected officials' help, block: gentrification; the developer; and New York's powerful real estate lobbying organization, the Real Estate Board (who opposed the landmark step). From the NYTimes article:
Gregg Singer, the small-time developer who bought the building, which runs from Ninth Street to 10th Street, for $3.15 million at a city auction, says he has been stymied at every turn from renovating the building for elderly tenants, nonprofit organizations or college dormitories. He said he was the victim of a political deal between Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and a former city councilwoman, Margarita López.

Mr. Singer’s opponents view him as an interloper with little respect for the needs of the community or the building’s history as a political and cultural center for the East Village and Lower East Side. They say his secret intention is to build luxury housing.
Last year, the city declared the building a landmark, an example of the French Renaissance Revival style. It now plans to change the zoning to eliminate most development options.

“For the government to sell me the building and then landmark it, it’s like bait and switch,” Mr. Singer said. “Complaints from the community don’t bother me. It’s the government that’s the problem. They’ve blocked me from doing any useful development here.”

City officials called his claims nonsense and have asked that the suit be dismissed. Virginia Waters, a city lawyer, said that Mr. Singer could use the building for a medical or community center, or a dormitory, so long as the city is assured it would be occupied by students.

“The city has in no way prohibited those uses from going forward,” she said. “However, we have read that he wants an exorbitant rent. That may be his problem.”

So, Singer will develop PS64 into a community center with student housing if and only if the city and community stay out of his hair? Riiiiight. Wealthy New York City real estate developers always have the best interest of the community at heart. I'm sure his version of student housing would be luxury condo lofts at market value; you know, just like the ones you remember from college.

Again, good for the local community for interrupting a change that would only hurt working-class New Yorkers.