Act II: The Siege

Battle Over Theater Zone Nears Final Scenes

Only two members voted against the plan: Sheldon Leffler of Queens, who railed that the scheme "let these owners make all this money" without a compelling public interest, and Tom Duane of Manhattan, who represents most of Clinton and Hell's Kitchen.

"I have many concerns," said Duane. "I'm worried about displacement and illegal construction and evictions from SROs that are happening and will happen more because of development on Eighth Avenue. This is from the same administration that cut the budget for cultural affairs. Why cut money for theaters and then do this?"

Indeed, Clinton and Hell's Kitchen have been battling gentrification despite special protection from a zoning measure called the Clinton Special District, designed to protect affordable housing, including the neighborhood's 8000 SRO units. But lax city enforcement has meant that scores of apartments have been lost to illegal demolition and construction.

Katherine Gray, the housing chair for Community Board 4, is convinced the plan to save theaters will only endanger her neighborhood.

"In the last six months, we've had the most egregious violations," Gray told the council. "We're seeing landlords add floors with no permit, and subdivide apartments so that some have no fire escape. We tell the city we need enforcement help in the Clinton Special District and they respond by offering additonal development. How is that intepreted?"

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