Bye Bye Bowery

Work to Start on Loisaida Luxury Units

Instead of a complex that optimizes affordability—such as the plan which was toyed with under Dinkins in 1991, with 50 percent of the units for middle- and moderate-income families, and 50 percent for low-income families—this task force (which during the affordable-unfriendly Giuliani years comprised mostly agencies like HPD, the Economic Development Corporation [EDC], and the Department of City Planning) decided an 80-20 split would be sufficient. With such a plan, a developer can get a 421A tax-abatement program and cut costs by making 20 percent of the units time-limited low-income housing. Included in the package is the 42-unit single-resident-occupancy building on 2nd Street and Second Avenue, which will house only the formerly homeless and mentally disabled in studios.

In Chrystie Venture Partners' proposal, 90 units would have been sold as condos, but this option has since dissolved. Many other things disappeared too, including the preservation and sale of Cuando to a theater group; the preservation of 295 Bowery, which houses four artists' lofts; and specifications on the promised 38,000 square feet of community recreational space.

The city-hired Leitner Group's assessment valued the land at $100 per square foot at highest value; $77 million for the prime land. CVP's bid of $45 million won as the highest bid, yet almost $5 million was later cut. The developers pay $13.5 million down, the rest to be paid two years after completion. Devalued for "mixed use" purposes, the land will have been sold for as low as $40 per square foot, when nearby on Avenue D, a less-prime spot was sold by the city for $80 per square foot to builders of an all-social-service-use educational facility.

Houston and Bowery, site of the first leg of the Cooper Square Renewal
photo: Pak Fung Wong
Houston and Bowery, site of the first leg of the Cooper Square Renewal

Despite what wrangling and criticism there is, some members of the community still believe input is possible. This fall CB3 was promised by HPD that yet another task force would be formed for oversight. After a reporter's call to HPD revealed that a task force had been named, Epstein made some calls and pulled together a new task force. "Ongoing vigilance is required, and it is tiresome—you're talking about volunteers here. The city is paying people to do their thing, the developers are paying people to do what they're supposed to do, but we volunteer all the time we put in," he said. Though community comments will not be considered in land disposition agreements, the task force will have oversight throughout development. Supposedly.

Lisamarie Dixon received a call from Epstein the morning after the Voice spoke to him, and was appointed a member of the task force. She's glad to be bringing her perspective to the group for ordinary people in her neighborhood.

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