Testimony of NYS Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh to the New York City Department of City Planning Regarding the Draft Scope of Work for an Environmental Impact Statement

CEQR No. 07DCP078M
June 25, 2007

My name is Brian Kavanagh and I represent the 74th Assembly District, which includes parts of the Lower East Side, Union Square, Gramercy, Stuyvesant Town, Peter Cooper Village, Waterside Plaza, Kips Bay, Murray Hill, and Tudor City.

I would like to thank the Department of City Planning for working with Community Board 3 and many other community members on the important proposal to rezone much of the Lower East Side, and for offering me the opportunity to provide testimony regarding the Draft Scope of Work for the proposal’s Environmental Impact Statement.

As you know, the proposed rezoning would cover about 111 blocks. I represent about 40 of these blocks, as well as the areas immediately to the north and east, whose residents would be substantially affected by the proposal.

I strongly favor rezoning the proposed area because I believe that rezoning offers a necessary step toward protecting the community from increasing development pressures that threaten to destroy its physical and human character. I especially support those facets of the proposal that reflect the goals articulated by members of the community through the thoughtful work of Community Board 3, such as the implementation of height caps, the extension of mid-block Sliver Law protections, and the exclusion of a commercial overlay on St. Marks Place. As you know, the Community Board has put forth an “11-point plan” that also advocates for anti-demolition and anti-harassment measures; a survey of historic resources in the community, which currently has few landmark designations notwithstanding its extraordinarily rich history; and specific provisions for affordable housing in the inclusionary zones along Houston Street, Delancey Street, and Avenue D. I believe that each of the Community Board’s stated principles merit careful study and I encourage you to include all of them in the final scope of work for the Environmental Impact Statement.

I am particularly concerned over the lack of anti-demolition and anti-harassment measures in the proposed rezoning. The increase in allowable density in parts of the rezoning area would likely exacerbate the already serious problem of harassment of rent regulated tenants and spur the demolition of sound buildings, as developers seek to maximize the number of market-rate apartments they can build. The resulting loss of existing affordable apartments would be irreparable and would offset the laudable efforts embodied in other aspects of the plan to create new affordable apartments. Anti-harassment and anti-demolition provisions, as modeled in the Special Clinton District, would strengthen the protections for rent regulated tenants and protect the people that shaped the character of the community. I strongly urge you to include these kinds of measures in the final scope of work for the Environmental Impact Statement, and ultimately, in the rezoning.

Thank you again for the opportunity to offer testimony and for your consideration of my comments.