elow I have outlined a number of substantial community victories. These hard-won successes
were due to the dedication and strength of community residents. They demonstrate how, even
in the face of seemingly intractable situations, the community can be successful.
Securing funding for community amenities. Few residents are happy when big
developers move next door to them. The effects of construction alone can be taxing, and
when the building is completed, additional shadows, traffic, and noise can negatively affect
residents’ quality of life. While it is difficult to stop development that is planned within allowable
height limits (as-of-right), a neighborhood that pulls together and rallies can accomplish much
to lessen the negative impacts of the development.
When Goldman Sachs presented plans to build an 80-story tower on Site 26 in Battery
Park City, neighborhood residents and Community Board 1 decided to forego fighting for an
unlikely reduction in height, which was as-of-right. Instead, residents capitalized on the desire
of Goldman Sachs to forge positive relationships with residents and, in several meetings with
the company, requested amenities for the neighborhood. The community’s united front and
persistence paid off when Goldman Sachs pledged $1 million for a community center downtown,
as well as funding for an addition to the Battery Park City library.
Altering a proposed zoning change. A neighborhood’s zoning substantially shapes its
character and appearance. While some changes to zoning may be beneficial for communities,
others may have negative impacts. By commenting and being involved in the revision of
zoning codes, it is possible for residents to alter planned changes.
When City Planning proposed a new zoning text, ZR 74-712, to govern development in parts
of SoHo and NoHo last year, large numbers of community members and elected officials testified
at Community Board and City Planning hearings to express their opposition to it. There were
concerns about the effects that the proposed changes could have on manufacturing in these
neighborhoods, the accessibility of affordable housing and the neighborhood’s overall low-rise
character. While the community was not able to achieve its ultimate goal of stopping the passage
of this change, the involvement of the community was instrumental in securing provisions within
the passed zoning text limiting the size, appearance and use of development.
De-railing a dangerous government plan. The community must be consulted on projects
that will affect their neighborhood. While Community Boards and local elected officials are usually
made aware of proposed government projects, there have been instances when the community
has not been given ample notice of plans. In these instances, the community has fought hard in
order to receive additional time to properly review and comment on these proposals.
For many years, the Port Authority has sought to expand the PATH train stations at Christopher
Street and 9th Street. But it was only six weeks before construction would begin that the public
was given notice of the expansion plans. The community and local elected officials, recognizing
that the project posed a threat to the foundation of neighboring buildings, some of which are
more than a century old, quickly mobilized to fight the proposal. Neighbors participated in a
protest rally and several letter-writing campaigns and successfully stopped construction of
these expansions. Since then, the community has remained vigilant, as it is likely that the 9th
Street expansion may be considered anew in the near future. When dealing with a public authority,
the public is most at risk due to the unaccountable nature of their operations.
Winning landmark designations. I am fortunate to represent a district that is so rich in
history and whose residents have shown such great resolve in fighting to protect it. The 66th
Assembly district includes historic industrial and maritime areas, century-old rowhouses and
other important pieces of New York City’s past. Although it requires a bit of research to document
the need to designate an individual building, the community has been able to get a number of such
designations throughout the area. Landmarking an entire neighborhood, on the other hand, is more
difficult but not impossible and is essential to preserving the overall character of some neighborhoods.
After years of activism from the community, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated
the Gansevoort Market as a historic district. This area, located in the West Village and roughly
bounded by Horatio, Washington, Hudson and West 15th Streets is a unique 24-hour community
whose historic architecture provides a vital connection to the City’s history as a maritime, manufacturing
and market hub. While there are other areas of the West Village that must also be landmarked, the
designation of Gansevoort Market is an important step forward in protecting this exciting mixed-use
Helping your neighbors. Taking action in your community also includes assisting neighbors
in need. Indeed, keeping in touch with neighbors in New York City can be quite a challenge. With so
many tenants moving in and out, it is often hard to keep track of just who lives next door. However,
checking up on neighbors, especially those who are elderly or handicapped and do not get outside
much, can make an enormous difference in their lives.
Recently, my office received a call from a constituent who was checking in with her elderly neighbor
and learned that her neighbor’s food stamps had ceased. Working closely with the constituent, we
were able to get her neighbor’s food stamps successfully reinstated. If not for the intervention of her
neighbor, there is no telling how long this elderly resident would have gone without food stamps and,
consequently, adequate food.