Tech hubbub and rezoning

The proposed tech hub on E. 14th St. between Third and Fourth Aves. would rise between two existing N.Y.U. dorms on the former P.C. Richard & Son site.
The proposed tech hub on E. 14th St., which would rise between two existing N.Y.U. dorms on the P.C. Richard & Son site.

The de Blasio administration’s plan to build a $250 million “tech hub” at the P.C. Richard & Son site on E. 14th St. understandably has generated opposition in the community.

For starters, Community Board 3 had strongly recommended that this property — 124 E. 14th St., between Fourth and Third Aves. — be developed as affordable housing. It’s a big spot on a major crosstown street, so a large building can be constructed there, offering a great deal of affordable units at a time when the city is desperate for low- and moderate-income housing. Every day, it seems, there are more and more homeless people on the streets. The only solution, as advocates and local politicians stress, is to create more quality affordable housing.

And yet, Mayor de Blasio seems more interested in trying to create some glitzy version of Silicon Valley — they call it “Silicon Alley” — in our community.

Just the previous week, the mayor, at a candidates forum of the local Downtown political clubs at the L.G.B.T. Center, repeatedly stated that affordable housing is his administration’s number one priority — and that there is no way he is going to change the city’s plan to build senior affordable housing on most of the Elizabeth St. Garden in Little Italy / Soho.

Wait a second… . So much more affordable housing could be built at the P.C. Richard site — the tech hub is slated at 258,000 square feet — yet de Blasio wants to shoehorn a much-smaller project into the garden site on Elizabeth St.? It doesn’t make sense.

Plus, the E. 14th St. location is just steps away from the Union Square subway station, a major transit hub. Admittedly, not all seniors might want to use the subway, due to the jostling and crowds, but there is an elevator to the station right down the block.

In addition, as you can read in our special “A Salute to Union Square” special section in this week’s issue, the Union Square area already is teeming with tech companies, including some of the industry’s biggest names, such as Dropbox, Hulu, Mashable, Compass, eBay, Facebook and Buzzfeed. This tech nexus has grown organically, on its own. It’s doing fine.

If this project is a done deal, however, then the city must absolutely secure zoning protections for the area between Fifth and Third Aves., Union Square and University Place. This slice of the Village is facing rampant development — witness the Macklowe tower rising on the former Bowlmor site on University Place. The tech hub would only further ratchet up this pressure on the area.

At a recent candidates forum co-hosted by the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, all the candidates running for City Council District 2 who attended — Erin Hussein, Carlina Rivera and Mary Silver — pledged not to support the needed City Council approvals for the tech hub unless de Blasio agrees to zoning protections for the area.

The current East Village councilmember, Rosie Mendez, supports the G.V.S.H.P. rezoning plan.

Borough President Gale Brewer, who has a formal role in the approval process for both the tech hub and zoning, has expressed support for the society’s requested rezoning.

G.V.S.H.P. stresses, and we agree, that Brewer needs to insist that any approvals for the tech hub not be granted without the rezoning. It will take a united front to protect our neighborhood.

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