Volume 20, Number 41 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | February 23 - March 1, 2011
Loft law raises controversy
The N.Y.S. Assembly Committee on Housing held a public hearing at 250 Broadway last Friday to scrutinize current and proposed regulations related to the expansion of the state loft law.
Bill Hall, a member of the Lower Manhattan Loft Tenants’ executive committee, testified at the hearing, criticizing the wording of one of the new loft regulations.
The proposed law, Hall said, is faulty, and its implementation is “a disjointed, dysfunctional operation which the L.M.L.T. hopes is in the process of coming around.”
“The loft board’s proposed language for a rule regarding ‘inherent compatibility’ for residential units in buildings that also have certain commercial uses, would place a tremendous burden on tenants applying for coverage under the loft law,” according to Hall.
“When landlords opposed to coverage present architects or engineers to argue that incompatible uses exist,” Hall continued, “who will the tenants be able to retain (and afford to pay) to counter that argument?”
“I am not certain that [the law] has the resources necessary to handle the new buildings that will be coming into the system,” said Downtown resident Chuck DeLaney, a tenant representative on the loft board, established in 1982 to supervise the conversion of lofts from commercial and manufacturing use to residential use.
The board, DeLaney complained, has not done any outreach to owners and tenants Downtown and citywide that the law protects.
“The board and the City Council should play a role in this outreach,” said DeLaney, “because in addition to the benefits that the law confers on both owners and tenants, the public has an interest in seeing that these buildings meet fire and safety codes is for the benefit of everyone who lives in the affected areas.”
DeLaney also faulted the N.Y.C. Department of City Planning for not clarifying the alleged conflict surrounding the type of tenants that move into vacant lofts; and the city’s policy of retaining restrictive manufacturing districts.
“The loft law was done without a study of the impact of zoning on newer residential conversions, with the implication being that the [State] Assembly should have performed that study,” DeLaney said.
Unless the city takes a “serious” look at this issue and “comes up with a comprehensive plan for the neighborhoods across New York City where manufacturing uses seem to be dwindling,” DeLaney said, “artists with a need for a large live-work space will continue to move into vacant spaces.”
Nadler calls for immediate remediation of toxins in school buildings
Congressman Jerrold Nadler, along with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and other elected officials, sent a letter to N.Y.C. Mayor Michael Bloomberg last Friday, urging the city to come up with a remediation plan to de-contaminate toxic light fixtures in the city’s public schools.
“We are calling on the city to devise an immediate plan in response to the continued exposure of children, teachers and school staff to [polychlorinated biphenyls],” the letter says, “and to take concrete and earnest steps to carry it out without further delay.”
Nadler and the other politicians are requesting that all affected light ballasts be replaced in the next two-to-five years in order to lessen the public health risk. The action plan would be an extension of the school inspections the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began in January.
The plan, the letter says, must be fulfilled immediately, since the toxic light ballasts will become obsolete next year due to a U.S. Department of Energy manufacturing ban on their sale and distribution.
“The fast-approaching obsolescence of the lights underscores the need to act quickly, because the city will be unable to replace or repair those lights with new parts once they become obsolete,” according to the politicians.
Finally, the letter says, the city should determine the cost for remediation and track down funding sources to replace the light fixtures.
“In order to determine the true cost of inspecting and replacing the light ballasts, and to move forward on funding this critical public health need, the city must issue a call for proposals and begin to examine potential funding streams immediately.”
Silver keeps watchful eye on Downtown pedestrian crossings
N.Y.S. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is asking the city Department of Transportation to reopen the street-level pedestrian crossing at Vesey and West Streets. Making the intersection accessible, he said, will be an important step in the city’s effort to establish a 24/7 community in Lower Manhattan.
“I understand that the ongoing construction at the World Trade Center site has in the past presented some logistical problems for the city, but as more of the work is completed and as more people continue to live and work in this area, I feel it is necessary to reopen this important street crossing as soon as possible,” Silver said in a February 18 letter to D.O.T. Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.
“While the Vesey Street pedestrian bridge is useful and necessary, many pedestrians cannot or do not use it,” Silver wrote, “and it is not an accessible substitute for a safe at-grade crossing. These managers are trained professionals who use special equipment and techniques to maintain the highest possible safety conditions for parents.”
Silver said he would be happy to work with the D.O.T. in assigning pedestrian managers to the Vesey-West Street intersection.
The Speaker also wrote a note to P.S. 276 parents announcing the recent installments of pedestrian managers at the intersection of Morris and West Streets to keep students safe. Pedestrian managers, Silver noted, remain at the West Thames street intersection.
The pedestrian manager program, created by Silver’s West Street Safety Task Force last September, is meant to improve pedestrian safety in Battery Park City – particularly for children, parents and staff at P.S. 276.
“It is important,” Silver said in the letter, “that we continually work to make sure that our students are learning in the best environment we can provide them, and that includes taking all necessary steps to make sure they can come and go from school safely.”