SoHo Politics: Or, How I Learned to Love the Political Games.
There are a growing number of vacant storefronts in SoHo, primarily restaurants that have failed. Among them are Tresanti on Broome Street, South Houston on Grand Street, Via dei Mille on West Broadway, Ivo and Lulu on Broome Street and a number of other stores holding on by their fingernails.
There is no program to protect some of the historical guerilla art such as the Bob Bolles sculptures in “Sunflower Park.” For nearly a decade activists have tried to have the park renamed as Bob Bolles Park. Community Board #2, now under the Chairmanship of Brad Hoylman has done nothing to address this issue. Nor, have the many years of entreaties to CB2 to remove the illegal billboards had any effect. While there are laws on the books, no effort to diligently remove these eyesores has ever been attempted. The one exception is a Greenwich Village building sign that was erected near the home of Jo Hamilton, former Chair of the Community Board.
Surprisingly, there has been some improvement in the Holland Tunnel traffic flow due to changes and hours attributed to the Midtown Task Force. However, the Traffic agents that keep pedestrians from being mauled by creeping drivers on their way to New Jersey– from Delancy Street to Varick Street along the Broome Street corridor– is inconsistent. West Broadway at Broome and Watts is mostly a nightmare of competing vehicles that leave snarling motorists who would hit a mother in her baby carriage rather than lose a space to move closer to Newark.
Since the Commercialization of SoHo is a fait accompli, only the SoHo BID startles even the old-timers who genuinely were artists in their prime. The ploy, here, really has been akin to an old-fashion land grab. Only, now it’s done with leases, government fiat and the likes of BID’s (Business Improvement Districts).
Meanwhile, no credible attempt at solving the affordable housing issue is now even seriously being considered. Only politicians like Borough President even mention the subject. Formerly Margaret Chin and Speaker Quinn championed this issue. Of late, nothing. Councilmember Jumaane Williams, head of the Investigations Committee was contacted about some serious conditions, for example, at 80 Varick Street – where 50 stabilized families have openly and notoriously been litigated out of their homes over the last decade – and there was absolutely no response. Nothing. Mark Ramer, Michael Saperstein and Cynthia Brea Rivera have systematically used the courts to deprive tenants of their rights and the sanctity of their homes simply to increase apartment income to market rents, by any means necessary. Perjury, baseless litigation to abuse and harass, and deprivation of services— nothing is too good for a stabilized tenant standing in the way of a market-rate rental.
Politicians like Julie Menin, however, who reportedly has the inside track for Stringer’s job as Borough President once his term is finished, has expressed a strong desire to tackle this issue. And, State Senator Daniel Squadron has demonstrated, with great effort, that he is committed to protecting tenant’s rights. Yetta Kurland, potential candidate for Speaker Quinn’s council seat, has expressed her concern and commitment to working for rent-controlled and rent-stabilized tenants in Manhattan as well as her strident speeches to bring a hospital back to Downtown.
Then, there is the issue of St. Vincent’s Hospital.
We need a hospital Downtown. Anything less than that is a surrender to real estate interests who have the same mantra a Gordon Gekko: Greed is Good.