Volume 74, Number 51 | April 27 - May 03 , 2005

Villager photo by Clayton Patterson

David Katz and Rebecca Moore, an organizer of Ludlow Orchard Community Organization, or L.O.C.O., stood on Allen St. where a new hotel project that will go through the block to Orchard St. is planned. A row of one-story buildings, where Katz’s father once had a fabric store, was recently razed for the project.

New group’s going L.O.C.O. on the Lower East Side

By Amanda Kludt

In an attempt to combat various problems on the Lower East Side, including the noisy construction of a 15-story apartment complex and an over-20-story hotel, a congested bar scene and disruptive film and television shoots, a group of local residents have come together to form the Ludlow Orchard Community Organization, or — in the acronym that sums up how they are being driven to distraction — L.O.C.O.

Organizer Rebecca Moore said it’s time for the various groups and activists on the Lower East Side to come together to deal with the issues of the neighborhood. After learning that a new hotel being built on Houston St. between Orchard and Allen Sts. would be over 20 stories tall, towering over the small buildings in the neighborhood, and after a sleepless night when lights from a TV shoot shone through her window until 3:30 in the morning, Moore decided to post flyers all over the neighborhood calling on residents to organize. According to another L.O.C.O. organizer, Deanna Zandt, they’ve seen “an overwhelming response” from other residents and organizations.

“If you go through 311 or the other official channels, they make you feel like you’re the only one who cares,” said Moore, noting that many activists have exhausted the traditional routes for change. “It’s clear to me that the only way to affect this situation is to get masses of people together.”

L.O.C.O. will focus on community forums, demonstrations and letter-writing campaigns to start. Zandt, a neighborhood resident and self-described “professional activist,” said they will also use creative techniques and “culture jamming” to get their message out. “We’re a creative neighborhood, ultimately,” she said, adding that unusual methods have worked in the past in her other political groups.

One of the major issues for the fledgling organization is the construction noise around Orchard, Houston and Stanton Sts. Moore was also particularly upset that these large-scale projects were green-lighted without much protest from the community. “It’s bad enough that this is happening to a historic neighborhood, but this was so badly planned,” said Moore.

“It’s going to make our lives miserable,” she said, referring to the noise that she said begins between 7 a.m.-7:30 a.m., even on the weekends. Moore filed a complaint with the Department of Environmental Protection earlier this month when she says she saw from her apartment on Stanton and Orchard Sts. construction workers being careless with asbestos removal. D.E.P. has fined the contractor and issued multiple violations for improper asbestos removal.

The group also wants to tackle the issue of bar congestion. While many tout the growing popularity of the area’s bar scene as positive for the neighborhood, many residents are bothered by the noise. “We’re certainly not anti-bar,” said Moore, though adding that a lot of the new bars don’t care about the neighborhood or the community, and that they are targeting a “transient” crowd. She said since many bars cater to outsiders, visitors forget that there really is a Lower East Side community.

In addition to the bars, the group wants to do something about the numerous movie and television shoots that take place in the neighborhood throughout the year. For the six months from October 2004 to March 2005 there were 141 film shoots in the East Village and Lower East Side, according to Moore. She said at one point there were five in one week on the Lower East Side.

“The movie shoots contribute to this weird glamorous idea that people don’t really live here and it’s a movie set,” said Moore. “That attitude is being perpetuated by the films and media and the clubs.”

While production studios can make donations to local charities and community groups to mitigate the disturbance, it is not required. Moore said that when she complained to Community Board 3 about the many recent film shoots, the board told her CBS’s pilot “Monkey Love” wanted to give $1,000 to the community and that she should recommend a group.

Moore recommended ABC No Rio, a center for art and activism. According to the production company, they gave $1,000 to C.B. 3 and $500 each to ABC No Rio, the Lower East Side Girls Club and the Soho Partnership. The production company said if the groups haven’t received the money yet, it is still being processed. Moore believes it’s unfair that the whole community doesn’t have a say in how donations are spent and that there is no public record tracking them.

With the disruption of the film shoots, which can shine lights and make noise late into the night, the bar traffic that continues until 4 a.m., even on weeknights, and the construction that begins early in the morning, Moore and Zandt say the group is basically dealing with quality of life issues.

“L.O.C.O. is going to try in a way to plead for humanity,” said Moore. “People should be able to have a say in their lives.”

The group’s mission statement is posted at www.theloco.org.

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