Volume 78 - Number 33 / January 14 - 20, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Letters to the Editor

Squats will stay affordable

To The Editor:
Re “Former squats are worth lots, but residents can’t cash in” (news article, Dec. 31):

We were pleased to see The Villager article recognizing the ongoing work of the East Village homesteaders, but the Dec. 31 article “Former squats are worth lots…” overlooked some crucial points regarding the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board’s involvement in co-op conversions of former squats. 

The squats were a difficult project from the beginning. When the squatters came to UHAB asking us to serve as a liaison with the city, the goal and intent was clear: to preserve the buildings as low-income housing. 

We have supplied The Villager, now, with documents evidencing that the co-op owners desired to create the units to be affordable in perpetuity. City-drafted documents ensure that when the residents left, they would leave behind a legacy of affordable housing. The residents benefit from the security of not being evicted or priced out. They pay a low monthly cost as a result of a $1 purchase price, a 40-year tax break and low-interest loans from the city, as well as their own sweat equity. Moreover, the very low-income families receive Section 8 subsidies. In exchange, the program limits resale prices, which is precisely what makes the apartment affordable for the next family.

Indisputably, the City Council, UHAB, the squatters and the city made a commitment in transferring the properties for $1: to create affordable housing. Resale-price limitations ensure this, in addition to income guidelines for new buyers. While $400,000 for a one-bedroom is below market rate, it is certainly not affordable for low-income families. 

Affordable co-ops are by law required to serve a low-income population — not necessarily to become a retirement fund, or pay for a second home. Our commitment has always been, and continues to be, creating, supporting and preserving co-operative housing for those in need of truly affordable opportunities.
Andrew Reicher
Reicher is executive director, Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB)

Squatters have some nerve!

To The Editor:
In your Jan. 7 issue, Scoopy’s Notebook highlights the “Squatter Uprising” and the former squatters’ desire to be able to sell their apartments at market rate.

Never mind that they bypassed every city program when they seized their buildings — and were happy to live there for little or no rent. Never mind that the resale restrictions for homestead buildings are not that onerous; there is, after all, an attempt to keep these buildings affordable. That was the intent of the homestead program, to create affordable housing.

And no mention in Scoopy’s was made of the squatters’ eviction of Alfredo, a 47-year-old, mentally handicapped man who has lived at 7½ Second Ave. for more than seven years. (See the letter in the Nov. 19, 2008, Villager by Howard Hemsley, “Eviction doesn’t add up,” wherein both UHAB and the squatters are intent on his eviction.)

So, let’s get this straight: The squatters have no legal rights to the building — UHAB is the nonprofit, affordable housing advocate — and they have both evicted Alfredo, who has as few (or as many) rights as the squatters. Right?

What is wrong with this picture?
Susan Leelike

Editor’s note: Contrary to the letter writer’s statement, Alfredo Barreto hasn’t been evicted, at least not yet. According to Andrew Reicher, UHAB executive director: “We have a stipulation signed by the guardian [of Alfredo Barreto] and he and the electeds (Gerson, Stringer and Silver) are working to find an appropriate unit so that eviction will hopefully not be necessary.”

Trying to WARC it out

To The Editor:
Re “Westbeth comes of age: A unique artists’ complex tries to stay afloat” (news article, Jan. 7):

Thank you for your extensive and enlightening coverage of Westbeth’s history and its present troubles. There are some inaccuracies in this otherwise sound article. It is one of these I wish to address here.

The article states, “The current WARC president is one of the three residents who sits on the Westbeth board.” This is not so and is at the root of the present problems between the board and WARC (Westbeth Artists Residents Council).

Of the three present resident members on Westbeth’s board, two were handpicked by the board and the other member stayed on the board beyond her elected term. At that time, the board also kicked off the elected tenant representatives to the board, which included George Cominskie, who was the president of WARC at the time.

The present Westbeth board handpicked the tenant members, refusing to sit the ones that were recommended by WARC — in accordance with WARC bylaws, which were voted on by the building.

Furthermore, Mae Gamble, the current WARC president, was not accepted to the board, even though this had been a tradition ever since tenant members were voted onto the board in 1979.

This situation is what necessitated the formation of the advisory committee to the board. This advisory committee is comprised not only of three elected tenant representatives, and three members of the board, but also of representatives from our elected officials, for which we are very grateful.

For the record, as former president of WARC, I was the first tenant representative to sit on Westbeth’s board of directors in 1979.
Joya Staack

War of the (Five) Roses

To The Editor:
Re “Pans pizzeria report” (letter, by Josephine Gaglio, Jan. 7):

Methinks that Ms. Gaglio doth protest too much.

The Villager, in reporting the closing of Five Roses Pizza at First Ave.
and 11th St., due to a rent increase from $4,000 a month to $9,000 a month by the former pizzeria owners, who still own and reside in the building housing the pizzeria, did not defame the landlord in any way.

Not only did The Villager not name the landlord, the information regarding the rent increase that forced Krystyna, the former owner of Five Roses, out of business, was reported by Krystyna herself.

Krystyna worked for the original owners of Five Roses for 16 years before
purchasing the business from them, after which she lovingly ran the place for the past 11 years. In the last week of November, Krystyna told me — as well as her
loyal and more familiar customers — that Nov. 29 would be her last day. When asked why, she revealed that her rent was being increased to $9,000 per month — that means selling 120 slices per day to cover her rent, assuming that the slices cost her nothing to make!

Krystyna told The SHADOW, as well as VanishingNewYork.blogspot.com,
evgrieve.com and huntergatherernyc.com, that she could not afford to pay
such a high rent and that she would have to leave. Krystyna did not “just
decide to close” — she was clearly forced to close due to the insane rent
increase imposed by the landlord! The last thing that Krystyna wanted was
to stop running her pizzeria!

By the way, Krystyna can be seen in a video clip on huntergatherer.com:
<http://huntergatherernyc.com/2008/12/five-roses-krystyna-says-ill-be-back/>
telling us, “I’ll be back.” Hardly the sentiment of someone who “just
decided to close.”

I don’t know who the building owners think will rent the former pizzeria for that kind of money. Banks and Starbucks generally prefer corner locations, especially in this current economic meltdown. Like other greedy landlords, not only are they killing a small business that has been part of the community for decades, they’re also going to hurt themselves by having an empty space that pays no rent for a very long time.

Wherever Krystyna reopens, I’ll be there!
Chris Flash,
Flash is editor, The SHADOW

Height by the High Line

To The Editor:
I listened with interest to the presentations at Community Board 2’s Zoning Committee of two applicants for zoning variances based on hardships. What struck me is that almost all of the other people who spoke to the issues were “interested parties.” That means they were there to speak on behalf of their own businesses in the area, to cheerlead continued development in the Gansevoort Market area.

Although I would like to see them all thrive and their daytime foot traffic increase, I would also like to make the case for protecting light and air that would be lost if these proposals are approved. And I speak from the point of view of an area resident with no financial stake, but who wants to see appropriate development.

What became clear during the evening’s presentations was that, in both cases, the developers — whether outsiders or longstanding, multigenerational property owners, like Stuart and Darryl Romanoff — want to maximize their profits by building the most F.A.R. possible. They couch it in terms of “hardship.”

In the 437-451 W. 13th St. property, although the drawings and model proposed an elegant building, it will be just as elegant if it is lower and has less mass.

In reality, the High Line will make their property and add great value to it. It is this calculus that should be considered, not the cries of how much more it will cost the owner to build over the High Line.

Allowing more F.A.R. than currently permitted under zoning will set a terrible precedent for other property owners; consider the Gottlieb-estate property next to the High Line.
Judith Spektor

E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to news@thevillager.com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 145 Sixth Ave., ground floor, NY, NY 10013. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. The Villager does not publish anonymous letters.

 

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