Demolitions Would Erase 110 Affordable Apartments
And Nine Historic Buildings in Tribeca

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Art by James Nares, 1976


Alicia Glen, the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, was on the Brian Lehrer Show on April 10, 2015. She pitched the Mayor’s policy to vastly increase affordable housing in the City. She also said “there is a new sheriff in town” and “we won’t tolerate bad actors” – referring to bad real estate developers. Unfortunately, the reality is that the De Blasio administration is merely continuing the previous Mayor’s policy of favoring luxury towers that destroy affordable housing. That policy is called “hyper-density.” For more on that model, click here.

Here is how it really plays out. In Tribeca, the Mayor’s office appears to have told the Landmarks Preservation Commission to stand down on historic district expansion, leaving Big Real Estate free to tear down no fewer than eleven (11) historic Tribeca buildings which are at present filled with 110 affordable, rent-stabilized apartments. Many would be to be replaced by luxury glass towers. This is happening right now [1]. None of the new towers will have affordable housing in them. One of the buildings targeted for demolition is a candidate for listing on the National Registry of Historic Places. By destroying historic buildings and replacing them with new luxury towers, de Blasio is allowing the destruction of the human-scale Tribeca that has been a model of adaptive re-use. Why? Tribeca’s historic districts are a priceless public good in their own right. These historic mid-rise buildings slated for destruction are already filled with affordable housing, so why let them disappear? Nobody is going to win in this ritual except the developers. We, the public, are being tricked about the nature of the affordable housing game plan.

New York has lost over 250,000 rent stabilized units since 1994. Why isn’t the Mayor focused on preserving those units, including the 110 in Tribeca? (Not to mention the Mitchell Lama debacle in Tribeca that took place under Bloomberg where several hundred affordable units were lost.)

None of this destruction is necessary to intelligently address the problem of affordable housing. It is therefore time for the Mayor’s Office to come up with a new plan and prove that they truly mean to preserve existing affordable units. In Tribeca it would mean telling Landmarks to act immediately, to add the “Tribeca 9” buildings to their adjacent historic districts. Such an act would remove the incentive that now exists for demolition. And if the Mayor can’t do this, we know the Mayor was just feeding us a line in his State of the City speech when he said: “We are not embarking on a mission to build towering skyscrapers where they don’t belong. We have a duty to protect and preserve the culture and character of our neighborhoods, and we will do so.” If he meant that at all, he needs to act now in Tribeca to prove it.

[1] Addresses in question are 67 Vestry, 57-59 Franklin, 368 Broadway, 61 Warren, 65 West Broadway, 71-73 West Broadway, 98 Chambers, and 57 and 59 Murray. Note as well that if we add to the list  the recently demolished 31 Desbrosses Street with 18 units of affordable housing – and the currently threatened litigation involving at least 8 units at 131 Duane – the total would be 136 lost units. Note as well that 94 and 96 Chambers have loft law tenants and seem to be “in play” as well but are under no immediate threat of demolition (for the moment).

 Case in Point

Here is the Sohn Whiskey Warehouse at 31 Desbrosses Street, demolished just last month. It had 18 affordable units under rent stabilization and loft law provisions. Tenants were aggressively bought out and harassed out. It will be replaced by a luxury glass tower. I did not include the loss of these affordable units in the totals above.


31 Desbrosses in Tribeca North, demolished March 2015 despite pleas to the Landmarks Commission. Affordable housing units destroyed: 18.