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East Villagers Protest Office Tower; Developer Hires Blaz Donor as Lobbyist

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A group of citizens worried over changes to their neighborhood is protesting a lobbyist’s attempt to develop real estate in the East Village. The local complain that such a move would mar and maybe even ruin the community’s character. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

A group of citizens worried over changes to their neighborhood is protesting a lobbyist’s attempt to develop real estate in the East Village. The local complain that such a move would mar and maybe even ruin the community’s character.

By: Cyrus McMillan

At issue: Real Estate Equities Corporation’s intention plans to get changes to zoning that would allow it to construct a 10-story, 175-foot-tall office tower at 3 St. Mark’s Place.

“To move forward with the plan, which would mean demolishing the now-shuttered punk rock haven, the Continental, as well as a neighboring building erected in the 19th century, the developer has enlisted the lobbying firm of Jim Capalino, a fundraiser for Mayor de Blasio and a player in several controversial land deals downtown,” New York Daily News reported.

“The mayor’s prodigious fundraiser, lobbyist Jim Capalino, is seeking favors from City Hall for his clients to lift restrictions and facilitate inappropriate development in the East Village,” Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation told the Daily News. “The number of projects this lobbying firm has gotten approvals for in this neighborhood is mind-boggling… Each new favor builds upon the next. First he got permission for an upzoning south of Union Square for an oversized ‘tech hub.’ Now he’s seeking air rights transfers to continue the spread of ‘Silicon Alley’ to St. Mark’s Place. The mayor’s pay-to-play practices are utterly transforming this neighborhood.”

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation addressed the issue on its web site, noting: “From the 14th Street Tech Hub upzoning to multiple towers up to 1,000 ft. tall that sidestepped zoning approvals, from a huge new hotel on East 11th Street for which five “landmark-eligible” buildings were demolished without objection by the City to lifting a deed restriction allowing housing for seniors with AIDS to become luxury condos, Capalino+Company has been one of the most successful lobbyists in New York City.”

Particularly in the East Village/Lower East Side, the group continued, “even as its principal has been one of the Mayor’s most prodigious fundraisers. As reported in today’s Daily News, this pattern of getting (or avoiding the need for) approvals from the City while supporting the Mayor’s fundraising activities is breathtaking in its scope. In this one community board, this lobbyist is shepherding through projects dramatically transforming the character of this neighborhood.”

The group’s statement concluded, “Capalino+Co. are seeking to build upon that success with approval of an air rights transfer on St. Marks Place that would allow a planned ‘boutique’ office tower to grow 20% larger than zoning normally allows. With the approval they also recently secured for the “Tech Hub” upzoning on 14th Street from the Mayor and City Council last year, the transformation of the area south of Union Square into an extension of ‘Silicon Alley’ and Midtown South is in full swing… Community Board #3 Manhattan has already opposed the transfer, as have State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Deborah Glick. Borough President Gale Brewer, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the City Planning Commission, and ultimately City Councilmember Carlina Rivera and the City Council will vote upon and decide whether or not this latest project is approved.”

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