On October 28th, concerned residents, workers, students, small business owners, and others — including children and elderly — marched from the Lower East Side and Chinatown to City Hall. Despite pouring rain and harsh winds, over one thousand people marched together. Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez sent a representative to announce her support for the Chinatown Working Group (CWG) Rezoning Plan and those fighting for it.
Marchers are calling on Mayor de Blasio to adopt the Chinatown Working Group Rezoning Plan that will protect the entire community that has become vulnerable to rampant luxury development.
Since the East Village Rezoning Plan was passed in 2008 — protecting majority white wealthier areas and excluding majority Latino, African-American and Chinese areas in Community District 3 — new luxury development has accelerated displacement and led to massive evictions. One stark example of this is the 80-story Extell tower with a 13-story “poor door” that has applied for the 421-a tax break. The Lower East Side/Chinatown is now ground zero for the displacement of low-income people of color.
“My apartment floods when it rains. Our building is in dire need for repairs. Yet the City is giving away millions to Extell to build a luxury tower for the rich. That money could be used to repair existing affordable housing for the low-income black and Latino residents who live here. Why do they want to steal from the poor and give to the rich?” said Louise Velez, who currently lives in New York City public housing development.
For the past seven years, nearly 60 organizations from the Lower East Side and Chinatown joined CWG to create a community-led rezoning plan that would protect the entire community with similar protections afforded to the East Village. Earlier this year the City’s Department of City Planning (DCP) rejected the community rezoning plan adopted by Chinatown Working Group, calling it too “far-fetched.”
On September 25th, close to 1,000 concerned individuals marched to City Hall to demand Mayor de Blasio take a stand against the displacement and adopt the CWG Rezoning Plan. The outpouring of community concern has encouraged other sectors of the community–including churches, students and small business owners–to join the call to pass the CWG Rezoning Plan. Some businesses even closed their doors for a few hours in a show of support for the march.
“I officially decided to close my business on Wednesday for the march because I want to show my support in the community in any way possible. I want people to understand that as a business owner I stand by their side in the fight to preserve the neighborhood as a strong, healthy, and affordable area for our families and neighbors to live in,” says Randy Rodriguez, owner of Cabalito Salvadoran Restaurant.
Sophie Debenedetto, a representative of the Coalition delivered a pointed message to Mayor de Blasio, “Our community came together. We created our own rezoning plan to stop the displacement and give us control of our community, so we could get the kind of development we need. We need schools and senior centers, small businesses and low-income housing. NOT luxury high-rises. 10,000 people signed the petition to demand this rezoning plan. How can the city refuse to pass it? This is undemocratic and racist. Mayor De Blasio, if you don’t do this, if you don’t listen to our community, we’ll be back. And we will not stop until we get equal protection.”
Coalition members invited Mayor de Blasio to attend the rally and put out his position on the marchers’ demands to:
- End the 421-a tax abatement (a tax subsidy for luxury developments)
- Immediately halt the Extell luxury tower at 227 Cherry Street
- Adopt the CWG rezoning plan
Although Mayor de Blasio pledged to send a representative to the march, no representative of his office attended and he has failed to reach back out to the Coalition. In the event that Mayor de Blasio continues to ignore the Lower East Side and Chinatown community, marchers announced they would hold a rally and pickets in front of the Mayor’s Gracie Mansion.