NoHo-Bowery Stakeholders held their 2019 Annual Meeting on October 30th at Subculture with more than 100 members in attendance, centered on NoHo’s transformation.
Headlining NoHo-Bowery Stakeholders (NBS) Annual were Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Councilmember Carlina Rivera, Councilmember Margaret Chin’s Chief of Staff Gigi Li and CB2 Manhattan Chair, Carter Booth. Also in attendance were Pedro Cardillo, Chief of Staff to Councilmember Rivera, Andrew Drummond, new Land Use Director for Councilmember Chin.
After a brief rundown of the fiscal year financials, NBS elected a new member to the Advisory Board, Scott Sartiano, owner of Broken Coconut on East 4th St. and the soon to be opened Zero Bond. Mr. Sartiano has also been recently appointed to CB#2 Manhattan’s Board.
For the remainder of the evening the discussion centered on the Envision SoHo/NoHo project and recommendations made through five Public Workshops and two dozen or more Advisory Board meetings and focus groups.
Borough President Brewer expressed her interest in enhancing NoHo’s artistic roots with whatever modifications might be made as well as assuring that rent-protected artists and artist owners have the means to remain in the neighborhood. The issue of non-artist owners was perhaps the hardest part of the discussion. While many non-artist NoHo residents legally inhabit buildings that have received variances from the M1-5b zoning envelope, there are others who are in a legal limbo after having spent significant funds to upgrade and pass Landmarks restoration protocols.
Another area of discussion centered on the artist certification process itself. The Department of Cultural Affairs has certified very few artists in the last 10 years, due largely to the extremely restrictive criteria. Anyone who ever received certification is on the list – dead or alive; present in NoHo or not.
There is a growing movement, brought on during the “envision” process to expand the definition of artist as well the criteria by which one would qualify. Currently certification goes to “fine artists” only and their submitted credentials cannot include financial remuneration for their art. Including more types of art and creative activity in the certification requirements AND overhauling the registration process – similar to Drivers License and Dog License renewal – could expand the base of creative energy and legality in NoHo, if not elsewhere. The M1-5B Joint Live/Work Quarters for Artists (JLWQA) requires at least one certified artist to be in residence in each designated unit.
Ground Floor Retail
The discussion around ground floor retail seemed also to have multiple considerations. Interestingly enough, most ground floor retail in NoHo is legal, much of it grandfathered prior to the M1-5B designation. But NoHo’s JLWQA buildings were built for a ground-floor tenant and are, especially with increasing tax assessments, dependent on the income. Most of these buildings have footprints less than 10,000 sq. ft. The zoning requirement, however, is that retail is legal only when it is above the level of the first/ground floor. For NoHo that requirement puts a commercial tenant in the midst of residential tenants – a practical use real-life use conflict.
For others, particularly along the Broadway corridor whose foorprints are above 10,000 sq. ft., this becomes a particularly complicated scenario. Their buildings were intended to display wares from manufacturers for wholesale buyers on their ground floors. Upper floors were built for either manufacturing and offices. Most of these have attracted office tenants above the ground floor – a viable market. But the ground floor and cellar requirements are both too large and unmarketable,. Complicating this is that even if an owner rents to multiple small retailers, only the totl retail presence is counted in the total. Making this even more complex are Landmark requirements that discourage multiple entrances from the street, architectural modifications, etc.
All in all, the NBS Annual Meeting was a well-informed and highly nuanced event, collegeal and thought-provoking in every aspect.