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Adams vetoes Chin’s bill hiking fines for Soho/Noho nonartist JLWQA residents, saying it needs work

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Updated Jan. 16, 3:30 p.m.: Mayor Eric Adams in a statement late Friday afternoon reitearated his support for the Soho/Noho upzoning. But he announced that he has vetoed former Councilmember Margaret Chin’s bill — at least for now — to slap nonartist residents in JLWQA units with heavy fines.

Adams said nixing Chin’s bill (Intro 2443A) now gives him and the City Council some more time to “improve” it with “right-sized” fines and also to “clarify” its enforcement mechanisms.

“It is a top priority of the Adams administration to find ways that ensure all neighborhoods are helping solve our city’s housing crisis, particularly those that are centrally located and well-resourced,” the mayor said. “That is why I have proudly supported the Soho/Noho rezoning for more than a year, and it is why I am proud the rezoning has become law.

“There was a small piece of legislation that passed at the same time as the rezoning that addresses recording requirements and fines related to Joint Living Work Quarters for Artists (JLWQA). We’ve been hearing concerns about that specific legislation, and are going to make sure that we can productively work together to improve it over the coming months. In order to do that together, today I will veto that legislation to give us time to continue to work on it with the City Council.

“We are still committed to increasing options for existing JLWQA owners by providing a legal pathway to residential use for nonartists in the neighborhood should they elect to legalize or sell, and to make sure windfall profits of those sales get invested back into the artistic legacy for Soho and Noho in perpetuity via the Soho/Noho Arts Fund,” Adams said. “But we will take a little more time to make sure we are right-sizing any fines associated with this process and clarifying the associated enforcement mechanisms going forward.

“We are crystal clear in our 100 percent support of the Soho/Noho rezoning,” he said. “We look forward to working with the City Council to build on this important legacy and make sure all neighborhoods are doing their part for fair housing and more equitable communities.

Chin abruptly introduced her 11th-hour bill in November, and Soho and Noho residents were immediately up in arms over it, calling it retroactive and “punitive.” As The Village Sun first reported, a new group, the Coalition for Fairness in Soho and Noho, recently started fundraising for a lawsuit to fight both the Soho/Noho rezoning and Chin’s JLWQA fines bill.

New Councilmember Christopher Marte, whom Council District 1 residents overwhelmingly elected to succeed the term-limited Chin, thanked Adams for spiking his predecessor’s contentious measure.

“This veto is a step forward for supporting the arts in Soho and Noho and creating an accessible housing stock,” Marte said. “I commend Mayor Adams’s leadership on supporting new legislation creating a JLWQA-type program that better meets the housing needs of our city and a pathway for nonconforming occupants to live legally. Supporting the arts in Soho and Noho can’t come through building codes alone, but through funded mandates and programming, affordable housing and community space.

“If passed, this legislation would have arbitrarily and excessively penalized long-term, nonconforming residents for living in JLWQA residences,” Marte said. “With preexisting fines and no support for legalization, this bill served no one. While there are still people to whom JLWQA units provide protection to live and create [art] in one space, there are an increasing majority of occupants in these apartments to whom this program is not relevant.

“The program has gone defunct for a number of reasons, including an outdated state definition of being a qualified artist and the [New York City] Department of Cultural Affairs not having the capacity to grant new certifications or track certified artists throughout past decades.

“Our office, the mayor, tenants and artists share these goals of legalization and expanded support for artists, and vetoing this legislation is the first step to achieving them,” the councilmember said. “We must overhaul the JLWQA program to reflect the current needs of the local community, and to ensure that both artists and nonconforming tenants are supported, not penalized, in their own efforts to stay in these neighborhoods.

“While there is more to do for residents and artists of Soho and Noho, thank you to everyone who made this happen, and thank you Mayor Adams for listening to New Yorkers, and working to support a path forward.”

Andrew Berman, director of Village Preservation, also hailed the mayor’s announcement.

“This is very welcome news,” the preservationist told The Village Sun. “This sloppily written and shoddily reviewed bill would have made life next to impossible for hundreds of people, and served only to penalize and harass longtime residents. The more than 40 city councilmembers who voted for it — including all three local councilmembers — should be ashamed of themselves.

“It’s good to see that Mayor Adams saw the light and how deeply contrary to the public good this wrongheaded bill was,” Berman said. “Congratulations and deep gratitude go to new Councilmember Christopher Marte, the Coalition for Fairness in Soho and Noho, all the allied community groups and the thousands of New Yorkers who wrote and tweeted about this.”

A relieved Sean Sweeney, the director of the Soho Alliance, also cheered the development.

“For the first time in more than eight years,” he said, “a mayor has vetoed a Council bill, indicating how onerous and vindictive Margaret Chin’s punitive legislation on her own constituents was.

“We thank Mayor Eric Adams, Councilmember Christopher Marte and the hundreds and hundreds of activists, not only in Soho and Noho but citywide and beyond, who rallied to our cause and who lobbied, sending hundreds of e-mails [to the Mayor’s Office and deputy mayors] to get this punitive legislation nixed.”

Sweeney took a dig at Chin.

“On her way out the office,” he said, “and in the final minutes of 12 feckless years in office, Chin, who was repeatedly rejected in election after election by Soho and Noho voters, thought she had the last laugh.

“Margaret Chin forgot the old saying, ‘Those who laugh last, laugh best.'”

In an e-mail after Adams’s announcement, the Soho Alliance said Chin’s bill backfired, in that many from the nonartists community are now more engaged with the rest of the area’s residents who have been fighting against the rezoning.

“Instead of a curse, Chin’s legislation has actually been a blessing to Soho/Noho,” the alliance’s e-mail said. “It has invigorated an entire demographic that previously had not been involved in community activism. Networks have been established that never existed. It has shown the power of an organized community.

“We believe the rezoning is fundamentally flawed, pushed through in the last days of a failed mayor, completely ignoring the six months of community input during the 2019 Envision Soho/Noho process and a gift to de Blasio’s developer contributors.

“We are going full-steam ahead with our lawsuit to have the courts address the serious defects that the prior Council ignored.”

13 Comments

  1. LES3025 LES3025 January 14, 2022

    Zero chance they are going to “work to improve” this legislation. It’s dead. Congrats to all the SoHo illegal owners!

  2. David David January 14, 2022

    This tells us that Eric Adams is a smart politician.

    Why on earth would a new mayor want to inherit all the anger and resentment Soho and Noho residents had toward Margaret Chin?

    Instead, District 1 now has lots of goodwill for him.

    Not to mention, electing Christopher Marte to replace the vindictive Margaret Chin, who was bought and paid for by outside real estate predators, really helped.

    Thank you, Christopher Marte.

    • LES3025 LES3025 January 15, 2022

      This is actually exactly right. Bad policy, but smart political move by Adams. There was very little constituency for this law, and Village Preservation did an excellent job mobilizing their people to oppose it. Adams’s office was certainly flooded with hundred of comments in opposition, with no one in support. Doesn’t bode well for future housing battles, but that’s for a different day.

      • Lora Tenenbaum Lora Tenenbaum January 16, 2022

        Actually, this was indeed a successful housing battle. It is not in the public interest to force senior citizen surviving spouses out of their homes just because the artist in the family died first. That is exactly what the vindictive legislation would have done.

  3. Certified SoHo Artist’s Spouse Certified SoHo Artist’s Spouse January 14, 2022

    So uninformed, LES3025! The unconsidered provisions of Chin’s bill also take aim at certified artists and their families. Educate yourself and then understand the appreciation that 40-plus-year certified artist residents of SoHo feel toward the mayor and head of the City Council for their recognition of the unfairness and deficiency of 2443A.

  4. Pryor Dodge Pryor Dodge January 15, 2022

    True, creating the JLWQA status in 1971 rightly protected light manufacturing in Soho. However as 30-plus-year leases expired and rents skyrocketed, businesses began to relocate (weak commercial rent laws are still responsible for restaurant and business relocation/closing).

    Artists sensed opportunity and filled the gap. Years later, thanks to interest by non-artists with  contemporary market wherewithal, artists, many who could no longer afford the rising costs to maintain their buildings, could sell, happy to depart with a comfortable retirement while, in doing so, providing a flip-tax to cushion their remaining artist neighbors’ maintenance expenses. This equation continues to benefit many buildings, buildings that are now about 150 years old and continue to need costly repairs.  

    Also true, JLWQA status no longer serves its purpose as light manufacturing no longer exists in Soho/Noho. It is therefore time to rezone to reflect current use. The city has essentially acknowledged current use for decades as is evident by its pleasure to accept and deposit condo/coop transfer as well as real estate taxes.

    Fines are therefore neither appropriate nor legitimate.

    Pryor Dodge
    4th-generation Downtown New Yorker

  5. Harry Pincus Harry Pincus January 15, 2022

    In regards to the above comments from the “4th-generation New Yorker,” I would note that the City’s “purpose” for Artist certifications and Joint Living Work Quarters for Artists was to attract the only people who were willing to live in desolate old factories, which were artists. There was no profit motive or status attached to putting a sleeping bag down on a greasy and splintered old factory floor and trying to figure out how to live without heat or hot water. The artists who pioneered “Soho” did so out of need, not greed, and our creativity and sweat equity created great value for the City. Perhaps only artists could revive a lost and forgotten sector of obsolete buildings, and turn them into a world-class destination for tourists, boutiques and real estate speculators. This City has certainly benefitted mightily by our efforts.

    There aren’t many of us left these days. We are now senior citizens, under ferocious attack from predatory speculators who, as in my case, are well-funded and willing to sue us in order to push us and our families out of the homes we have built with decades of hard work.

    To the fourth-generation fellow, and even to my friend Christopher Marte, I would remind you that the promises made to the artists who created Soho are not obsolete or irrelevant. They should be as pertinent today as they were when we were encouraged to devote our lives to building and preserving this area.

    The original artists are an endangered species these days, and we are simply asking for the great City of New York to keep its word, and allow us to remain in our homes.

    • Pryor Dodge Pryor Dodge January 15, 2022

      Maybe you didn’t understand that I am defending the artists. I live in one of the first coops in Soho, established in the late 1960s. A number of the founders still live here and recent arrivals are determined to ensure their well-being.

    • ------m ------m January 16, 2022

      perfectly stated!!

    • ------m ------m January 16, 2022

      this is my reply to Harry Pinkus …
      SUPERBLY STATED !!
      thank you!

  6. Harry Pincus Harry Pincus January 15, 2022

    I’m sorry if I misunderstood.

    I’m hoping that the Artist certifications and JLWQA still does “serve its purpose” in offering protections for those of us who came here long ago. The vetoed legislation would have set neighbor against neighbor, and the original artists are now characterized as “wealthy white people” who are obstacles to racial equality, and subject to attack and displacement by wealthy predators.

    I know that that some of the original co-ops are still full of caring neighbors who are working together to ensure each other’s well-being, and it is always heartwarming to hear that.

    Thank you then for your support and understanding!

  7. Gail Kriegel Gail Kriegel January 16, 2022

    It’s the artists who founded and created this neighborhood by supporting local stores, fixing up their buildings, making lofts livable for their children, caring for the streets, all of which has made this area a flourishing neighborhood of families and a tourist destination, a lucrative resource for the city and businesses. I think the city should pay the artists $100 a square foot for creating this neighborhood that was once desolate, maintaining this important and historical housing stock and bringing in millions of dollars of new real estate tax revenues

  8. Ronnie Ronnie January 16, 2022

    Hear Hear to Gale’s comment!👏

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