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Soho, Noho residents urge Adams to veto Chin’s ‘punitive’ bill against nonartist residents

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | You’ve got to pick your battles.

Soho and Noho residents believe that Mayor Eric Adams will not veto the contentious Soho/Noho upzoning that the City Council pushed through in the final days of Bill de Blasio’s last term. As The Village Sun first reported, a new group, the Coalition for Fairness in Soho and Noho, is currently fundraising for a lawsuit against the rezoning.

However, locals are holding out hope that “a window of opportunity” exists for the new mayor to veto former Councilmember Margaret Chin’s “punitive legislation,” Intro 2443A, which would hit nonartist residents with repeated fines at never-before-seen levels.

Under the measure, nonartist residents living in JLWQA (Joint Live/Work Quarters for Artists) units in Soho and Noho would be fined a minimum civil penalty of $15,000, plus $25,000 for each individual citation, along with $1,000 per month until the violation is “cured.”

Curing the violation would mean paying the “flip tax” conversion fee — which is contained in the Soho/Noho rezoning — of $100 per square foot to convert lofts from JLWQA to regular residential. The other option would be for residents to abandon their homes.

According to the Soho Alliance, Adams has until Fri., Jan. 14, to sign the bill into law.

Opponents charge that the fines are merely a displacement strategy to clear out units in the highly coveted neighborhoods, so that big-moneyed real estate interests can swoop in and make a killing.

In response, opponents are organizing a letter-writing campaign to Adams and his top advisers, urging that the mayor not sign the bill. If Adams neither signs the legislation nor vetos it, it becomes law automatically.

“This legislation was introduced by former Councilmember Margaret Chin just weeks before leaving office and is opposed by the current councilmember representing the neighborhood, Christopher Marte,” a sample form letter provided by the Soho Alliance states. “Mayor de Blasio did not sign the legislation, giving Mayor Adams an opportunity to veto it.

“Intro 2443A unfairly penalizes families and individuals who live in lofts classified as Joint Live Work Quarters for Artists (JLWQA) under an obsolete zoning provision adopted more than fifty years ago and never enforced.

“The bill would impose draconian penalties of up to $25,000 per violation (more than any other Department of Buildings fine, including for highly dangerous activities like operating a crane without a license) on non-certified artists for doing nothing more than living in their safe and well-maintained homes.

“The accumulation of these penalties and violations, which could easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars, could force more than 1,600 families to vacate their homes and decimate the values of their nest egg.

“The law is extremely cruel in that, upon a certified artist’s death, their widow/widower and children [if not artists themselves] will immediately be exposed to massive fines.

“Moreover, there are no beneficiaries or public interest to this ill-conceived legislation, which was rushed through the Council at the end of the term with no discussion and no community input or debate as to the serious consequences for thousands of New Yorkers like me.

“Mayor Adams should veto Intro 2443A.”

Chin’s bill and the Soho/Noho rezoning are separate, yet vaguely related. She introduced her legislation in November the day before the Council’s Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee held its hearing on the rezoning. However, Sean Sweeney, the director of the Soho Alliance, called the former councilmember’s measure a “sneak attack” since there was strangely zero discussion of it before Chin introduced it.

The Soho activist added that, beyond the JLWQA noncompliance fines and the flip tax, there would be other costs associated with bringing manufacturing-zoned buildings up to code.

“Other costs, especially construction costs, to bring manufacturing-zoned buildings up to code as residentially zoned buildings could be very high, well into the hundreds of thousands,” he said. “Think: ADA requirements, light and air requirements, fire code requirements, plus architect, engineer, expediter fees, etc. It will cost a fortune.

“Chin’s legislation did not have a single co-sponsor, very unusual,” he noted. “As an affront to democracy, there was not a single word of debate on the bill or public testimony allowed.”

Village Preservation is also onboard with the effort, urging members to write to Adams and his cabinet, asking for the mayor to oppose the stealth bill.

“For many years, the city has offered almost no new artist certifications, and ignored rules requiring only such persons to live in certain spaces in these neighborhoods,” Village Preservation said in a message to its e-mail list. “Now, decades later, this bill will severely penalize those who have lived here with full knowledge of the city and no enforcement of these rules.

“The measures — sponsored by outgoing Councilmember Margaret Chin — are punitive and serve no public purpose other than to punish residents of these neighborhoods who opposed her rezoning plan. The measure is opposed by new City Councilmember Christopher Marte and several other local elected officials. Mayor Adams now has the opportunity to veto this legislation.”

In addition to challenging the rezoning, the Coalition for Fairness in Soho and Noho, the new group raising funds for a lawsuit, also plans to contest Chin’s JLWQA fines regulation.

16 Comments

  1. Henry Scott Henry Scott January 12, 2022

    These opponents to Chin’s bill are the rich people who moved into and illegally occupied space that was dedicated to artists under the Joint Live-Work Quarters for Artists (JLWQA0). So they priced the artists out of SoHo and NoHo and now they’re bitching that they have to pay penalties for breaking the law. My suggestion is that they all move to the Upper East Side, where I’m sure that there are a lot of “luxury” apartments on the market for the rich and entitled.

    • LES3025 LES3025 January 12, 2022

      Your point that they priced out the artists is a good one that I think gets glossed over in this discussion. The people opposing the flip tax like to say that the city never enforced the existing regulations, which is true. But, as you say, that’s the reason the prices of JLWQA are so high, as artists have been priced out by people with more money who don’t qualify (including a lot of people in “creative” fields that think they should qualify). So there has been a real harm here that should be addressed, and it is reasonable that it be addressed by the people who broke the law and caused the harm.

    • Elizabeth Wollheim Elizabeth Wollheim January 13, 2022

      I oppose Chin’s bill and am NOT rich. I have been living in SoHo since 1978. I moved into my loft (the building was derelict and illegal) and in 1982 the ten residents bought the building. We spent over a decade (none of us were rich enough to do it faster) bringing this building up to code. I was once a certified artist, then I was grandfathered in 1987, but the REAL artist is my 83-year-old husband, who is a musician and has been since 1962, but he’s not considered AIR material because he makes records, and doesn’t play concert halls. AIR is bullshit. And I don’t see why I should pay over $300,000 (Chin’s penalty) to retain the home I have lived in for 44 years and put (over the course of decades) millions into to keep it up to code.

      Betsy Wollheim and Peter Stampfel

      • LES3025 LES3025 January 13, 2022

        You seem to be mistaken about the impact of this law. As someone who was grandfathered in, you would not be subject to the fines and would not have to pay anything to retain your home. If, at the time you (or your estate) decides to sell it, and only if they sell to a non-artist to remove it from JLWQA zoning, there would be a flip tax.

        Also, you may not think of yourself as rich, but you almost certainly are. Someone who owns an asset like that is rich.

        • David Thall David Thall January 14, 2022

          Nonsense.

          You troll like a self-entitled child whose entire concept of the adult world of homeownership is based on your personal resentments against strangers you believe are “rich”?

          Endlessly posting disinformation is an unhealthy obsession.

          You represent the bullies. The outside real estate predators. So since you can’t afford to live in SoHo, nobody should, is that it?

          Try to grasp this concept, LESS:
          helping one group of citizens doesn’t mean hurting another. Too adult for you?

        • Long time SoHo Artist Long time SoHo Artist January 14, 2022

          “Someone who owns an asset like that is rich.”

          So for you, all those struggling family farmers around the country are rich, even though they sometimes can’t make enough on their farm to pay the taxes. But to you, since they have hundreds of acres of land, they are rich and shouldn’t complain. Ever heard of “cash poor”? It’s when you own real estate but don’t have much cash. So for you, all those folks who lost their homes in the financial crisis (in 2008) shouldn’t complain because they are rich, in your mind?

          • LES3025 LES3025 January 14, 2022

            Yes, someone who owns a multimillion-dollar apartment, especially someone who owns it outright with no mortgage, is rich. This shouldn’t really be a contentious position. The comparison to a farmer or someone who was underwater on their mortgage and lost their home in 2008 is obviously specious.

    • Anthony Countey Anthony Countey January 14, 2022

      There are still many artists that the city has not certified, encouraged to get certified or reasonably certified for decades. This is brutal blunt force action where reasonable specific consideration is needed.

  2. David Thall David Thall January 13, 2022

    What Margaret Chin’s venal benefactors and the paid hate trolls like LES3025 are incapable of understanding:

    “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them”  – Dalai Lama

    There is no upside for anyone, passing this unprecedented law that targets only a select group of home owners. Only downside.

    ‘2443A’ IN A NUTSHELL:
    ‘2443A’ is a perpetual Catch-22 punitive tax masquerading as an unfixable violation. It will permanently destroy the property values of all JLWQA homes, and bankrupt many middle-class families who own them. And make them unaffordable for long-term artists and residents.

    Simply put, the new Mayor has the opportunity to stop an egregious wrong. 

    THE NEW MAYOR’S TWO POLITICAL CHOICES – WITH TWO POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES:
    1.) Veto ‘Intro 2443A’ – and all the District 1 JLWQA homeowners and families who are fighting to defend their homes against this damaging law will applaud Mayor Adam’s good judgement.

    2.) Not veto ‘Intro 2443A’ , and Mayor Adams will inherit all the fallout and deep resentment District 1 homeowners and residents have for Margaret Chin’s 11th-hour political “payback” against her political opponents.

    Additionally, if Mayor Adams chooses not to veto ‘Intro 2443A’ – then the Coalition for Fairness in SoHo/NoHo, and the SoHo Alliance, will both move forward with separate very well-funded grassroots lawsuits to overturn it.  Funded by District 1 homeowners and families who live here, not by special outside interests.

    This is literally an existential threat to the homeowners. They are fighting for their right to live in their homes.

    • LES3025 LES3025 January 13, 2022

      You live in a condo. You could take out a HELOC to pay the fine and it would have zero effect on your property value or general finances. Even for the co-ops, the overwhelming majority are owned and occupied illegally by wealthy non-artists who can easily afford the fines or flip tax. The idea that this is going to be enforced against artists’ widows/widowers or other edge cases is just fear-mongering. The old law wasn’t enforced for years. The city isn’t just going to start kicking out senior citizens.

      It’s also absurd to call families who own these apartments middle class. Essentially all JLWQA apartments are million- if not multimillion-dollar properties. Even if they owners have moderate income, they are still wealthy.

      • David David January 14, 2022

        Wow.. LESS puts the less in pointless.

        You are literally copying and pasting the exact same real estate predator propaganda you’ve been posting here over and over again for the past couple of months. Do you really think nobody here notices a sick puppy when they see one?

        Repeating the same troll script is a dead giveaway, LESS.

        So much ignorance and petulance and so little time?

        LESS is a perfect example of when less is more — more disinformation, more lies, and more very weird obsessive-compulsive posting on social media by a Zuckerberg-like algorithm masquerading as a human.

        • LES3025 LES3025 January 14, 2022

          lol you accusing me of copying and pasting is some next-level projection.

  3. Harry Pincus Harry Pincus January 13, 2022

    In regards to Elizabeth Wollheim’s comment, Peter Stampfel is indeed a genius, and one of the original Fugs.

    His bandmate, Tuli Kupferberg, was my next-door neighbor for thirty-five years, and was also never certified as an artist by the city. Tuli’s wife, Sylvia Topp, was president of our new co-op, and filed a fraudulent C of O, claiming that their illegal apartment was an Arist’s “Studio/No Sleeping.” Now Tuli’s widow and son, a Westchester attorney, sublet that unit for thousands of dollars a month, in spite of 15 open violations, and are suing me in a Federal case, claiming that my legitimate artist studio is a “tenants in common,” and demanding that we be forced to sell our only home at Public Auction. This is a fine example of the corrosive effect of greed and inflated real estate values, but my Artist certification is not “bullshit.” I pulled all-night illustration deadlines for decades, won national awards, and sold my etchings on street corners, but never earned as much money as other professionals. I have devoted 47 years to building and legalizing our apartment, and my wife and I raised two children here.

    The remaining Artists who are still here built “Soho” with our hands and our hearts. We depended upon the protections which the City promised us with the loft laws and JLWQA, and our decades of work here are not “bullshit.”

  4. Claire Kerner Claire Kerner January 14, 2022

    Because your dwelling is “worth” millions does not mean you are rich. You would only be rich if you sold your home. And if you do sell your home, you would pay taxes and have to find a new home. Your children deserve to inherit your estate; you worked to buy and maintain it and your children deserve the money it brings. Why are NYC laws always looking to screw the middle class, don’t we have a right to live well?

    • LES3025 LES3025 January 14, 2022

      Yes, if your home is worth millions you are rich. Again, this shouldn’t be contentious. You don’t have to sell the home to get the money. If it’s a condo, you can take a HELOC. If you own a co-op, you can take a reverse mortgage. And if you have a multimillion-dollar mortgage you shouldn’t have to worry about your cash flow. People who own multimillion-dollar apartments are not middle class.

      I find it odd that so many people here are willing to go to the mat on behalf of rich people to argue that they shouldn’t have any responsibility for breaking the law and pricing out the artists.

  5. Harry Pincus Harry Pincus January 14, 2022

    To be clear, Artist certification was limited to “visual fine arts” which presumably required space for painting, sculpting or or an etching press. The idea was to identify Artist In Residence dwellings, which were unclearly occupied and often marginally legal, to the Fire Department, which dealt with massive blazes in what was called Hell’s Hundred Acres. This was because the old factories contained forests of aged timber, and the cast-iron facades often exploded when they reached a certain level of heat.

    You had to be in serious need of shelter, and subject to limited funds, if you were willing to inhabit a deserted factory, which wasn’t glamorous or thought of as having any value at all. In my case, the old factory space was an improvement over the ’58 Chevy with a broken windshield I was living in with my girlfriend.

    The new Soho rezoning will not only exacerbate the greed, and the neighbor against neighbor, artist vs. non-artist scenario, but it will make it absolutely impossible to ever legalize buildings such as ours, which suffer from lot-line issues. We already have been subjected to enormous pressures within our own building from extremely wealthy non-artists who want to push us out.

    Beyond that, many of the co-ops in Soho have lost commercial tenants, and income, during the pandemic, and are now suffering financially. It is fallacious and absurd to claim that we are wealthy because of what our homes appear to be worth on paper, as that valuation is speculative, and a long way from reality. Furthermore, everything else is also inflated in value, and so if we are forced out, we will not only lose the apartments or lofts we have labored to legalize and improve for decades, but we will also be expelled from our City.

    Perhaps the final insult is the characterization that we are “wealthy white people” who stand in the way of racial equality. I am the son of a Brooklyn subway conductor, and I have always regarded my artistic expression as a calling, requiring that I work toward the betterment of all.

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