Common Cause/NY Urges Council to Reject Water Street Rezoning

NEW YORK, NY (06/21/2016)(readMedia)-- On June 14th the New York City Council's Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises approved a rezoning law that would transfer more than 100,000 square feet of public space along Water Street to private owners at no cost. The City Council will vote on the issue as a whole today.

In response, Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause New York, released the following statement. "Public space should never be given away for free. The "concessions" negotiated are the bare minimum of notice and accountability that any significant building change should be held to. That the Department of City Planning co-proposed this bill with non-profit groups funded by special interests is equally alarming, particularly in the face of strong local citizen opposition. This raises questions as to what oversight citizens actually have over city agencies and their elected officials, and whether or not the voice of moneyed interests dwarfs the collective voices of one's constituents. Common Cause/NY urges the Council to reject this bad deal, and direct the Department of City Planning to negotiate a direct purchase price as well," said Lerner.


Together with the New York City Department of City Planning, the Alliance for Downtown New York and the New York City Economic Development Corporation have proposed a rezoning bill, the 'Water Street Upgrades Text Amendment.' The amendment applies to Water Street between Fulton and Whitehall Streets.

The bill has passed through both the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises and the Land Use Committee. City Council Member Margaret Chin (District 1), whose district encompasses the area of concern, has also endorsed it.

Should it pass, the amendment will transfer ownership of publicly owned space to private owners at no cost to the new owners. In return, these owners will have to upgrade the arcades, providing public amenities, like fixed seating, trees, drinking fountains, and increased lighting, and plan events for the community.

Six out of the seventeen buildings on Water Street will have to undergo the City's land use review procedure, granting the City Council and the area's residents more oversight over the process and how the public land is used. For the remaining eleven buildings, the Community Board and Borough President will be notified of the plans but have limited input.