Other Meetings

This page will keep you updated on other meetings held as part of the community planning process including important themes discussed at SoHo/NoHo Advisory Group meetings. We have also added summaries from our focus group discussions (scroll down to see more).


ADVISORY GROUP UPDATES

Meeting I: January 10th, 2019

In the initial Advisory Group meeting, the facilitator introduced the outreach and community planning process ahead, clarifying that there was no preconceived idea. It was explained that the process is about listening and learning, and developing recommendations through the process. Stakeholder representatives had the chance to introduce themselves, explain their organizational platforms, and to voice their initial ideas and potential concerns to inform the SoHo/NoHo planning process. Conversation resulted in the agreement of three summary phrases by the Advisory Group for an initial goals framework:

  • To preserve the unique character of SoHo/NoHo
  • To ensure predictability in the process
  • To think with both clarity and creativity


Meeting II: January 24th, 2019

The second Advisory Group meeting contemplated the public realm of SoHo/NoHo. Advisory Group members discussed and brainstormed assets and challenges in response to the following prompts:

  • Identify unique characteristics of “place” in SoHo/NoHo. Approach this from the perspective of what you want to preserve and/or advance.
  • What are the priority spaces/neighborhood locations that need particular attention?
  • What approaches should be taken to address issues observed or to advance aspirations?

Discussion largely focused on quality of life challenges experienced in SoHo/NoHo, as well as the recognition of the neighborhoods’ unique character and historic character.

Three take-away concepts were agreed upon by the Advisory Group:

  • The diversity of the neighborhoods’ mixed-use environment is a key feature of sense of place in SoHo/NoHo. It is apparent and should be nurtured.
  • Challenge: More community spaces are needed; and
  • Opportunity: Improve management of the public realm with community input.

During this meeting, Process Sponsor staff offered to host a Land Use/Zoning/Landmarks training on January 31st for any Advisory Group member who wanted to learn more about these topics.


Meeting III: February 14th, 2019

This meeting was devoted to a recap of the first public meeting (February 28th). The conversation acknowledged areas where the process can improve in the planning of public meetings going forward, but also emphasized the breadth of helpful feedback obtained. Advisory Group members and Process Sponsor staff strategized around considerations to improve future public meetings: workshop formats, including opening presentations, facilitator training for those assisting at round tables, and data presentation of ideas were discussed. Public feedback data from the first public meeting was presented to the Advisory Group, with the following highlights:

+ / - 250 attendees of the Open House:

  • Filled out 211 comment cards.
  • Pinned 109 locations of interest or concern on informational maps.
  • Offered an additional 94 comments related to data and graphic information displayed at the forum.


Meeting IV: February 21st, 2019

This meeting opened with a conversation to plan for the first topical workshop (February 28th). The Department of City Planning presented data on Economic Development in SoHo/NoHo to give context to these neighborhoods’ landscape of jobs and employment. Conversation acknowledged the limitations of some of these data, but also emphasized how we can use this for initial framing, while simultaneously striving to get more contextual data and feedback through the public engagement process. It was agreed that more should be done to make the complex data more easily presentable to the public.


Meeting V: March 7th, 2019

In the fifth Advisory Group meeting, public feedback was reviewed from the first topical workshop on February 28th. The Department of City Planning presented data pertaining to the residential landscape of SoHo/NoHo. This included:

  • A review of the history of JLWQA under the current zoning, and artist certification under the Department of Cultural Affairs.
  • A review of the four main categories of residential units in SoHo/NoHo: Residential units without occupancy restriction, legalized lofts under Loft Law, Interim Multiple Dwellings (IMDs), And Use Group 17D – JLWQA.
  • Demographic data from the 2010 Census.

Invited guest speaker, Jon Alschuler, Chairman, HR&A, presented research about the economic impact of retail in SoHo/NoHo and its importance to the City’s economy in terms of revenue and job creation.

  • A.G. members were assigned “homework” to further consider the various occupancy statuses that exist in SoHo/NoHo today. The intent of this was to prepare a conversation regarding the residential landscape in SoHo/Noho, the topic of the second public topical workshop (March 20th).


Meeting VI: March 14th, 2019

The sixth Advisory Group meeting enabled conversation to further the Advisory Group’s knowledge and share perspectives of the various residential occupancy statuses in SoHo/NoHo. Categories of residential occupancy statuses included in the conversation were: JLWQA, lofts legalized under the Loft Law, Interim Multiple Dwelling Units (IMDs), and Use Group 2 residential units. For each of these occupancy types, discussion centered around identifying the following: Issues facing occupants (renters and owners), potential actions to address challenges, and careful consideration of the implications that could arise from the mentioned ideas for change. While conversation and brainstorming covered a broad spectrum of conditions and challenges, common themes of discussion included the needs for affordable housing, live/work as a common denominator for SoHo and NoHo, and the need for preservation of neighborhood character.


Meeting VII: March 28th, 2019

The Department of City Planning presented on live/work standards and conditions in other zoning districts in the city, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and an overview of the built character of SoHo/NoHo. These conversations pragmatically approached potential opportunities for new affordable housing, while recognizing challenges at hand and a balance of interests.

To center the process on all public feedback received to-date, an initial framework of preliminary Process Principles and Guidelines was discussed. The framework of the final recommendations report that will come from this process was revisited, with the clarification provided that the report will be structured according to such Guidelines and Principles. It was explained and agreed upon that the Advisory Group will work to further define and refine this content, as informed by further deliberation and public input.



FOCUS GROUP SUMMARIES

Business Community - March 26, 2019
(Two sessions with a total of eleven participants)

The Business Community focus groups surfaced the following themes:

  • Need for greater flexibility and variety of allowable uses – reduce the barriers for uses that are attractive to the neighborhood – “no profile that makes sense for us”
  • Changing trends in storefront retail: space needs, online retail, lots of uncertainty (and pressure) – clear that retail is evolving and that sales need to be supported by “the experience” – this plays out for both flagship and local design retail
  • Opportunity for subdividing existing spaces: for smaller, more varied retail and allowing for hybrid uses (more than one use in a space). Opportunities for this in the future are contingent on various factors, e.g. floorplates, historic buildings, excessively prohibitive zoning regulations, etc.
  • Food and beverage establishments sustain a mixed-use neighborhood—not only for residents and workers, but also for those who visit (and shop).
  • Challenges faced with current rents, zoning and special permits
  • Clear willingness to work towards being a responsible retail neighbor, e.g. developing guidelines and adopting (and following) best practices for deliveries, garbage, crowds, noise, etc.


Artist Residents – April 2 and April 9, 2019
(Three sessions with a total of nineteen participants)

Themes (challenges) that surfaced from the Artist Resident focus groups include:

  • Displacement concerns – by new landlord and increasing costs to residents, Loft Law buyout provision, ability to continue to live-work – and very different perspectives/concerns of renters versus owners
  • Cost of Living – building maintenance and property taxation – a challenge for artists, especially those on fixed incomes, increasing assessments, importance of retail on ground floor to provide revenue, and upkeep of historic buildings, complying with code requirements (sprinklers, engineer bricks, valves, etc.) – As one participant mentioned: SoHo is really the “Venice of New York,” and should be protected.
  • Quality of life issues (parking, noise, garbage, loading/unloading, light/glare, enforcement)
  • Recognition that the rules today do not work – loopholes, special permit “spot zoning,” non-artist occupancy status, absentee residents (luxury set), unclear vision for future of legacy of the arts, large retail (except for grocery stores), artist certification (outdated), and uncertainty in general.

Ideas that surfaced from the Artist Resident focus groups include:

  • Call for greater artist representation in the process
  • Call for data – survey/census on artist population
  • Call for continuation of live-work (JLWQA) broadly with appropriate performance standards and special status for artists (incentives)
  • Overall: Protect SoHo/NoHo’s artists and historic character
  • Desire for some level of tax relief – possibly tied to artist status
  • Protect the legacy of arts into the future with new ideas… e.g. shared studio space – not-for-profit + SoHo/NoHo workspace artist in residency program utilizing vacant space (how could this be incentivized?)
  • Affordable housing – desire to maintain FAR in the Historic District but consideration of additional density in the southeast and southwest of Study Area.


Commercial Property Owners - April 16, 2019
(One session with twelve participants)

Common sentiments and opinions expressed during the focus group include:

  • Restrictions in place are no longer applicable - zoning is outdated
  • The future success of retail in SoHo/NoHo will be enabled by greater flexibility, e.g. allowing new business models and mixes. Limitations currently in place hinder this flexibility, e.g. footprints, as-of-right uses, and 10,000 sq. ft. rule (size of retail space)
  • Need to differentiate between side streets and thoroughfares when discussing retail/commercial size, conditions and opportunity
  • Perception that there is too much retail - “There is not as much spatial need as there once was” - Need to think of the next generation both in terms of who will live here but also who will come here (shopping, visiting, etc.)
  • Smaller scale commercial property owners (e.g. family owned buildings) often experience more challenges navigating the current approval system (special permit to allow retail) as compared to companies with larger profiles and resources. This puts smaller building owners at a disadvantage


Residential Property Owners - April 23, 2019
(One session with twelve participants)

Common sentiments and opinions expressed during the focus group include:

  • Call for greater flexibility – ground floor retail as of right with greater flexibility built-in (but “be careful about what is being unlocked,”) – simply allowing ground floor retail without consideration for the existing allowance of retail on the second floor and above will open up full building to retail.
  • Disagreement regarding the 10,000 sf limit – idea: ground/basement as of right for retail with second story and above by special permit)
  • Want the ability to “meet the obligation to live here legally” but there are difficulties in selling to artists – would like the ability to sell to non-artists or pass unit on to children, but reserve the live-work aspects. Presently the illegality and loophole environment does not work – SoHo Letter, retaliatory actions, difficulty getting loans/mortgages (varies – some said this was so but others said they had no difficulty). A follow up conversation with a banker revealed that regulators are limiting residential lending activity in SoHo/NoHo to no more than 3 percent of loan portfolio because of the uncertain environment)
  • Costs are hurting everyone – maintenance costs of historic buildings and rising property taxes
  • Quality of Life Issues – trash, garbage collection, green space, loading, etc.
  • Consensus to maintain current neighborhood scale (FAR) in historic districts
  • Overall concern (skepticism) over oversight and regulation with whatever changes might come


This page will keep you updated on other meetings held as part of the community planning process including important themes discussed at SoHo/NoHo Advisory Group meetings. We have also added summaries from our focus group discussions (scroll down to see more).


ADVISORY GROUP UPDATES

Meeting I: January 10th, 2019

In the initial Advisory Group meeting, the facilitator introduced the outreach and community planning process ahead, clarifying that there was no preconceived idea. It was explained that the process is about listening and learning, and developing recommendations through the process. Stakeholder representatives had the chance to introduce themselves, explain their organizational platforms, and to voice their initial ideas and potential concerns to inform the SoHo/NoHo planning process. Conversation resulted in the agreement of three summary phrases by the Advisory Group for an initial goals framework:

  • To preserve the unique character of SoHo/NoHo
  • To ensure predictability in the process
  • To think with both clarity and creativity


Meeting II: January 24th, 2019

The second Advisory Group meeting contemplated the public realm of SoHo/NoHo. Advisory Group members discussed and brainstormed assets and challenges in response to the following prompts:

  • Identify unique characteristics of “place” in SoHo/NoHo. Approach this from the perspective of what you want to preserve and/or advance.
  • What are the priority spaces/neighborhood locations that need particular attention?
  • What approaches should be taken to address issues observed or to advance aspirations?

Discussion largely focused on quality of life challenges experienced in SoHo/NoHo, as well as the recognition of the neighborhoods’ unique character and historic character.

Three take-away concepts were agreed upon by the Advisory Group:

  • The diversity of the neighborhoods’ mixed-use environment is a key feature of sense of place in SoHo/NoHo. It is apparent and should be nurtured.
  • Challenge: More community spaces are needed; and
  • Opportunity: Improve management of the public realm with community input.

During this meeting, Process Sponsor staff offered to host a Land Use/Zoning/Landmarks training on January 31st for any Advisory Group member who wanted to learn more about these topics.


Meeting III: February 14th, 2019

This meeting was devoted to a recap of the first public meeting (February 28th). The conversation acknowledged areas where the process can improve in the planning of public meetings going forward, but also emphasized the breadth of helpful feedback obtained. Advisory Group members and Process Sponsor staff strategized around considerations to improve future public meetings: workshop formats, including opening presentations, facilitator training for those assisting at round tables, and data presentation of ideas were discussed. Public feedback data from the first public meeting was presented to the Advisory Group, with the following highlights:

+ / - 250 attendees of the Open House:

  • Filled out 211 comment cards.
  • Pinned 109 locations of interest or concern on informational maps.
  • Offered an additional 94 comments related to data and graphic information displayed at the forum.


Meeting IV: February 21st, 2019

This meeting opened with a conversation to plan for the first topical workshop (February 28th). The Department of City Planning presented data on Economic Development in SoHo/NoHo to give context to these neighborhoods’ landscape of jobs and employment. Conversation acknowledged the limitations of some of these data, but also emphasized how we can use this for initial framing, while simultaneously striving to get more contextual data and feedback through the public engagement process. It was agreed that more should be done to make the complex data more easily presentable to the public.


Meeting V: March 7th, 2019

In the fifth Advisory Group meeting, public feedback was reviewed from the first topical workshop on February 28th. The Department of City Planning presented data pertaining to the residential landscape of SoHo/NoHo. This included:

  • A review of the history of JLWQA under the current zoning, and artist certification under the Department of Cultural Affairs.
  • A review of the four main categories of residential units in SoHo/NoHo: Residential units without occupancy restriction, legalized lofts under Loft Law, Interim Multiple Dwellings (IMDs), And Use Group 17D – JLWQA.
  • Demographic data from the 2010 Census.

Invited guest speaker, Jon Alschuler, Chairman, HR&A, presented research about the economic impact of retail in SoHo/NoHo and its importance to the City’s economy in terms of revenue and job creation.

  • A.G. members were assigned “homework” to further consider the various occupancy statuses that exist in SoHo/NoHo today. The intent of this was to prepare a conversation regarding the residential landscape in SoHo/Noho, the topic of the second public topical workshop (March 20th).


Meeting VI: March 14th, 2019

The sixth Advisory Group meeting enabled conversation to further the Advisory Group’s knowledge and share perspectives of the various residential occupancy statuses in SoHo/NoHo. Categories of residential occupancy statuses included in the conversation were: JLWQA, lofts legalized under the Loft Law, Interim Multiple Dwelling Units (IMDs), and Use Group 2 residential units. For each of these occupancy types, discussion centered around identifying the following: Issues facing occupants (renters and owners), potential actions to address challenges, and careful consideration of the implications that could arise from the mentioned ideas for change. While conversation and brainstorming covered a broad spectrum of conditions and challenges, common themes of discussion included the needs for affordable housing, live/work as a common denominator for SoHo and NoHo, and the need for preservation of neighborhood character.


Meeting VII: March 28th, 2019

The Department of City Planning presented on live/work standards and conditions in other zoning districts in the city, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and an overview of the built character of SoHo/NoHo. These conversations pragmatically approached potential opportunities for new affordable housing, while recognizing challenges at hand and a balance of interests.

To center the process on all public feedback received to-date, an initial framework of preliminary Process Principles and Guidelines was discussed. The framework of the final recommendations report that will come from this process was revisited, with the clarification provided that the report will be structured according to such Guidelines and Principles. It was explained and agreed upon that the Advisory Group will work to further define and refine this content, as informed by further deliberation and public input.



FOCUS GROUP SUMMARIES

Business Community - March 26, 2019
(Two sessions with a total of eleven participants)

The Business Community focus groups surfaced the following themes:

  • Need for greater flexibility and variety of allowable uses – reduce the barriers for uses that are attractive to the neighborhood – “no profile that makes sense for us”
  • Changing trends in storefront retail: space needs, online retail, lots of uncertainty (and pressure) – clear that retail is evolving and that sales need to be supported by “the experience” – this plays out for both flagship and local design retail
  • Opportunity for subdividing existing spaces: for smaller, more varied retail and allowing for hybrid uses (more than one use in a space). Opportunities for this in the future are contingent on various factors, e.g. floorplates, historic buildings, excessively prohibitive zoning regulations, etc.
  • Food and beverage establishments sustain a mixed-use neighborhood—not only for residents and workers, but also for those who visit (and shop).
  • Challenges faced with current rents, zoning and special permits
  • Clear willingness to work towards being a responsible retail neighbor, e.g. developing guidelines and adopting (and following) best practices for deliveries, garbage, crowds, noise, etc.


Artist Residents – April 2 and April 9, 2019
(Three sessions with a total of nineteen participants)

Themes (challenges) that surfaced from the Artist Resident focus groups include:

  • Displacement concerns – by new landlord and increasing costs to residents, Loft Law buyout provision, ability to continue to live-work – and very different perspectives/concerns of renters versus owners
  • Cost of Living – building maintenance and property taxation – a challenge for artists, especially those on fixed incomes, increasing assessments, importance of retail on ground floor to provide revenue, and upkeep of historic buildings, complying with code requirements (sprinklers, engineer bricks, valves, etc.) – As one participant mentioned: SoHo is really the “Venice of New York,” and should be protected.
  • Quality of life issues (parking, noise, garbage, loading/unloading, light/glare, enforcement)
  • Recognition that the rules today do not work – loopholes, special permit “spot zoning,” non-artist occupancy status, absentee residents (luxury set), unclear vision for future of legacy of the arts, large retail (except for grocery stores), artist certification (outdated), and uncertainty in general.

Ideas that surfaced from the Artist Resident focus groups include:

  • Call for greater artist representation in the process
  • Call for data – survey/census on artist population
  • Call for continuation of live-work (JLWQA) broadly with appropriate performance standards and special status for artists (incentives)
  • Overall: Protect SoHo/NoHo’s artists and historic character
  • Desire for some level of tax relief – possibly tied to artist status
  • Protect the legacy of arts into the future with new ideas… e.g. shared studio space – not-for-profit + SoHo/NoHo workspace artist in residency program utilizing vacant space (how could this be incentivized?)
  • Affordable housing – desire to maintain FAR in the Historic District but consideration of additional density in the southeast and southwest of Study Area.


Commercial Property Owners - April 16, 2019
(One session with twelve participants)

Common sentiments and opinions expressed during the focus group include:

  • Restrictions in place are no longer applicable - zoning is outdated
  • The future success of retail in SoHo/NoHo will be enabled by greater flexibility, e.g. allowing new business models and mixes. Limitations currently in place hinder this flexibility, e.g. footprints, as-of-right uses, and 10,000 sq. ft. rule (size of retail space)
  • Need to differentiate between side streets and thoroughfares when discussing retail/commercial size, conditions and opportunity
  • Perception that there is too much retail - “There is not as much spatial need as there once was” - Need to think of the next generation both in terms of who will live here but also who will come here (shopping, visiting, etc.)
  • Smaller scale commercial property owners (e.g. family owned buildings) often experience more challenges navigating the current approval system (special permit to allow retail) as compared to companies with larger profiles and resources. This puts smaller building owners at a disadvantage


Residential Property Owners - April 23, 2019
(One session with twelve participants)

Common sentiments and opinions expressed during the focus group include:

  • Call for greater flexibility – ground floor retail as of right with greater flexibility built-in (but “be careful about what is being unlocked,”) – simply allowing ground floor retail without consideration for the existing allowance of retail on the second floor and above will open up full building to retail.
  • Disagreement regarding the 10,000 sf limit – idea: ground/basement as of right for retail with second story and above by special permit)
  • Want the ability to “meet the obligation to live here legally” but there are difficulties in selling to artists – would like the ability to sell to non-artists or pass unit on to children, but reserve the live-work aspects. Presently the illegality and loophole environment does not work – SoHo Letter, retaliatory actions, difficulty getting loans/mortgages (varies – some said this was so but others said they had no difficulty). A follow up conversation with a banker revealed that regulators are limiting residential lending activity in SoHo/NoHo to no more than 3 percent of loan portfolio because of the uncertain environment)
  • Costs are hurting everyone – maintenance costs of historic buildings and rising property taxes
  • Quality of Life Issues – trash, garbage collection, green space, loading, etc.
  • Consensus to maintain current neighborhood scale (FAR) in historic districts
  • Overall concern (skepticism) over oversight and regulation with whatever changes might come