Chinatown, Lower East Side advocates press mayor to stop high-rise vision for area

A Zoom conference call was held to demand Mayor Bill de Blasio halt appeals for the construction of luxury high-rise buildings in Lower Manhattan.

The Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side held a Zoom conference on Dec. 3 to demand that Mayor Bill de Blasio halt appeals for the construction of luxury high-rise buildings in Lower Manhattan and to pass the Chinatown Working Group Rezoning Plan.

Four towers were set to be built in Two Bridges, Chinatown and the Lower East Side, but due to an injunction filed by the Lower East Side Organized Neighbors and Coalition to Protect Chinatown at the beginning of the year, the plans were temporarily frozen.

A number of concerned community members were appalled to learn that de Blasio is working with the developers in court, appealing the injunction in hopes of continuing the desired building plans.

Zishun Ning, a community activist, hosted the Zoom call and explained what the ideas were behind the Chinatown Working Group Rezoning Plan.

“He is really going against what the community wants, and even during this pandemic when everyone is having hard lives, he is still trying to side with the developers. Since they appealed, we also submitted our court papers to bring our case to the developers, we are still waiting for the hearing dates,” said Zishun Ning, a community activist and the meeting’s host told the Zoom callers.

Ning organized the Thursday Zoom call as a “phone zap” where participants called the Mayor’s office and delivered a unified message for action.

“I think this is a good time for us to keep the pressure on the Mayor and also all the other elected officials, including the judges. If we make more noise, then it makes more pressure. It’s up to us to use this time to mobilize,” Ning added.

Much like a letter-writing campaign, the callers were given a script to read from when they dialed the Mayor’s number or were given the opportunity to improvise their own pleas to the office. The participants muted their microphones while on Zoom for about 20 minutes as they each made their calls, demanding the Mayor cease aiding the developers, discourage the privatization of public land, prevent more luxury high rises from being built, and guarantee truly affordable housing in the area.   

The meeting’s co-host, Caitlin, shared the concept behind a “phone zap” and how it’s an effective tactic to annoy people to get their attention.

“The mayor will get a lot of voicemails. This is a very annoying tactic that really gets the attention of the staff, and I think will remind him that we are still fighting and we are not going to go away any time soon,” said Caitlin, a member of the coalition and Zoom co-host.  

The meeting culminated with attendees being asked to email the Mayor’s office and to take their cause one step further, by calling into the “Ask the Mayor” segment on WNYC radio’s The Brian Lehrer Show this Friday morning, Dec. 4, at 10 a.m.

The organization created a shared document for all attendees to use during the meeting and for tomorrow’s calls stating: “We’re going to put the Mayor on the spot about his predatory upzonings by sending our questions to Brian Lehrer for his Ask The Mayor segment on WNYC Radio…If the Soho/Noho Rezoning is really about racial justice and truly affordable housing, then why haven’t you listened to the working class communities of color in Chinatown and the Lower East Side in our demands for the Chinatown Working Group Plan, a community-led rezoning plan designed to protect our neighborhoods (just adjacent to the newly proposed up zoning in Soho/Noho, which will impact our communities, too) from speculative overdevelopment and displacement.”

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