BY ALEX ELLEFSON | Preservationists and community advocates lambasted Mayor Bill de Blasio Monday for allowing a developer to demolish affordable housing in five historic East Village buildings to make way for a chic hotel.
Dozens of protestors rallied outside the property — waving signs that read “save our neighborhood” and “housing, not hotels” — to call attention to the mayor’s cozy relationship with the developer who plans to level the row of pre-war buildings at 112-120 E. 11th St.
“These buildings are being demolished to make way for [the mayor’s] friend, his contributor, his ally’s hotel development,” said Andrew Berman, executive director for the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (G.V.S.H.P.).
Protestors cited revelations in the New York Post that David Lichtenstein, C.E.O. and founder of the Lightstone Group, contributed $50,000 to a key state senate race at the request of a top de Blasio fundraiser.
The Lightstone Group, which snapped up the property in April, is partnering with with Marriott International to bring one of the company’s millennial-branded Moxy Hotels to the East Village block.
Demonstrators, some accusing the mayor of “graft” and “corruption,” said tenants had been flushed out of the building’s rent-regulated apartments.
“This demonstrates the disinterest of the mayor’s promise for an equitable New York, as all of these affordable apartments will be lost, and its tenants injuriously removed with short notice,” said Kelly Carroll, director of advocacy and community outreach for the Historic Districts Council.
It is unknown how or when the apartments were vacated. However, state Senator Brad Hoylman, the lone elected official at the rally, vowed to have the Department of Housing and Preservation look into what happened to the tenants.
“It raises red flags for those of us who care about affordable housing,” he said.
Hoylman also pointed out the mayor appointed Lichtenstein to the Economic Development Corporation’s Board of Directors — which the senator said puts the developer in “a unique position to do the right thing.”
Community groups tried to block the demolition by asking the Landmarks Preservation Commission (L.P.C.) to consider making the block a historic district.
A letter sent to the commission in June — signed by the G.V.S.H.P., the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, the East Village Community Coalition and the Historic Districts Council — noted the L.P.C. considered the buildings landmark-eligible after conducting a 2008 analysis for a city-approved rezoning.
However, the L.P.C. failed to calendar the request, which would have postponed the demolition of the 19th-century Beaux Arts structures.
“They did nothing. For two months, we waited for a response from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The city’s agency, the mayor’s agency, charged with preserving our city, our history, our neighborhoods,” Berman said.
Both the Mayor’s Office and the L.P.C. did not respond to a request for comment about taking action to block the demolition.
Berman said the only thing that has changed since the L.P.C. once considered the buildings landmark-eligible is the ownership of the property. He urged the demonstrators to send a message to the mayor asking for them to be preserved.
“You can send the mayor an email directly right now saying: I want you to preserve these buildings, stop being a hypocrite, live up to your promise, preserve our neighborhood, preserve our history,” he said.