CB3 Chastises Samy Mahfar as Bad Actor in Zoning Change Denial for East Houston Development

Posted on: March 10th, 2016 at 5:00 am by
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Representatives from team Samy Mahfar appeared before the Land-use subcommittee last night to obtain approval for a commercial overlay along a two-and-a-half block stretch of East Houston Street. It was the second time since 2011 that the notorious landowner sought blessings from the advisory body, which would allow ground-level retail use in this residentially zoned area. Specifically to benefit his proposed thirteen-story luxury rental development at 255 East Houston (aka 171 Suffolk).

Then, as now, though, the application was denied. And vehemently, we might add. Deliberation by the packed panel was one-sided, and basically a public crucifixion of Samy Mahfar and his predatory actions. With reputation already in the mud, board member Enrique Cruz dredged more dirt about what actually happened here. How side-by-side day care centers – with more than fifteen years remaining on the lease – were forced from the premises after 255 East Houston was destabilized five years ago. Vacate orders were issued, but partially rescinded so that Mahfar could repair. Instead, he allegedly refused and exploited the conditions to nullify the lease. The city-subsidized facilities operated on-premise for upwards of forty years, and was a low-cost option for area families.

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Rendering of 255 East Houston

Moreover, two character witnesses – embattled tenants from Mahfar-owned properties – spoke wholeheartedly in opposition to the measure. They provided brief testimony about the constant “construction harassment,” toxic lead levels, and overall disregard for health and quality-of-life. And it seemed that Mahfar had a few ringers in the audience to speak in support, though he wasn’t in attendance. Commercial tenants of his, including the chef of La Contenta at 102 Norfolk, who were dodgy on the question of whether they were asked to show up.

The panel was in unanimous agreement that rewarding a bad actor was not gonna happen.

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In the end, this probably won’t be the last time that developers will seek to switch the zoning on this particular block. There’s too much money at stake, and bars bring the bread. CB3 made it perfectly clear, though, that the residential zoning in place (passed in 2008 rezoning) was intentional so that a community facility of some sort would remain at 255 East Houston.

So, what appears at face value as a minute change to allow for ground-level commercial would drastically affect the composition of this section of East Houston Street. Indeed, the overlay sought would change the zoning composition for twenty lots spanning this space. Such a change would pave the way for retail, or more better yet, nightlife saturation.

Zoning Change Proposed for East Houston St. by BoweryBoogie

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