City Council Mulling Mahfar’s Controversial East Houston Rezoning Bid After City Planning Approval

Posted on: August 8th, 2016 at 5:00 am by
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Samy Mahfar will stop at nothing until his dream of rezoning part of East Houston Street is realized. It’s a selfish play to ensure bars or restaurants are permitted in his forthcoming luxury development at 255 East Houston (aka 171 Suffolk).

Nothing new, really. Mahfar’s associates twice pitched Community Board 3 to install a commercial overlay along a two-and-a-half block stretch of East Houston Street. Specifically to benefit his proposed thirteen-story project. However, the application resulted in denial both times, first in 2011 then this past March.

Deliberation during the last such attempt was basically a public crucifixion of Samy Mahfar and his purported 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 Vacate orders were issued, but partially rescinded so that Mahfar could repair.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.

Nevertheless, Mahfar never backed down from his position. And the city seemingly sees fit to rewarding the landlord-developer. The City Planning Commission decided to ignore the denial recommended by Community Board 3 in March, and instead approved the application last month.

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Rendering of 255 East Houston

But the rezoning proposal must still be considered by the City Council. To that end, they’re holding a public meeting tomorrow morning discuss. Meanwhile, Rosie Mendez is rallying the troops in opposition. From her newsletter:

The City Planning Commission (CPC) voted on July 13th to approve a rezoning application for three blocks of the southern portion of East Houston Street from Norfolk Street to mid-block between Clinton and Attorney Streets. CPC made no changes to the application and approved it as submitted. The application by SMBRO Rivington, LLC is to rezone the area from a C1-5 commercial overlay to a C2-5 commercial overlay in an existing R8A contextual district.

This area was rezoned as part of the Lower East Side/East Village rezoning, was approved by the City Council in 2008. The Community Board and Borough President have both recommended disapproving the application. Council Woman Mendez does not support zoning changes at this time and would like to encourage the Community Board and constituents to testify at the City Council’s hearing on the application. As of now, the hearing is scheduled for August 9, 2016 at 9:30am in the Committee Room at City Hall. Everyone is welcomed to come and testify.

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