Mayor Adams Vetoes Bill to Fine Non-Artists Residents in Upzoned SoHo and NoHo

Posted on: January 17th, 2022 at 7:37 am by

Photo: Eddie Panta

The SoHo/NoHo Rezoning saga took a new turn last Friday when Mayor Eric Adams vetoed the controversial bill (Intro 2443A). The last-minute legislation, introduced by former Councilmember Chin, would levy fines against residents occupying JLWQA units without official “artist certification.”

The odd JLWQA acronym isn’t the call sign of some defunct NYC radio station; it means Joint Live Work Quarters for Artists, and a lot more of them exist in SoHo and NoHo than one might expect. But you’re supposed to be a “certified artist” to be living in one.

While there are definitely some residents who have left and simply rented these loft units, there are others who remain as the spouses and kin of previous existing artists residents. And still others who have fallen between the cracks of a defunct artist certification process that the City has abandoned for some 25 years now.

Largely seen as divisive and punitive, the Rezoning-adjacent bill passed despite having only a single co-sponsor. Chin’s rubber stamping just before her term ended was seemingly another example of her adjudicating, not really legislating. Many other electeds and residents deemed the bill as a vindictive measure against constituents who had long since been critics of the SoHo/NoHo rezoning.

Indeed, the debate caused a rare political exchange between CM Chin and Assemblymember Deborah Glick on Twitter.

For now, the veto means a temporary reprieve for JLWQA residents. As newly elected Councilmember Chris Marte’s press release points out, “The program has gone defunct for a number of reasons, including an outdated state definition of being a qualified artist, and the Department of Cultural Affairs not having the capacity to grant new certifications or track certified artists throughout past decades.”

Moreover, Mayor Adams’ press release makes it abundantly clear that residents should in no way take this veto to mean that the mayor has changed his stance on the broader rezoning plan.

“We’ve been hearing concerns about that specific legislation, and are going to make sure that we can productively work together to improve it over the coming months. In order to do that together, today I will veto that legislation to give us time to continue to work on it with the City Council.”

Marte ran a campaign based on a unified district in direct contrast to what many perceived as the divide and conquer strategy of the former Councilmember that came to define her three terms in office.

Photo: Eddie Panta

Despite the vitriol of always being an advocate for affordable housing that former CM Chin expressed on Twitter as a departing message, and at a media engagement with the Mayor at the time of the rezoning passed, there was rarely indication that Chin would enact fines against JLWQA residents at the time of the Envision SoHo/NoHo process. In fact, that “community based” effort led by then-CM Chin, former Borough President Gale Brewer and City Planning, promised residents that city council would assist those who might be displaced by the effects of the rezoning.

Whether SoHo and NoHo, East River Resilience Project, the new Chinatown Jail, or affordable housing at 5 World Trade Center, former Councilmember Chin left office and constituents with promises for a future that might not arrive.

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