In a canopied alcove on the High Line in early afternoon sunshine Saturday, Council Member Corey Johnson discussed the state of District 3, comprising Chelsea, Flatiron and West Village, which he has represented since January 2014.
Among other issues, Johnson highlighted the renovations scheduled or taking place at Chelsea Park, Penn South Park, Waterside Park and Pier 40. He also talked about new playgrounds at P.S, 11 and on West 20th Street.
But like many of his colleagues and constituents, Johnson highlighted the district’s need for affordable housing, particularly as the Hudson Yards neighborhood gets built.
Johnson last year called for the city’s Rent Guidelines Board to freeze rents for rent-stabilized tenants. The board, for the first time in its 46-year existence, did eventually freeze rents. Johnson said he would advocate for a rollback this year. The board, though, has already proposed raising rents between 0 and 2 percent for one-year leases.
“Affordable housing is our community’s greatest need,” Johnson said.
Comptroller Scott Stringer, among several officials who attended the summit, agreed.
“We have to make sure that New York City stays affordable for the diversity of people who built this city,” Stringer said.
Some who attended the summit, however, lamented the abundance construction in the district.
“I used to be able to sit on my fire escape and watch the fireworks off the Hudson River and now all I see is big buildings,” said Tom Creacy. “I wonder if there will come a day when all we have of old New York City is two rocks for people to visit and the new New York City will only be skyscrapers.”
Among the other officials who also addressed the roughly 250 constituents attending the event were Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Congressman Jerry Nadler, State Senator Brad Hoylman, former Council speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn, and Public Advocate Tish James.
City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña was the event’s keynote speaker.
Johnson also called for the passage of the Small Business Survival Act, legislation that would impose arbitration for tenants and landlords when both cannot agree on terms.
“Small businesses create tapestries that are unique to our neighborhoods — but they are facing challenges,” Johnson said. He alluded to the West 14th Street Associated Market that closed earlier this year after its rent climbed more than threefold, from $32,000 a month to more than $100,000.
Johnson also announced the winners of this year’s participatory budget vote.
More than 2,000 people voted on how to allocate more than $1 million, with the top vote-getter – the planting of dozens of new trees throughout District 3 – getting $100,000. Other winners included the renovation of Muhlenberg Library’s HVAC system ($500,000); new audio and visual equipment for P.S. 11 ($75,000); real-time rider information at five key bus stops ($100,000); and a new library for City Knoll Public School ($300,000).