Thursday, November 15, 2012

11th Street A-B-C Block Association opposing incoming 7-Eleven; eyeing future developments

[From August]

The following is a synopsis of last night's 11th Street A-B-C Block Association meeting...

By Matt Amoroso

At Father’s Heart Ministries church last night, approximately 50 attendees comprised largely of 11th Street residents discussed strategies and action items regarding the incoming 7-Eleven on the corner of Ave. A and 11th St., the pending luxury development in the Mary Help of Christians lot as well as the proposed construction of a social services building at 535 E. 11th St.

While the discussion centered on East 11th Street and parts of Avenue A, the fact was not lost on the room that these development concerns are symptomatic not only of the greater East Village neighborhood but also the rest of Manhattan.

Despite the presence of several issues on the docket, the incoming 7-Eleven stood out as the hot-button topic of the evening. The consensus in the room largely acknowledged: the 11th St. Block Association opposes the 7-Eleven, and there is not much the members of the 11th St. Block Association can do to stop this particular location from opening.

In a majority decision, the Block Association voted to oppose outright the opening of this 7-Eleven, and in the failure of that attempt, to push for a list of agreed upon concessions from the local 7-Eleven owner or the landlord. Those concessions included:

• Reduced evening/late night hours
• Reduction in lights and signature signage
• Noise control
• Entrance on Ave. A only
• Enforcement of loitering laws
• Possible security guard
• Limits to the sale of alcohol
• Keeping the door closed at all times

In addition to “Is this really happening?”, the pressing question for most attendees was “What can we do about it?” Aside from a general boycott, the attendees suggested numerous courses of action to accomplish the above goals. The most feasible and effective suggestions centered upon utilizing legislative channels through elected or soon-to-be-elected officials to gain notoriety for the grievances of the block and East Village overall.

Other ideas included: social media engagement and petitioning, flyering, picketing, NY media engagement, and research into the existence of any public funding going into construction.

Despite the clear opposition to the incoming 7-Eleven, several residents noted that this franchise would solve the often-voiced problems associated with the (now-closed) bars on the street, including Bar on A and Angels and Kings. In addition, if this 7-Eleven were not to open, then another bar would surely fill the void (if not out of spite from the landlord).

No love was lost in the room for the much-maligned real-estate developer Ben Shaoul, who owns the building housing the future 7-Eleven as well as the Mary Help of Christians lot.

It remained reluctantly clear to the attendees that there is not much that can legally stop a private owner from developing businesses or luxury condos on his property. One can only hope for community engagement, elected official support, and a little bit of luck to turn the tide in the East Village and Manhattan as a whole.

As community leader Rob Hollander reminded everyone: “The law couldn’t stop Robert Moses, but Jane Jacobs did.”

Author’s note: There were many great ideas and viewpoints expressed during the meeting that couldn’t make it into the above story due to time and space. I encourage people to add anything that was left out in the comments section!

Matt Amoroso is the Co-Editor of The Stark Online.


James C. Taylor said...

Boycotting has been proven to work: two Subways have closed in the neighborhood this year, and remember what happened to the Gap on St. Mark's? This particular 7-11 may also attempt to ingratiate itself to the neighborhood by going for subdued signage (like the Starbucks on First and 4th) to perhaps "soften the blow". Personally I think the demolition/construction slated for the Avenue A lot is of far more significant long-term consequence.

But while many interesting points were raised and suggestions made at last night's meeting, I felt there remained among many attendees a sense of futility. Much of the meeting dwelled on the impending arrival of the 7-11, and while this will have a direct consequence on those in the vicinity, it is merely a particularly blatant example of what is happening all over town.

The fact is the people at that meeting and most people who read this blog belong to a minority. The vast majority of people in New York don't care if a 7-11 or a Starbucks or a Capital One opens on their block. Many are indifferent to the matter (because they've never actually thought about it) and just as many actually welcome the arrival of chain stores and the rapid suburbanization of the city. It is a culture war, a classic case of us and them. Unfortunately "they" will always outnumber "us".

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this report. What did the attendees have to say about the building going up on 11th Street for the formerly homeless and mentally disabled? Was there much debate?

Anonymous said...

This block is screwed.

Starkny said...

Re: the homeless / social services housing: consensus seemed to believed this project had stalled in paperwork, but is still slated to move forward. Yet, most felt it was wrong to oppose something designed for the civic good of the city, esp as most of these facilities are very well run and staffed.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info, Starkny. Glad to hear people want it to move forward!

Anonymous said...

Shaoul bought the parking lot and church? I should have known that was coming.

dwg said...

Shaoul did not buy the church and it's school. Another developer did. Believe Ben Stein was mentioned? Shaoul does own the two buildings at the southwest corner of A and 12th.

Anonymous said...

What about the access to 12th street playground?

anon 1:09- nice comment , with an attitude like that maybe you should look for somewhere further uptown , where sheep like disinterest and negative comments fit in better.

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

I've said it before and will say it again. The city of NY can absolutely do something to stop the spread of chain stores if there is enough political will to do it. That means post-Bloomberg, of course.

We don't even have to re-invent the wheel, San Fransisco has already done that for us. To "protect San Francisco's vibrant small business sector and create a supportive environment for new small business innovations, Section 703.3 of the San Francisco Planning Code mandates specific controls on formula retail (chain store) uses."

Meaning SF's Planning Department has to approve permits sought by chains who want to open a store in a particular neighborhood. That allows neighborhoods to pick and choose which chains, if any, to allow in.

Just Google "San Fransisco chain stores" for details, there's lots on the subject.

James C. Taylor said...


I actually visited San Francisco for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and was struck by how non-corporate it looked, and the proliferation of small, independently owned businesses. A lot of it looks like downtown New York did twenty years ago. I didn't know there was such a ruling in place, but I definitely sensed a strong movement intent on preserving the city's social/cultural integrity this way.

Anonymous said...

Don't get your hopes up on 7 11 disappearing anytime soon. I grew up in Virginia Beach and there is a store every 5-7 blocks down there, and they NEVER go out of business. The deep pockets make them patient

Anonymous said...

The problem with the analogy to Jane Jacobs is her impact was on stopping public works that would destroy large swaths of neighborhoods, not on private construction. However the point is take that community activism can change things.

As long as Bloomberg is mayor it is hard to believe our City Council (responsible for zoning laws) would enact what San Francisco has done. That is the republican half of him that has encouraged the crass and unlimited overbuilding we already suffer from. Zoning in NY is a joke, as in very few laws, and those that exist are unregulated.

It was outrageous to me the level of anger over 7-11 because it will attract the loud and disgusting puking idiots when not one person from that block would come out and speak up against the shit show on avenue a that is the actual source of the problem. Since the 3 bars over there have closed, it's much, much better.

The level of concern about the giant condo was negligible. As James Taylor said already, this is the real menace we face, what with hundreds more people moving in.. You already can't walk on the sidewalk in front of Westville. Now add hundreds more trying to get by. And the potential in the retail for an iHop, Starbucks, Walgreens and Chipotle is huge.

Anonymous said...

Local businesses in San Francisco can be the equivalent of Yuppie establishments like Hearth and the Sustainable Store. Ha ha!

Or even worse, carpetbagger businesses that are just cashing in and supporting developers who are destroying us.

Anonymous said...

That's good, let the 7-Eleven have their door on Avenue A. Just as long as it's not on East 11th Street and won't impact your property values. Where the hell have you people been?

Why didn't Father's Heart Ministry Church and people from the block association raise hell to save the movie theater on Avenue B? There was also a small lot next to the movie theater owned by the owner of Rue B. That's a local business, and what about Cabrini?

Where has Rosie Mendez been? Not a single protest from her and she supported the NYU expansion plan and SPURA. Nobody has played the political game like she has.

Anonymous said...

During the blackout, 7-11 was closed. Only the small local bodegas stayed open and I thank them all and will support that level of care for our area first and foremost.

we$tville said...

@ james taylor... the subways closed as a result of boycotting? or maybe they became unprofitable as there were way too many of them..

Morgan Tsvangirai said...

as well as the proposed construction of a social services building at 535 E. 11th St.

This looks to be underway. The plywood is going up this morning, so the construction might start soon.

glamma said...

People - they did it on the upper west side like 6 months ago. Don't be fatalistic! As crappy as our registered reps our, they NEED our votes to get elected and this is our biggest gambling chip. Hats off to all at the meeting, at least they are coming together to organize and build consensus. It's not that hard to enact change - start with a simple thing like signing a petition - "NO 7-ELEVEN IN ALPHABET CITY." Get tons of people to sign it & send that sh*t to gothamist & the voice, etc. This sh*t makes great press. Smear the evil landlords. Use your voice! We really need to get a community center to try to band together, build cohesion & facilitate some of this stuff!!
We CAN wrench the spokes of this awful nightmare, and the time to do it is NOW. Don't get complacent - get angry. PROTECT THE HOOD AND IT WILL PROTECT YOU RIGHT BACK.

Anonymous said...

Glamma is right, EVG, keep us posted on the next thing ALL of us can do, not only 11 th street. We can have our voices heard !

rob said...

Yes to glamma!

Commenters seem to think that because it was a "block association" meeting, it's a Not-In-My-Back-Yard selfish concern. If it were NIMBY, people would have said, "better a 7-Eleven than a noisy bar in my back yard." Opposition to a 7-Eleven is a neighborhood character issue, not a NIMBY issue. It's also a concern for the local bodegas that will suffer from the 7-Eleven competition. That was mentioned several times that night.

This meeting was conceived when a local resident expressed her love for the character of this community that a 7-Eleven would rob. She asked me what the block assoc could do. We were not thinking about kids puking or property values – I'm a renter, and I believe she is too, and I live way to the east between B&C. Vomit doesn't waft that far. It was about the LES character of this place.

Two commenters above complained that not one resident on 11th helped fight the bars on A. But one of the very most active and persistent participants in that fight lives on 11th Street and is on the block assoc board.

When I created the google group for this block assoc meeting, I didn't' name it "No 7-Eleven on 11" but simply, "No 7-Eleven" in the hope that this local fight will catch on and others will join city-wide. And the description of the google group is not specific to 7-Eleven either. It's about "fighting the suburbanization of the city."

The block assoc is well aware that the condo development replacing Mary Help Christians will have greater impact than the 7-Eleven. But the 7-Eleven is already under construction; time is short for any effort. The condo developer hasn't even bought the central yards yet – the archdiocese still owns half the frontage on A. Nevertheless, the BA formed a volunteer group to deal with development immediately.

As Matt's report mentions, the block assoc has always supported the social service building for the homeless planned on our block. We negotiated with the developer to get public bathrooms for Sauer Park included in the plan at the request of the 12th Street block assoc. We're not a NIMBY crowd.

I don't know what any of us could have done about the old Charles Theater. Did anyone bring it up to CB3's arts committee, which is interested in keeping theater spaces in this neighborhood? We've all known that it was up for sale for years, empty and unused, waiting to be demolished. Did CB3 not know?

For the last few years I've written off this neighborhood entirely – it seems to belong to NYU and the yuppie invasion and the transient singles who have recreated this place in their image, and which they genuinely love. I gave up, accepting that I belong to a past that is no longer relevant. This block assoc meeting inspired me to believe that people here, even the new arrivals, still value New York character. Now I feel like an ass and a fool for not having asked the CB committee to do something about the Charles.

Thanks to Matt for his accuracy and intelligence. One personal qualm: "community leader." The word "leadership" makes me want to puke. The word itself sounds like hypocrisy. I did not "lead" the meeting and I certainly didn't preside. The people who attended led it – when they introduced themselves at the start, nearly all of them said they were there because of the impending 7-Eleven. That set the agenda. (The BA board was all prepared to talk Sandy relief…)

Aside from the demand that the entry be placed on A (not sure why the Avenue A resident at the meeting didn't object to this, but maybe because there's an understanding that the avenues are commercial thoroughfares, an understanding encoded in the law as well as in the commercial market itself, for better or worse), this meeting was about neighborhood character, not nimby narrowness. Now reread glamma above for the best response and last word: fight together!