East Village Tech Hub Clears First Hurdle In Public Review

MANHATTAN, NY — An East Village advisory committee voted to approved a new tech hub and training center on Wednesday night, allowing the proposed development to move forward in its public review process.

The approval, by two Community Board 3 committees, was granted without an extra condition tightening zoning restrictions in the nearby areas, which preservation activists had asked for as a condition of the tech hub’s approval.

In the wake of Wednesday’s vote, the proposed tech hub at 124 E. 14th St. will go before the full Community Board 3 for a vote. The community board’s perspective will help inform a future City Council vote on the matter before the tech hub, which has been suggested for a city-owned plot of land, can move forward.

Plans for the tech hub were announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio last year as a two-fold community benefit. First, the hub would lease out several floors of its space to Civic Hall, a nonprofit that supports and trains social entrepreneurs. Civic Hall and its partners have proposed offering dozens of free or low-cost tech trainings that could allow low-income New Yorkers to qualify for better, higher-paying tech jobs. The hub would also include an incubator space where new businesses could launch their companies.

On Wednesday night, most residents applauded the hub’s promise to help train teenagers and adults in new skills and techniques, but some preservationists worried that the new building, which would replace a P.C. Richards story near Union Square, could exacerbate gentrification in the area by encouraging a flood of new tech companies to set up camp in the East Village.

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, among other groups, has pushed for the committee to approve the tech hub’s proposal with a condition that the nearby stretches of Third and Fourth avenues be rezoned to ensure that all new development in the area would be primarily residential and include affordable units.

Dozens of East Village and Lower East Side residents spoke during Wednesday’s meeting, most of them applauding Civic Hall and the tech hub’s objectives but expressing anxiety over the future of the neighborhood.

“We don’t want to fight with the tech hub. We want to work with you to help us have a win-win situation,” committee member Damaris Reyes said. “I want to make sure that if my son goes to the tech hub, and he gets a job and training that he can also live in this neighborhood.”

The committee ultimately voted to approve the tech hub’s proposal without the condition that nearby neighborhoods be rezoned. The committee did approve, in a 17-to-6 vote, other conditions that ask the projects developers to ensure that construction and other jobs on the site prioritized local residents and that local vendors in the building not be large chain stores.

In a previous vote, the committee has voted to approved rezoning of the Third and Fourth avenue corridors as a matter of principle.

“By the narrowest of votes in which several of our supporters who should have been allowed to vote but were not given the opportunity to do so, a strong resolution incorporating all of our concerns was defeated for a weaker one incorporating some but not all of our concerns,” Andrew Berman said in a statement to Patch. “We will continue to push for stronger language at the full board meeting that reflects all the community’s concerns about this project and the surrounding neighborhood, and most importantly keep working to ensure that at the end of the day this neighborhood gets the protections it deserves and needs.”

Image credit: Rendering of the tech hub via NYC EDC

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