Op-Ed Letters to the Editor
Envisioning an even better SoHo
New York City, USA - June 25, 2018: Greene Street with luxury fashion retail stores
in Soho Cast Iron historic District in New York City.
BY MARK DICUS
The recent City Council vote to overhaul
the commercial waste industry is a win
for common sense reforms and demonstrates
that New York City can tackle qualityof
life issues when different stakeholders work
Here in SoHo, the community has also been
working to solve important and complex challenges
facing this neighborhood. Earlier this
year, neighborhood stakeholders participated
in the Envision SoHo/NoHo engagement process
launched by local elected offi cials and the
The process was initiated to address planning
issues brought about by a changing society,
and to foster continued cultural and economic
vitality in these neighborhoods.
Since the zoning was changed in 1971 to
allow artists to live in SoHo alongside manufacturing
businesses, SoHo has transformed
dramatically. What was supposed to be a
manufacturing area with artists living and
working in its midst has become one of the
city’s premier residential neighborhoods, a
world-class retail district, and a thriving creative
job center, with virtually no manufacturing
Today, SoHo’s residential community is
no longer exclusively artists but also includes
a growing number of non-artists. Many are
shocked to learn that the zoning does not allow
retail on the ground fl oor, and that a person
generally needs to be a certifi ed artist to
live in SoHo legally.
While SoHo has transformed, a number of
quality-of-life concerns (sidewalk congestion,
lack of outdoor space, trash, noise at night,
lighting, etc.) have emerged. These quality-oflife
concerns arose because the city has done
very little to rethink how the sidewalks and
streets are designed and regulated for the diverse
users sharing the neighborhood.
Some say the zoning rules work fi ne—that
we should enforce some rules and ignore others.
Selectively enforcing rules is fundamentally
unfair and encourages rule breaking; it
also creates legal uncertainty and expensive
complexity for non-artist residents and retail
businesses that have been thriving in SoHo
Doing nothing will not lead to the broadscale
changes needed to solve these complex
quality-of-life concerns the entire community
It’s imperative we update the zoning to refl
ect how SoHo is used today, and be prepared
for future changes, to allow retail and let people
live in SoHo without being an artist, while
maintaining the existing scale and historic
character of the neighborhood.
That being said, we must make sure artist
uses remain in SoHo for generations to come–
and fi nd ways to provide affordable studio
space. We must also rethink how the neighborhood’s
public space (mostly sidewalks and
streets) is designed and regulated to improve
the quality of life of those who live in, work in,
and visit SoHo.
All of these changes and more must be done
to ensure SoHo continues as the unique crown
jewel of the city.
Mark Dicus is the executive director of the
SoHo Broadway Initiative.
Regarding dealing with
noisy restaurants in the Village:
I once owned a co-op
studio in a walkup in the East
Village in the 90s. My second
fl oor apartment was next to
a small cute restaurant that
would leave its kitchen fan on
overnight. The fan rumbled
and vibrated and was greatly
disturbing to my sleep.
I called them a few times
and they turned off the fan a
few times. But then they just
refused to do so. I went in
and talked to the restaurant
manager who always said they
would tell the owner.
But why can’t you just turn the
fan off overnight? Why can’t you
look into maybe fi xing the fan so
it did not rumble and shake and
make so much noise?
I wrote letters to the manager
and the owner. I have no
idea why they needed to have
this fan on overnight when the
restaurant was closed. After
getting no response from the
owner, I tried a neighborhood
mediation program to just get
to talk about the issue with the
The owner came in and
proceeded to lie about everything.
Every time he opened
his mouth, he lied. I knew that
I would then have to put all
my resources into a legal fi ght
with this monster who was not
going to listen or try to bend
a little to their neighbor’s concerns.
I decided instead to just
sell the apartment and move,
move out of the Village in the
late 90s. It was sad, I should
have tried to get outside help
but it just seemed easier to
I feel sorry for the people
living and breathing and
just trying to go to sleep
that are near this restaurant,
it is sad that the village is just
built this way.
On the New Yorkers who
traveled to Washington for
the DACA protest: How very
heartening to see “Us All” out
there again standing up for
the right thing for the young
hopeful people who through
no fault of their own are part
of our country, and will do us
proud. Especially in the midst
of an element that would put
a lie to every generous impulse
for human survival.
Thank you for braving the
weather and tiring ride to the
march and home again.
Why did the MTA & NYC
Transit not also take advantage
of the partial Canarsie Line
Manhattan shut down to look
at other possible improvements
for west of 8th Avenue?
You could construct a pocket
track one block to 9th Avenue.
This could provide storage
for trains going out of service
due to mechanical problems.
It would also improve overall
Dig several more blocks and
add a new station around West
Street and 11th Avenue. Imagine
the benefi ts of additional
service to the growing West
Village and Chelsea neighborhoods
along with easier High
Line access. Better yet, turn
north on 11th Avenue and build
an extension connecting with
the Javits Center and Flushing
#7 Hudson Yards Station.
Read all about it!
Schneps Media November 21, 2019 13