Adams vetoes measure that would increase fines for non-artist residents in upzoned Soho-Noho

January 18, 2022

Photo by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels

Mayor Eric Adams last week vetoed legislation that would increase fines for residents illegally occupying artist housing in Soho and Noho, a measure passed by the City Council last month alongside the approved neighborhood rezoning. Sponsored by former Council Member Margaret Chin, the bill would increase penalties on non-artist residents of the Joint Living Work Quarters for Artists (JLWQA) zone, which was created in the 1970s to allow artists to legally live in the once manufacturing-heavy area, with fines starting at $15,000 for those without proper certification.

“There was a small piece of legislation that passed at the same time as the rezoning that addresses recording requirements and fines related to Joint Living Work Quarters for Artists,” Adams said in a statement on Friday. “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.”

Currently, to live in the JLWQA area, artists apply for certification by the city, or non-artists pay a $2,500 fee to live there, although the rule was rarely enforced, according to Gothamist.

Under Chin’s measure, new owners of property in the JLWQA zone would have to register with the city. Non-artist residents would be fined $15,000 for a first offense and $25,000 for each subsequent violation, with monthly penalties of $1,000 until the flip tax is paid or the residents leave. As City Limits reported, enforcement depends on “residents reporting their non-artist neighbors.”

Adams said he supports the proposed arts fund model that allows those living in the JLWQA zone to convert to residential use through a contribution to a neighborhood art fund. The JLWQA program will remain an option for certified artists forever.

“We are still committed to increasing options for existing JLWQA owners by providing a legal pathway to residential use for non-artists in the neighborhood should they elect to legalize or sell, and to make sure windfall profits of those sales get invested back into the artistic legacy for SoHo and NoHo in perpetuity via the SoHo/NoHo Arts Fund,” Adams said Friday.

“But we will take a little more time to make sure we are right-sizing any fines associated with this process and clarifying the associated enforcement mechanisms going forward.”

Adam’s veto does not affect the rezoning, which applies to 50 blocks in the lower Manhattan neighborhoods. The approved plan replaces existing 1970s-era zoning rules with medium- to high-density mixed-use districts, allowing for new buildings that could be as tall as 275 feet, or 205 feet tall in historic district commercial corridors and 145 feet in the “historic cores.”

The rezoning calls for roughly 3,000 new homes to be built, with roughly 900 of them permanently affordable.

“Mayor’s Adams’ veto of Intro 2443A gives us the opportunity to ensure we have the right balance in SoHo,” Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said in a statement. “Our goal should be to allow long-time residents to stay in their homes, and to retain the community’s vital status as a hub for the arts.”


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More: Policy
Location: Noho, Soho

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