December 5, 2013 The gentrification that didn’t happen (or, the full story on Chinese Staff v. City of New York)
In both environmental law and property, I like to assign the Chinese Staff case as an example of the broad reach of SEQRA (New York’s environmental review statute). In that case, someone wanted to build condos on a vacant lot in Chinatown, and the New York courts held that an environmental impact statement was necessary because of the possibility that the social environment would be affected- in particular, that new construction would lead to gentrification, which in turn would lead to displacement of existing neighborhood residents through rising rents.
Today, I looked up what actually happened with the side (60 Henry Street). Condos were eventually built- though fewer than were originally proposed. (For a full discussion see p. 55 of this book). Nevertheless, the block where the condos were built is 100 percent Asian, has a 29% poverty rate, and a median income just over $26,000, below the overall Chinatown average of $45,000. Evidently, the much-feared gentrification never happened.