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Lewyn Addresses America

A little politics, a little urbanism- I also blog 100 percent on urbanism at and

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.

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