Chinatown recently received Empire Zone status.
EMPIRE ZONE IN LOWER MANHATTAN
The most vigorous debate of the day was on a measure (Intro 693-A) to support the creation of an Empire Zone in Chinatown and Lower Manhattan.
Empire Zones are designed to target areas of poverty and unemployment with tax incentives. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the city applied for the designation to help Lower Manhattan's economy. However, Governor George Pataki chose to award the Empire Zone to Renssalaer County, the home of upstate Republican State Senate leader Joseph Bruno instead.
Now Lower Manhattan has another chance for the assistance, and Councilmember Allan Gerson, who represents the area, says it is still desperately needed.
However, Lower East Side Councilmember Margarita Lopez argued the council should have done more to require that one parcel of land within the Empire Zone, which has been empty for 30 years, is used for affordable housing.
"We talk about affordable housing in this campaign year," said Lopez, "but we don't act."
Gerson said that because Empire Zones are under state control, the City Council did not have the ability to require apartments be built there at this time.
"I promise to work tirelessly to make sure that it is used for affordable housing," said Gerson.
The measure passed by a vote of 42 to 2, with one abstention. Margarita Lopez and Tony Avella voted "no." Charles Barron abstained because he said he wasn't sure whom to believe.
Council members Diana Reyna, Allan Jennings, Oliver Koppel, Miguel Martinez, and Phil Reed were absent.