Council Member Proposes Laws to Regulate Rapid Delivery Sector
City Council member Christopher Marte, at City Hall with fellow Council Member Julie Menin and union members, announcing his package of bills to regulate rapid-delivery services.
City Council member Christopher Marte is sponsoring a package of proposed legislation that would rein in “dark stores”—hyper-local online grocery services, which often advertise that orders will be delivered in 15 minutes or less. (The name derives from the industry practice of renting storefronts in each neighborhood where the firms offer delivery, but covering the windows and treating the erstwhile retail locations as “micro-fulfillment centers,” which function as both mini-warehouses and dispatch facilities.)
Critics allege that promising groceries will arrive in minutes creates unsafe conditions both for the workers who must make the deliveries (often by speeding on motorized bicycles) and pedestrians who sometimes get in their way.
“Our community is tired of vacant storefronts being filled by venture capital-backed apps that mistreat workers and compete with bodegas,” Mr. Marte explained, adding that he was introducing the legislation “to crack down on this exploitive industry.”
The first of the three bills sponsored by Mr. Marte would ban promises of delivery in 15 minutes or less. A second measure would cap at 22 pounds the weight that delivery personnel can be made to carry, whether on foot or aboard a bicycle. And a third proposed law would authorize the City’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) to license dark stores, and to fine them for false marketing claims.
Dark store delivery services proliferated during the pandemic, by appealing to customers who feared to venture outside and offering to fill any order, no matter how small. In the two-plus years since the onset of COVID-19, however, the sector has begun to contract. In March, two such operators—Fridge No More (which had an outpost in Battery Park City, at South End Avenue and West Thames Street) and Buyk—both abruptly ceased operations and laid off all their employees. But others remain: Gorillas has a location on Cedar Street, and GoPuff has a dark store on Water Street, in the Seaport.
For Mr. Marte, the issue of app-driven e-commerce competing with local small businesses may also resonate on a personal level. When he was growing up on the Lower East Side, Mr. Marte’s father owned a neighborhood bodega, which both provided his family with a livelihood, and served as a focal point for the surrounding community.
But dark stores raise other, larger issues for policy makers. They are largely non-union, and some offer their workforces minimal or no benefits. (This is in stark contrast to services like FreshDirect, which were themselves cutting-edge startups a generation ago, but are now established businesses employing largely unionized staffs.) Mr. Marte’s bills were crafted in consultation with unions that represent grocery workers.
Also at issue is whether businesses that function as the equivalent of warehouses can legally operate in spaces that are zoned for retail establishments. As is so often the case with tech startups, however, the relevant statutes and regulations were drafted decades before the business model on which the new firms operate had even been imagined. For this reason, as elected officials have learned to their frustration while trying to grapple with paradigm-shifters such as Uber and Airbnb, the law may be years away from catching up to next big thing.
Bad, Worse, and Worst-Case Scenarios
Lower Manhattan Flood Risk Illustrated by Maps from City’s Environmental Agency
With little fanfare, the City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on July 6 released three rainfall-based flooding maps that project future risks of inundation throughout the five boroughs, under various scenarios and time frames.
For Lower Manhattan residents, the maps illustrate moderate stormwater flooding scenarios under current and future sea level rise conditions, as well as an extreme stormwater flooding scenario under future conditions.
In response to the letter on July 13, 2022, from Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) Acting Chair Martha Gallo, the Battery Park City Homeowners Coalition (HC), representing the owners of 3,800 homes, acknowledges the service of Ms. Gallo on the BPCA board over the years. That said, we strongly disagree with almost every point she makes in her letter.
Ms. Gallo’s claim that “all New Yorkers would like their rent reduced” indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of what the HC is seeking. Our most recent proposal, as well as all other prior proposals, did NOT seek a reduction in the annual ground rent that homeowners pay to the BPCA. We asked for a reduction in the rate of future increases.
Ms. Gallo and the BPCA claim that condominium owners cannot be given the relief requested because it would violate the BPCA’s responsibility as “stewards of public funds.” Where was this concern for stewardship when the BPCA reduced the ground rent for the operators of Pier A, for whom the Authority cut rent payments by one-third, before that business went bankrupt? Or the landlords of Gateway Plaza, for whom the BPCA shaved tens of millions of dollars off future ground rent obligations, to preserve limited affordability for roughly 600 households? The Authority also has frozen ground rent for Brookfield Place through the year 2069, at a per-square-foot cost less than one half of what a typical condominium owner pays.
The real question is why homeowners are being penalized, while the Authority confers lavish generosity on restaurant operators, billionaire landlords, and commercial developers.
We also reject Ms. Gallo’s narrative that the BPCA has “worked in good faith for many years to provide economic stability to homeowners through a predictable ground rent schedule reaching far into the future.” The BPCA has for years refused to negotiate meaningfully with the HC.
Ms. Gallo acknowledges that the BPCA is “pursuing a program whereby ground rent increases would be deferred” but only to “certain residents with a demonstrated financial need.” Note that payments deferred entail no actual benefit to any homeowner, whose units will decline in value because of this looming debt bomb.
The most compelling reason why the BPCA must make meaningful concessions on ground rent for all homeowners is because the onerous obligations called for in these leases are never going to be paid. They will go unpaid not because we are unwilling to pay, but because we are unable to pay. The value of our homes will first decline, then drop to zero, as a result of future payments that will exceed the value of these properties. Owners will simply walk away—first by the dozens, then by the hundreds, and eventually by the thousands. All of these residents will be forced out of the community they love and helped build. These homeowners will be wiped out financially. Entire buildings will go into foreclosure, and possession will revert to the BPCA.
We urge Ms. Gallo, and the BPCA to come to the table with the BPC Homeowners Coalition and give homeowners some of the accommodation they have provided to restaurant operators, billionaire landlords, and commercial developers.
Pat Smith, on behalf of the Battery Park City Homeowners Coalition
Remembering a Pillar of the Community
Longtime Resident and Stalwart Protector of His Neighbors Memorialized
Gus Ouranitsas, who lived in Battery Park City from 1986 until his death from a September 11-related cancer last year, was memorialized by friends and neighbors at a tree-planting ceremony and plaque unveiling on July 7.
New York’s annual food celebration, Restaurant Week, wraps up on Sunday, August 21. For those disinclined to venture above Canal Street, the good news is that of all the 659 establishments participating throughout the City this summer, almost four dozen are located in Lower Manhattan. Most restaurants are offering a selection of $30, $45, and $60 two-course lunches and $30, $45, and $60 three-course dinners. In many of these locations, the everyday prices are significantly higher than Restaurant Week offerings, which makes this value proposition a compelling opportunity to try places that might ordinarily be outside your budget. Because seats go fast, please call ahead to confirm availability and make a reservation.
For a list of participating Lower Manhattan restaurants, their addresses and phone number, click here.
Observe and sketch the human figure. Each week a model will strike short and long poses for participants to draw. An artist/educator will offer constructive suggestions and critique. Drawing materials provided, and artists are encouraged to bring their own favorite media. Free.
Take a self guided tour of the tall ship Wavertree, and visit the 12 Fulton Street galleries to view the exhibitions “South Street and the Rise of New York” and “Millions: Migrants and Millionares aboard the Great Liners.” Through Sunday. Free.
This tour hosted by the Skyscraper Museum explores BPC’s north residential neighborhood, which was developed in several phases, beginning with Stuyvesant High School at the northeast edge and the esplanade and Rockefeller Park along the Hudson. A diagonal avenue lined with apartment buildings creates one face of the neighborhood, while the inner courts of the large blocks are connected by the delightful Teardrop Park. This tour meet at the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place. Registration required. Free.
After years of honing her chops and making her name as a force-of-nature vocalist, the Nashville-based singer/songwriter Maggie Rose has dreamed up her own unbridled collision of rock-and-roll, soul, folk, funk, and R&B. Cedric Burnside was born into a prominent family of North Mississippi Hill Country legends. Free.
Theodora stands out as one of Handel’s finest creations. Composed in 1749 during the twilight of his career, this penultimate major work was undervalued at the time of composition but is now recognized as the masterpiece it is. An oratorio brimming with dramatic intensity, Theodora traces the tragic tale of the eponymous Christian martyr facing persecution at the hands of the Romans. To watch online live, go to Trinity’s homepage at the time of the performance. Free.
Rhythm and grooves fill the air at this program. Follow the lead of professional drummers as they guide you through the pulsating beats of traditional African drumming techniques and methods. Drums provided, dancing welcome! Free.
Lower Manhattan Greenmarkets
Greenwich Street & Chambers Street
Wednesdays and Saturdays, 8am-3pm (compost program: Saturdays, 8am-1pm)
Bowling Green Greenmarket
Broadway & Whitehall St
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8am-5pm (compost program: 8am-11am)
World Trade Center Oculus Greenmarket
The Outdoor Fulton Stall Market
91 South Street, between Fulton & John Streets
Indoor market: Monday through Saturday,11:30am-5pm
CSA pick-up: Thursday, 4pm-6pm; Friday, 11:30-5pm
Outdoor market: Saturdays, 11:30am-5pm
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
Available for PT/FT. Wonderful person, who is a great worker.
Worked in BPC.
$2.00 per notarized signature.
Today in History: July 27
Nicholas Copernicus, a Renaissance scientist and polymath, developed the heliocentric theory of the Sun rather than Earth at the center of the universe, shaking up science theory in the 16th century and sparking the Copernican Revolution. On this day in 1501, he took up residence at Frauenberg Cathedral (aka Frombork Cathedral) in Poland, where he studied the heavens.
1501 – Astronomer and mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus is installed as a canon of Frauenberg Cathedral
1586 – Walter Raleigh brings tobacco to England for the first time, from Virginia
1663 – The English Parliament passes the second Navigation Act requiring that all goods bound for the American colonies have to be sent in English ships from English ports.
1789 – The first U.S. federal government agency, the Department of Foreign Affairs, is established. It is later renamed Department of State.
1866 – The first permanent transatlantic telegraph cable is completed, laid across 1,686 miles of the Atlantic Ocean from Ireland to Newfoundland.
1890 – Vincent van Gogh shoots himself and dies two days later.
1929 – The Geneva Convention of 1929, dealing with treatment of prisoners-of-war, is signed by 53 nations.
1940 – The animated short A Wild Hare is released, introducing the character of Bugs Bunny.
1949 – Initial flight of the de Havilland Comet, the first jet-powered airliner.
1974 – The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee votes 27 to 11 to recommend the first article of impeachment (for obstruction of justice) against President Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal.
2021 – Largest-ever repatriation of 17,000 looted Iraqi antiquities returned to Baghdad, including items from Hobby Lobby’s Museum of the Bible and Cornell University
1612 – Murad IV, Ottoman Sultan (d. 1640)
1824 – Alexandre Dumas, fils, French novelist and playwright (d. 1895)
1922 – Norman Lear, American screenwriter and producer
1975 – Alex Rodriguez, American MLB shortstop (14-time All Star)
1844 – John Dalton, English physicist, meteorologist, and chemist (b. 1776)
1946 – Gertrude Stein, American novelist, poet, playwright (b. 1874)
2003 – Bob Hope, actor, comedian, television personality, businessman (b. 1903)
2017 – Sam Shepard, playwright, actor, author, screenwriter, director (b.1943)