Manhattan Community Board

Liberty Plaza High-Rise Plan Sails Through Grateful Board 1

Even as more Manhattan families are spending weekends in the suburbs, touring sleepy villages and sprawling towns with real-estate brokers, developers are planning to raise a new luxury residence just blocks from the remains of the World Trade Center.

This bold plan-or foolish, depending on your point of view-calls for construction of a 45-story, 288-unit complex at 10 Liberty Street, on a vacant lot across from the Federal Reserve Bank and Chase Manhattan Plaza. The site is so close to the World Trade Center that a layer of sandy dust blanketed the weedy lot when the towers collapsed.

But Glenwood Management Corporation is seemingly undaunted by the uncertainty surrounding the downtown real-estate market, and told Board 1 at its Oct. 23 meeting that it intends to move ahead with the project.

“Certainly downtown has been hampered right now, and it will take some time to get back to normal, but in the long run we feel downtown will be as good or better than ever,” Gary Jacob, executive vice president of Glenwood, told The Observer.

The complex is the first new residential building to be raised in the heart of the financial district in recent memory, though Battery Park City and the Rockrose building on John Street are both blocks away.

The firm, which constructed and owns numerous Manhattan buildings, is usually publicity-shy. But on this occasion, it sent Mr. Jacob to the Oct. 23 meeting with drawings to reaffirm Glenwood’s commitment to the project.

The board, holding its first full board meeting since the Sept. 11 attack, welcomed the news. It was especially appreciated that Glenwood is sticking with a residential plan, even though financial incentives are in the works to lure businesses and commercial construction downtown.

“It will give everyone a little more confidence in the area,” district manager Paul Goldstein told The Observer .

Board members had few questions and no complaints about the project.

“We’re grateful that Glenwood Management plans to go forward with a residential building at this time, for their faith in our community,” said Ray O’Keefe, chairman of the financial-district committee.

According to Mr. Jacob, Glenwood bought the property a year ago from a builder and investor who had plans for the site, but who received an offer from Glenwood that they couldn’t refuse. The site has been vacant for about a decade, after the Royal Bank of Canada razed the office building it owned there. The rubble-strewn, chain-linked lot was last occupied by the faux subway station in Die Hard 3 from which John McClane (played by Bruce Willis) narrowly escapes after a bomb explodes.

The proposed building was designed by the Stephen B. Jacobs Group, architects of the elegant Hotel Giraffe on Park Avenue South, the soon-to-be-constructed Hotel Gansevoort on 13th Street and Ninth Avenue in the historic meatpacking district, and another new Glenwood residence slated for 102nd Street and First Avenue.

The building will be a quintessential New York luxury residence, designed in the traditional style of a high tower extending up from a wider base, with expansive apartments, sweeping views and a bright brick-and-limestone façade.

A rectilinear plaza the size of a basketball court will extend from the building south along William Street and east along Cedar Street. A ground-floor restaurant will abut the two-tiered plaza, which is designed by Abel Bainnson Butz and will feature a low, bubbling fountain, outdoor seating, a vendor kiosk similar to those in Bryant Park and honey-locust shade trees and plantings.

Senior landscape architect Chris Gavlick of Abel Bainnson Butz, whose firm also designed Riverbank State Park and the segment of Hudson River Park now under construction, said the plaza will help open up the claustrophobic area, famed for its dark, narrow corridors and steep, vertical rises.

Since the early 60’s, Glenwood Management has raised 15 high-rise apartment buildings in midtown and the Upper East Side, most recently the 50-story Paramount Tower in Murray Hill. The company not only owns and develops but also manages residential properties. Glenwood also owns office buildings on William and John Streets, as well as the Tribeca Bridge Tower residence in Battery Park City, which led to the plan for the Liberty Street site. The firm, whose developments are known for their elegant plazas, started as a landscaping outfit on Long Island nearly half a century ago.

“Glenwood has an excellent reputation,” Mr. O’Keefe told The Observer . “They’re known for building mainly in high-rent districts, so the fact that they’re coming down here to build is a good sign for us.”

To take advantage of state tax credits, Glenwood will set aside one-fifth of the one- and two-bedroom apartments at below-market rates, while the remainder will rent at market prices.

The management company presented its proposal to the board under the Uniform Land Use Review Process, which is required because of the variances necessary for modification of the site’s street wall, setbacks and lot-coverage requirements, and to construct a sorely needed 200-space underground public parking garage.

The board gave its unanimous support to the applications for variances. The full approval process is expected to take seven months to a year.

“I think this is the easiest development that has ever gone through the community board,” chairwoman Madelyn Wils told Mr. Jacob after the board’s vote. “Your timing was perfect.”

– Megan Costello

So That’s Why It’s Called Canal

Tribeca residents have long lobbied for a new triangle at the notoriously congested, noisy and dangerous intersection near the Holland Tunnel off-ramp, where there are no sidewalks and it’s not always clear where the road starts and the triangular parking lot ends. Despite the fallout from Sept. 11, the city’s Department of Transportation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which jointly own the land, are moving forward with plans to create much-needed pedestrian walkways and green space on the barren half-acre parcel between Canal, Varick and Laight streets.

Efforts to revamp the area were recently delayed again because of the Twin Towers’ collapse; the deed for the property was destroyed in the attack. Meanwhile, pressure is on to develop the land before spring, when city budget cuts kick in and Parks Department funding may be jeopardized.

But in September, the Tribeca committee of Board 1 got a first peek at sketches of a bench-and-tree-lined rivulet proposed for the site to commemorate the canal that drained the noxious Collect Pond-formerly a major water supply-into the Hudson River before it was filled in to form Canal Street in 1819. Etched into the pavement will be mule-hoof prints and verses of the great American folk song about that other, more famous canal, “Low Bridge, Everybody Down (or Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal).”

If Board 1 has its way, the new triangle will also honor the fallen of Sept. 11. At its Oct. 23 meeting, the board recommended that the park be dedicated to the police officers, firefighters and rescue workers who died in the World Trade Center attack, noting that the 150-year-old traffic triangle marks a major portal into Manhattan and sits just a few blocks from the NYPD’s First Precinct and the Ladder Co. 8 firehouse (also known as the Ghostbuster firehouse), which lost a man, Lieutenant Vincent Halloran, in the Trade Center attack.

“There’s such a groundswell of need to show gratitude,” Tribeca committee chairman Albert Capsouto told The Observer . “It would address the pedestrian-safety issue and satisfy the desire of the community to honor those who lost their lives.”

City Parks Commissioner Henry Stern welcomed the idea, but also urged caution. “It is a good spot, but there are a lot of good spots. It has to be considered as part of a citywide memorial,” he told The Observer .

Nonetheless, Mr. Stern told The Observer he was heartened to hear that the Port Authority is ready to move forward with the renovation. “If they’re ready, we’re ready,” he said.

– Megan Costello

Gimme Shelter – But Not On Riverside Drive

The local and limited M5 buses traverse the West Side from Washington Heights to Greenwich Village, with 63 blocks of the route, from 135th to 72nd streets, running along tree-lined Riverside Drive. Between the drive and the Hudson River lies Riverside Park, created in the late 1880’s as an extension of the Hudson River Valley and designated a New York City scenic landmark in 1980.

The members of Board 9 are adamant about keeping that scenic view-at least along their portion of those 63 blocks-unblemished. But a blot on the landscape inexplicably sprouted up sometime in August.

The city, without either board knowledge or approval, allowed a bus shelter to be planted at the uptown 114th Street bus stop in August. Waving 47 letters of complaint from the community in the air at the Oct. 18 meeting, Carolyn Kent, chairwoman of Board 9’s committee on parks and landmarks, declared that the shelter was put there “by mistake.”

For more than 20 years, it has been Board 9’s policy to allow no bus shelters on Riverside Drive. And until August (with the exception of one grandfathered, commercial-ad-less shelter on the downtown side of 119th and 120th streets), nothing had shaken that policy.

But shaken it now has been, and Board 9 was torn as a result, showing wide disagreement among its members on whether they could live with this new addition to their community or not. They discussed the shelter’s glaring lights, with some insisting that they were too bright, and others that it was intentional, to aid pedestrians and prevent car theft. Some said the shelters were necessary to protect children from inclement weather, but board member Joyce Hackett insisted that all the children in the neighborhood are driven to school.

Ms. Hackett also happens to be president of the 113th-114th and Riverside Block Association. Speaking about the shelters, she said: “We did not want them for aesthetic reasons.”

Some board members seemed less concerned about the eyesore and more concerned about their wounded pride-no one had asked them what they thought. The city’s recent tragedy has not made communication any smoother, and Riverside Park administrator Charles McKinney left his post at the end of October.

Neither the Department of Transportation’s street-furniture specialists nor members of its bus-stop management department were available for comment.

A resolution to oppose the shelter was passed, albeit narrowly. It remains to be seen whether it will sway the city officials who evidently approved the imposition of such a blight upon the beauty and landscape of Riverside Drive-and on Board 9.

– Sara Pepitone

Need for Help Uptown, Too

Miles from ground zero, upper Manhattan is also reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a report at the Oct. 23 meeting of Board 12.

An estimated 65 people from the Washington Heights and Inwood neighborhoods were killed in the World Trade Center attack, in addition to three Emergency Medical Technicians from Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, one board member reported. The Good Shepherd Church in Inwood lost 27 members, according to estimates.

In addition, countless others have subsequently lost jobs. But relatives of those lost in the attack, as well as those caught in the economic crunch, are reluctant to seek out government assistance because of their illegal-immigrant status, board members were told.

The report was made by Luis Minier, who told fellow Board 12 members that many members of the community are hurting and need help.

Earlier in the evening, a representative from the Federal Emergency Management Agency discussed the services available, although she pointed out that anyone who is not a U.S. citizen, noncitizen national or qualified alien is ineligible for aid unless they have an American-born child with a green card.

But other groups are attempting to fill the breach. One, World Vision, has been contacted by about 120 individuals (both legal and otherwise) seeking assistance. Sheryl Watkins, a spokeswoman for World Vision, told The Observer she had heard “wildly varying numbers” as to how many undocumented workers were out there. The group, which works with various churches and has recently opened a New York office, wants to help as many people as possible and fill in any gaps with monetary or other aid, Ms. Watkins said.

– Sara Pepitone

Nov. 7: Board 4, Hudson Guild–Fulton Center, 119 Ninth Avenue, between 17th and 18th streets, 6 p.m., 736-4536; Board 7, Jewish Home for the Aged, 120 West 106th Street, 7 p.m., 362-4008; Board 10, Minisink Townhouse, 75 West 142nd Street, at Lenox Avenue, 6:30 p.m., 749-3105.

Nov. 8: Board 5, Fashion Institute of Technology, 227 West 27th Street, Building A, eighth floor, 6 p.m., 465-0907.

Nov. 14: Board 6, N.Y.U. Medical Center, 550 First Avenue, classroom A, 7 p.m., 319-3750; Board 8, Hunter College School of Social Work, 129 East 79th Street, auditorium, 7 p.m., 758-4340.

Nov. 15: Board 2, St. Vincent’s Hospital, 170 West 12th Street, Cronin Auditorium, 10th floor, 6:30 p.m., 979-2272; Board 3, Public School 20, 166 Essex Street, between East Houston and Stanton Street, auditorium, 6:30 p.m., 533-5300; Board 9, 565 West 125th Street, between Broadway and Old Broadway, 6:30 p.m., 864-6200.