Trump’s Riverside South
May Displace Highway Ramp
Multiple lawsuits aimed at halting or altering construction have proven powerless against Donald Trump’s vision for a gargantuan real-estate development on the Upper West Side. Nonetheless, outraged neighbors are now devising tactics to prevent a likely ripple effect of the new buildings’ arrival: closure of the West Side Highway’s 72nd Street off-ramp.
Riverside South, as the development is called, is a $3 billion project of the Hudson Waterfront Associates and Trump New World. Running adjacent to the highway between 59th and 72nd streets, the 75-acre waterfront parcel will eventually be home to 5,700 apartments in 16 buildings, 3,500 parking spots, 1.8 million square feet of commercial space and a 21.5-acre park. To date, four buildings have gone up (and a fifth partially completed) between 66th and 71st streets. Construction on “Building A,” a sixth tower between 71st and 72nd streets, was started in early December.
In order to mitigate traffic on West End Avenue, which lies to the east of the buildings, the city has required the developers to construct a new road, called Riverside Boulevard, to run along the west side of the buildings. The boulevard, which will eventually originate at 59th Street, currently runs from 66th to 71st and will soon reach 72nd Street, where it will run smack into the off-ramp.
As part of the 1992 Final Environmental Impact Statement, the city required that Riverside Drive (which begins at 72nd Street) be connected to the boulevard at 72nd Street, because driving between the two roads would otherwise cause a traffic imbroglio on West End Avenue. And according to Antonia Bryson, an attorney for the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, a community real-estate watchdog group that battles “overdevelopment,” the FEIS also states that if the ramp cannot be closed, the development project must be redesigned.
The CESD held a community meeting on Jan. 23 to discuss legal recourse to prevent the ramp’s closure. Lawyers present outlined strategies for connecting the two roads without closing the ramp-an option they said Mr. Trump and his partners are obstructing by beginning construction on Tower A just south of the ramp.
Batya Lewton of the Coalition for a Livable West Side said in a telephone interview on Jan. 22 that “there has never been any reason given-transportation- or safety-wise-as to why the ramp has to be closed. [The city] did not look into the impact of closing that ramp, or the horrible traffic already at 79th Street, or at 96th Street.”
Ms. Bryson said at the meeting that the only engineer to study the feasibility of making the connection without closing the ramp was sponsored by the developers themselves. “It should be the Department of Transportation’s responsibility to study the situation afresh, to decide what is the best solution for dealing with the traffic that’s going to be generated by the project,” she said. (Paul Davis, chief executive of HWA, did not return calls for comments. Mr. Trump was out of town and could not be reached.)
Ms. Bryson added that community opposition to closing the off-ramp has “allowed Trump to get the best of all possible worlds,” because any delay in resolving the matter provides him with valuable time. She said that as the developers continue their talks with the D.O.T. about connecting the roads, Mr. Trump is going forward with Building A’s construction-a move that will effectively block any alternatives to closing the ramp.
On Dec. 12, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, State Assemblyman Scott Stringer and City Councilwoman Gale Brewer sent a joint letter to Department of Buildings Commissioner
Patricia Lancaster demanding the revocation of Building A’s construction permit until the traffic-mitigation plan could be resolved. Mayor Michael Bloomberg eventually canceled their requested meeting with the D.O.B. and the D.O.T., telling the elected officials that he first wished to meet with the city agencies in private.
At the community meeting, John Simpson, director of constituent services for Mr. Stringer, said the trio’s attempts to halt the project “keep getting stymied by the Mayor and his commissioners.”
While Community Board 7 has long kept a watchful eye on Riverside South, they have yet to take a position on the off-ramp. Meanwhile, the developers declined to comment while their talks with the D.O.T. continue.
CESD’s attorneys have requested that the D.O.B. revoke Building A’s permit, because they claim the FEIS dictates that the road work-off-ramp removal or not-should happen in tandem with the building’s erection. If the D.O.B. rejects their request, the attorneys intend to appeal to the Board of Standards and Appeals. If that fails, they always have the option of taking the matter to the State Supreme Court.
Feb. 4: Board 7, Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center, 250 West 65th Street, 7 p.m., 362-4008.