Painting the Town Green:
Farmers Market Comes to U.W.S.In a decisive move, Community Board 7 solidified its position that, in fact, a taste of honey is better than none at all. Reservations about pedestrian and vehicular congestion notwithstanding, the board, at its June 3 meeting, gave the thumbs-up for a new greenmarket on the Upper West Side.
Thanks to the board’s 27-to-6 approval, and a green light from the Department of Transportation and the Parks Department, the triangle between West 65th and 66th streets where Broadwayintersects Columbus Avenue (otherwise known as Richard Tucker Park) will soon be home to a farmers market. The celebration of all things not sold by Food Emporium will fill the void left by the greenmarket that, for many years, operated out of Verdi Square at 72nd Street and Broadway, but since 2000 has been displaced by subway-station construction.
Starting July 12 and running through Dec. 20, approximately six to eight vendors will sell seasonal fruits, vegetables and other farm-fresh products (including, yes, honey) on Saturdays from 8 a.m. until mid-afternoon. The market will join 31 other locations (most notably the ever-popular Union Square) that are also run by Greenmarket, a privately funded nonprofitorganization operated by the city’s Council on the Environment.
A vocal minority of board members expressed concern at the meeting that the triangle was an imperfect site for a market, and several suggested that West 78th Street might prove more ideal. They said that the 65th Street space was too tight to accommodate a swell of pedestrians. Indeed, the triangle is smack in the middle of a busy intersection already crowded by foot traffic streaming from the 66th Street Nos. 1 and 9 subway station, Barnes & Noble, Tower Records and Lincoln Center, not to mention the Mormon temple. Worries about sidewalks that are too narrow, as well as what one member described as a “tenuous crosswalk,” led to concern about future accidents.
Board member Barry Rosenberg predicted that the addition of the greenmarket would compound the already sluggish traffic flow on Columbus and Broadway, which he said hurts local businesses, such as his wife’s neighborhood bakery.
But in a conversation with The Observer , Tom Strumolo, acting director of Greenmarket, said that traffic would not be affected since, unlike the Union Square market, the farmers’ trucks would not actually park at the site. And he said that the 10-foot-deep stands were not so massive as to impede pedestrians.
A general consensus that local businesses would actually benefit from the “magnet effect” that the market would have, as well as an acknowledgment that delaying the process to find a new site would waste the summer months and deny the community a vital service, eventually rescued the greenmarket’s fortunes.
Board members were satisfied that provisions prohibiting the sale of baked goods or fresh-cut flowers would protect local businesses. And they also resolved to monitor the market’s effects on the community, in case changes are needed.
City Councilwoman Gale A. Brewer came to show her support for the greenmarket. Ms. Brewer and the Parks Department first proposed the new site to Greenmarket earlier this year, arranging the necessary coordination between the Parks Department, the D.O.T., the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District and the community board.
Ms. Brewer conveyed a cautionary tale to the board: When she had earlier proposed alternate sites for the market, she received letters from concerned neighbors “that were the nastiest I have received in my life.”
Speaking to The Observer , she pointed out the scarcity of open spaces on the Upper West Side and said she was “very excited” to find an appropriate location to allow the return of Greenmarket to the area.
Board member Phyllis E. Gunther told The Observer that the greenmarket “just adds beauty and the feeling of having the country brought into the city. It’s so wonderful.”
Mr. Strumolo expressed gratitude for the approval, which still awaits a permit from the Parks Department. “We’re very appreciative to the community board for allowing us the opportunity to operate this market,” he said. “We hope that it will help lift community spirits and provide economic stimulus for the adjoining businesses.”
– Benjamin Ryan
Hell’s Kitchen Gears Up
For Hudson Yards Study
While there are few residents of Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen who would not welcome a degree of redevelopment in their neighborhood-portions of the district are scattered with parking lots, industrial buildings and railyards-the city’s massive face-lift plan, known as the Hudson Yards Rezoning and Development Program, continues to have some worried.
The plan, which has been a heated issue since its preliminary release in December 2001, most recently kept members of Community Board 4 (which encompasses the neighborhood) in intense talks for hours at their June 4 meeting, as they prepared for a public hearing on the subject scheduled to take place the following evening.
The Hudson Yards area extends from West 28th Street to West 43rd Street, between Eighth Avenue and the Hudson River. Because of the area’s proximity to midtown and its significant amount of developable land, the city sees it as a prime spot for redevelopment as a central business district. “We feel that the amount of growth planned for the area is essential to the long-term growth needs of the City of New York,” Vishaan Chakrabarti, director of the Manhattan office for New York City Planning, told The Observer .
The proposal, which has received a great deal of media attention, includes the creation of approximately 28 million square feet of new commercial space, 12 million square feet of new residential space and the extension of the No. 7 subway line to service the area. A sports, entertainment and convention facility would be built on the western portion of the M.T.A. railyards to serve as the home of the New York Jets (as well as an Olympic stadium, if the city’s bid for the 2012 games is successful). Additionally, the plan calls for the expansion of the Jacob Javits Convention Center and the creation of numerous open green spaces.
In April, the M.T.A. and the City Planning Commission released a draft scoping document (which is subject to public review) outlining the general proposal and the form that their environmental study for the project is expected to take. At its June 4 meeting, Board 4 voted to approve a letter composed by Anna Levin, chair of the Clinton land-use and zoning committee, in response to the document. Highlights of the letter, which represents the board’s official recommendations for the city’s environmental study, were presented at a public scoping meeting conducted jointly by the Department of City Planning and the M.T.A. on June 5.
While Board 4 supports some aspects of the city’s proposal, it has concerns about others. Most importantly, it feels that the city is trying to squeeze too much new commercial development into the area. Ms. Levin told The Observer that “the city wants to create five World Trade Centers’ worth of new development. We feel that this is just too much …. The city must proceed without crushing the existing neighborhood.” In particular, board members are troubled by the proposals for 10th and 11th avenues, where most of the buildings could be as many as 40 to 60 stories high.
They are also opposed to the proposed stadium, which they say will cause a host of problems, including the exacerbation of the already debilitating traffic problems in the area. Ms. Levin related that “the board feels that a 30-story stadium is simply the wrong economic-development tool for the community.” Finally, they want the Hudson Yards plan to include a commitment to provide affordable housing for the neighborhood.
The board intends to advocate the study of two alternatives to the city’s plan. These alternatives, they say, would meet the city’s stated goals but would have a reduced impact on the local environment. One provides for the same amount of density that the city wants, while another proposes a reduced density alternative. Both would remove the stadium from the plans, allowing new residential and commercial development to occur on that site, and expand the Javits Center. These alternative plans, Ms. Levin believes, it would still give the city what it wants, “but in a much more rational and livable way.”
The board hopes the city will seriously consider its suggestions before entering the environmental-study phase for the Hudson Yards plan. The study is expected to take a year, after which the city’s official proposal will be released.
Ms. Levin affirmed that the board “recognizes that the Hudson Yards area is ripe for development and has much underutilized space. But,” she added, “we believe strongly that the development plans must be adopted in a responsible way for the future of the neighborhood.”
June 11: Board 6, New York Medical Center, 550 First Avenue, Classroom A, 7 p.m., 212-319-3750.
June 12: Board 5, Fashion Institute of Technology, 227 West 27 Street, Building A, eighth floor, 6 p.m., 212-465-0907.
June 17: Board 11, Terrence Cardinal Cook Healthcare Center, 1295 Fifth Avenue, 6:30 p.m., 212-831-8929.