Spitzer Unveils New West Side Development Scheme

“You can say that today is the beginning of a new West Side Story,” Governor Sptizer said at a news conference this morning on West 33rd Street. But, it turned out the allusion was not to Leonard Bernstein’s musical, but rather to a dry, existential black-and-white drama penned by, well, a whole cast and crew of politicians. “The old West Side story related to this particular site was one of gridlock, delay and continuing discussion.”

Just over a year ago, the city was trying to wrest the John D. Caemmerer Rail Yard from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. And a year before that, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver blocked Mayor Bloomberg’s dream of building a football stadium on the western portion of the rail yards. Somehow, the city and the M.T.A. have since agreed on a development scheme that was unveiled today in the form of a request for proposals, an invitation for developers to bid on rights to build 12 million square feet on the six blocks bounded by 10th and 12th avenues and 30th and 33rd streets.

The M.T.A. wanted specs that would maximize its profit, so as to plug a $1 billion hole in its capital plan. The city wanted amenities like five acres of parkland, a new public school and a yet-to-be-named “major new cultural facility.”

The plan stayed pretty close to that which was presented at a May 8 community meeting, Ann Weisbrod, the president of the Hudson Yards Development Corporation, told reporters after the press conference. And as such, it may still meet with resistance from community residents who were pushing for more affordable housing and the preservation of the High Line.

But two minor adjustments were made in those directions. Developers can build condominiums or rentals on the residential areas, but if they are rentals, one-fifth of them must be priced and reserved for low-income households, according to the state’s press release. Developers will get a minor zoning bonus (5 percent) if they make those apartments permanently affordable, instead of for the standard 15 to 30 years. That provision was pushed, Ms. Weisbrod said, by City Council Speaker Chris Quinn.

The other aspect which was not included in the May 8 presentation, but which may have been in hand even then, was extra enticement for the developer to preserve the High Line along 30th Street by having the city pay for its maintenance and upkeep. Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff had advocated for that element, Ms. Weisbrod said.