The city is moving to rezone a six-block area in the far West Village, a victory for local preservation groups and a potential obstacle for developers in the area.
The rezoning would affect buildings between Washington and Greenwich streets, from 10th to 12th streets. The effort is expected to take six months to a year to complete.
The area currently has no height limits and allows bonuses, or greater sizes, for “commercial developments,” such as hotels, and “community facilities,” such as dorms. The new zoning would impose height limits on new development, limiting it to 40 to 65 feet at street wall, and a total height limit of 80 feet. Bonuses for commercial and community developments would be eliminated and all designs for new development would be subject to public hearings and approval by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, called the current zoning “outdated” and “anomalous.”
A proposed hotel at 145 Perry Street was approved last year by the LPC, which reduced the height from 90 feet to 78 feet, after opposition from preservationists. In September, two townhouses adjacent to 145 Perry were listed at a combined $44 million for 14,000 square feet.
Developer Robert Gladstone of Madison Equities is developing the two townhouses in conjunction with the hotel which he called in a Times story “the love of my life – I’ve wanted to do that for a very long time.”
But Mr. Gladstone may have to wait longer: Unless he builds the hotel’s foundations or can show “substantial expenditures” before the new zoning takes effect, 145 Perry Street would have to conform to the new regulations. The GVSHP site notes that, following the LPC’s height revisions, the hotel’s current design will “roughly conform to the height limits of the new zoning,” but may still require reductions. Mr. Berman said that construction had not begun on the hotel.
The GVSHP also identified other areas where current buildings are smaller than zoning currently allows. The group argues that this would open the door for demolition and new development, which it says would compromise the largely residential character of the neighborhood.
A COALITION OF preservation groups, including the GVSHP, Greenwich Village Community Task Force and Community Board 2, have been pushing the City Planning Commission for a rezoning of the area for over a year-and-a-half.
In a letter to the commission’s chair, Amanda Burden, in April 2008, the group urged a change in zoning, citing 145 Perry and another mixed-use building, at 685 Washington Street, as “rather large development proposals” that didn’t fit the character of the neighborhood. Six months later, in another letter, the GVSHP again called for rezoning and said it had not received a response from City Planning.
In September, a set of local elected officials threw their support behind the movement, reiterating height concerns and pushing for a more restrictive zoning. A letter to Ms. Burden was signed by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, State Senator Thomas Duane and Assembly Member Deborah Glick. They stated that they felt in 2005 that the LPC’s designation of the area as a historic district would protect it from “non-contextual development,” but now had additional concerns. On Nov. 18, the elected officials informed residents that City Planning had decided “rezoning is warranted and that a [contextual] district would be appropriate,” giving much credit to Community Board 2, which it called “instrumental.”
City Planning will begin conducting an environmental assessment, followed by public hearings, although timeline details were still unavailable, according to the letter.
A City Planning spokeswoman confirmed that the agency planned to downzone the neighborhood.