Trinity Church has controlled vast swaths of Lower Manhattan real estate for more than three centuries, since the Queen of England deeded 215-acres to the church in 1705. Much of that property has been given away or sold off, but the church still controls one pocket of land at the mouth of the Holland Tunnel, known affectionately these days thanks to developers and brokers, as Hudson Square.
Over the years, the neighborhood has been remade repeatedly, from farmland to factories to the heart of the city’s printing district. More recently, it has become a hub of media and tech firms—Saatchi and Saatchi, New York magazine, MTV, the New York Genome Center—but the church wants to take things a step further and create a 24/7 live-work neighborhood, like neighboring Soho and Tribeca.
For the past five years, Trinity has been working on a rezoning of 50 acres spread over some 20 off-the-grid blocks—the area often feels remote cut off from the rest of the city as it is by the Holland Tunnel. On Monday, it officially begins the public review process, as the City Planning Commission is expected to certify Trinity’s in-hourse rezoning proposal.
The area is generally bounded by Sixth Avenue on the East, the Hudson River on the West, Houston Street to the north and Canal Street to the south. The rezoning will be slightly smaller than that, but at twice the size of the Hudson Yards development 40 blocks north, and three times as big as Columbia’s new Manhattanville campus further north from there, it is by far the largest private rezoning the Department of City Planning has ever underwritten.
It is also one of the most complex, with contextual zoning elements meant to preserve the neighborhood character; open space provisions meant to foster more plazas and parks in an area that has almost none; plus schools, affordable housing, even plans for dealing with night clubs, of which there are already a few in the area. The idea is to create opportunities for housing without stymieing the businesses that have already taken root.
A spokesman for Trinity declined to discuss the project until it is officially certified.
Some locals have already complained that height limits for new buildings are already too high while developers outside of Trinity express concerns about their ability to build. The area is home to celebrities, among them James Gandolfini, Jennifer Garner and Lou Reed, as well as ignominy in the form of a coming garbage truck garage all those stars hate. Meanwhile, one of the primest development sites, Duarte Square along Canal Street and Sixth Avenue, has already made headlines.
It is the empty lot, once a temporary art park, that was taken over by Occupy Wall Street following their eviction from Zucotti Park. Initially, Trinity was happy to have the guests until they showed hostility toward their hosts, at which point the NYPD forced them out, and the park has remained locked up ever since.
Hopefully the rezoning will prove to be less contentious.
Correction:A previous version of this post misstated the year the Queen deeded the land to the church. It was 1705, not 1773. The Observer regrets the error.