Hudson Square Hallelujah: Scott Stringer Approves Trinity Rezoning with Shorter Towers, More Open Space

hudson square heights Hudson Square Hallelujah: Scott Stringer Approves Trinity Rezoning with Shorter Towers, More Open Space

Towers will be slightly smaller than initially proposed following an agreement between the borough president and Trinity. (Trinity Real Estate)

The new towers in Hudson Square are going to look more, well, square.

That is after Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer wrangled a deal with Trinity Church to reduce the size of new towers as part of a rezoning the rectors are undertaking in the formerly industrial neighborhood just north of the Holland Tunnel. This was among the concessions extracted by Mr. Stringer before giving the project his conditional approval, which he signed yesterday as part of the rezoning’s public review process.

The buildings will be a bit wider, though, so as not to lose their density, but they can only rise to 290 feet, rather than 320 feet. Stocky towers instead of slender spires, basically. But that is in many ways fitting with the areas already stolid building stock of former printing plants, which typified the neighborhood for a century before it became a popular haven for Soho expats and minor celebrities (hello James Gandolfini and Lou Reed!). 

Hoping to capitalize on the newfound popularity of the neighborhood, Trinity’s rezoning seeks to add housing stock to what was primarily an warren of offices and light industry—albeit a still very popular one, with the likes of Viacom, Edelman, Saatchi, New York magazine and the Daily News among the media and tech firms calling the area home. The rezoning calls for creating between 2,000 and 3,200 new apartments spread across some 20 possible development sites.

To help sop up all those new residents, or at least their kids, the borough president has also redoubled the call for a new school, which Trinity has tentatively committed to. He also wants more opportunities for open space in the district to accommodate the new residents, which should be undertaken with consultation from the community, Mr. Stringer said.

“I am proud today to announce my recommendation for conditional approval of the Hudson Square Special District, which will address many long standing community concerns,” Mr. Stringer said in a statement. “I believe the modifications agreed to today will bring this proposal further in line with sound planning and community preferences.”

Another big piece of the agreement is the elimination of an area known as Subdistrict B, that would have restricted building heights near to the Holland Tunnel. Some landlords within the area, most notably Edison Properties, had complained about Trinity telling them what to do with their properties. Now those developers could seek taller towers, such as one Edison has proposed for a lot it owns near the Holland Tunnel.

Trinity has also agreed to the Borough President’s request that any hotels with more than 100 units require a special permit, a provision meant to limit hotel development (while also giving the hotel worker’s union sway through the City Council over any new towers).

“The proposed modifications will help to align the proposed rezoning with community concerns,” Mr. Stringer said. “I am pleased that Trinity Church was willing to not only provide a new public school prior to ULURP commencing, but agreed to work to address outstanding issues.”

For its part, Trinity is satisfied with the changes.  “I wish to thank you for your thoughtful suggestions for modifying the proposed Special Hudson Square District and your recommendation that the proposed Special District be approved,” Trinity Real Estate president Justin Pizer wrote Mr. Stringer on Monday in a letter the company shared with The Observer. “Your recommendation is a vote for the balanced growth of Hudson Square as an active mixed-use community.”

Next, the rezoning will have to be approved by the City Planning Commission, followed by the City Council, which has the final say. Previously, the local community board gave a conditional disapproval to the project with many of the same open-space and height concerns that Mr. Stringer reached an agreement on. Their anxieties may well have helped him strike this deal.

Now if only anyone could do something about all the honking from the tunnel traffic.

Correction: Edison Properties’ site is not within Subdistrict B. Rather, this was a carve out meant to protect a row of historic rowhouses in the area that might actually now be susceptible to demolition and redevelopment. The reason for this exception was not immediately clear (The Observer has put in a request to the Borough President’s office for clarification). Meanwhile, a rep for Edison explains that the firm is still dissatisfied with the rezoning and will be testifying about the firm’s reservations tomorrow.