Councilwoman Brewer Lays Out BIG Demands for Durst’s 57th Street Pyramid

Affordable or not affordable, that is the question. (Durst/Fetner)

Affordable or not affordable, that is the question. (Durst/Fetner)

Tomorrow, Durst/Fetner will go before the Zoning and Franchise Subcommittee of the City Council, one of the final stops in the months-long public approval process for the developer’s angular apartment building at the western edge of 57th Street. Councilwoman Gale Brewer has sent a letter to the developer outlining her demands ahead of the hearing. They largely follow concerns she has had from the start, namely the affordability of the project, community space and an enticing streetscape for the project.

The development, designed by Danish wunderkind Bjarke Ingels and his firm BIG, has drawn international attention for its unusual design, but lingering issues continue to anger the community, including Ms. Brewer. Last month, the project was approved by the City Planning Commission after some minor modifications.

The biggest remaining issue is clearly permanent affordability for the 20 percent of the project’s 753 units that are to be set aside for low- and moderate-income residents. “It has been my strong preference that affordable units be designated as permanently affordable,” Ms. Brewer writes. “Without permanently affordable units, the city would not be able to maintain its mixed-income residential character.”

Currently, the affordability mandate is set to expire after 35 years because the Durst/Fetner does not own the land but instead has a 99-year lease on it from a family whose descendants now number more than a hundred, making negotiations very difficult. To extend affordability beyond 35 years, the developers argue, would be to risk the project’s future.

Jordan Barwotiz, a spokesman for the developer, said, without getting into specifics, that the firm is hopeful it can can reach a deal at the council to get the project approved. “We look forward to working with Councilmember Brewer and her colleagues to make the best project possible,” he said.

Here is the full letter.