Holy Trinity! City Council Committees Give Hudson Square Rezoning Stamp of Approval

Hudson Square just got hotter.

Hudson Square: so hot.

For years, Hudson Square has been that increasingly rare thing in Manhattan—a sleepy neighborhood. Even as demand for office space has surged, Hudson Square has been largely distinguished by its proximity to more happening neighborhoods and the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. Soon, all that will change.

This morning, the City Council’s zoning and franchise committee approved the Hudson Square Rezoning and the full land use committee followed suit soon after, paving the way for full City Council approval (probably later this month). The decision, however, was not granted without modifications—more affordable housing, open space funding and an agreement from the Landmarks Preservation Commission to vote on the northern section of the South Village Historic District by the end of the year.

Initiated by Trinity Real Estate, the the property arm of Trinity Church, the rezoning has enjoyed broad public support and widespread popularity. Although Trinity stands to benefit from the rezoning more than any other property owner—the church owns roughly 40 percent of the property between Canal and Houston Streets, from Sixth Avenue to Washington Street—the lack of height restrictions and the prohibition on residential development has led to the general consensus that something needed to be done. This was underscored by the particularly unpopular construction of Trump Soho, which skirted the residential prohibition by building a hotel and condos.

“Today’s positive action significantly advances the process launched more than 5 years ago,” wrote Trinity Real Estate president Jason Pizer in a statement, “and we look forward to the rezoning’s final consideration by the full council.”

One of the few voices that has spoken out against the passage of the rezoning was the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. The society expressed concerns—which were backed by the city’s own impact study—that the rezoning would increase development pressures in the neighboring South Village, a district that the society has been trying to get landmarked for years. They pressured Christine Quinn and the rest of the Council to make the rezoning contingent on the district’s landmarking.

The compromise struck today—rumored to be in the works after the subcommittee delayed its vote last week—falls somewhat short of that goal, but is a step in the right direction. Although Landmarks will not vote on the southern section of the district this year, it has agreed to undertake a final survey of the area.

“This is extremely important progress in our very long fight to preserve our neighborhood,” GVSHP executive director Andrew Berman wrote of the decision. “The commitment to landmark part of the proposed South Village Historic District will help protect this endangered neighborhood from overwhelming development pressure, which has increased greatly due to the Hudson Square rezoning.”

Among the other modifications to the plan, the zoning text will be modified to allow developers to maximize affordable housing to the fullest extent allowed (the rezoning is expected to bring between 2,000 and 3,000 new apartments, a modest percentage of which will be affordable). Open space funding—one of the community’s requests—has also been incorporated into the modified plan, with the Parks Department agreeing to prioritize $5.6 million in mitigation funds to fix the roof at Pier 40 and to expand the services at the Dapalito Center, allowing for use of both the indoor and outdoor pools at the same time.

Trinity has also agreed to build new recreation spaces for community use at the 444-seat elementary school, which  (itself a concession to accommodate the neighborhood’s new residents). The community will have access to the school’s “gymnatorium” a gym/auditorium, which will feature community programming by a third party operator and have a separate, non-school entrance. Before the rezoning proposal came to the City Council, the City Planning Commission and borough president Scott Stringer negotiated a few other changes, knocking the height of the buildings down from 320 feet to 290 feet and requiring special permits for any hotels with more than 100 rooms.

To mollify other property owners, like Edison and Toll Brothers, in the neighborhood, Trinity also agreed to eliminate Subdistrict B from the plan, which would have restricted building heights near the Holland Tunnel.

The local business improvement district, Hudson Square Connection, celebrated the impending jolt of life that the rezoning will bring: “The Hudson Square rezoning will transform our thriving business neighborhood into a 24/7 community,” said Ellen Baer in a statement.  “The retail and amenities to follow the residential development will provide the creative workers in Hudson Square with the conveniences New Yorkers expect.”

Community Board 2 also hailed the changes to the plan, particularly its open space and recreation modifications as well as the landmarking agreement.

“Community Board 2 is thrilled with the Council’s changes to the Hudson Square plan,” wrote CB2 chair David Gruber in a release about the vote. When we spoke with Mr. Gruber later on the phone, he singled out the South Village landmarking as a huge accomplishment and credited Ms. Quinn’s office for negotiating details that the “community board was very happy with” and shaping a plan that he thought was “a win all around.”

kvelsey@observer.com