It’s Official! Hudson Square Has Been Rezoned

Hudson Square

Rezoned!

This afternoon, the City Council voted to approve the Hudson Square rezoning. The rezoning—a plan five years in the making that allows for the creation of a denser, mixed-use district with significantly more residential and retail development—is now in effect. Bordered by Tribeca and Soho, there’s little doubt what the rezoning will mean for Hudson Square’s future. Behold New York’s next hot neighborhood.

Full Council approval was largely a formality after the Council’s land use and zoning and franchise committees voted to approve the plan last week, but it was significant: the last step in a lengthy approval process that will transform a neighborhood currently characterized by old printing plants and quiet sidewalks.

The rezoning process—initiated by Trinity Real Estate and the largest privately-initiated rezoning in the city—was largely uncontroversial. Nonetheless, Trinity had more to gain from the rezoning than any other developer, given that the church owns roughly 40 percent of the neighborhood, an area that is bounded by Houston and Canal streets to the north and south, Sixth Avenue and Washington Street to east and west.

But even the proposal’s detractors admitted that the existing zoning was problematic and needed to be overhauled—it barred residential development but not hotel/condo towers (like the much-maligned Trump Soho). Moreover, the neighborhood has, in recent years, drawn a number of tech and media companies to its loft-like commercial spaces, increasing demand for dining and nightlife options.

Nonetheless, the Trinity plan was altered considerably since it was first proposed. As a condition of City Council approval, the land use committee negotiated changes to increase affordable housing (the rezoning is expected to bring between 2,000 and 3,000 new apartment units to the area) and open space funding. The Council also garnered an agreement with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to vote on the northern section of the South Village Historic District by the end of the year—an area that many (including the city’s own impact report) say will be adversely affected by spillover development from a newly-rezoned Hudson Square.

The City Planning Commission and Borough President Scott Stringer also made additional changes to the original plan—adding a 444-seat elementary school, reducing the height of the buildings down from 320 feet to 290 feet and requiring special permits for any hotels with more than 100 rooms.

Last week, Community Board 2 chair David Gruber told The Observer that the modified plan was “a win all around.” He singled out the landmarking of part of the South Village Historic District, the $5.6 million in open space funds that will go to fix the roof at Pier 40 and more affordable housing as changes that the community was particularly pleased with.

Meanwhile, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which has been a rare critic of the plan because of its potential impact on the South Village, faulted the council for not securing landmark hearings for the entire district and for allowing buildings to rise as high as they did.

“The commitment to vote upon landmarking part of the South Village before the end of the year reduces substantially but by no means eliminates the negative impact this rezoning, as approved, will have,” executive director Andrew Berman wrote in a statement.

Still, the rezoning plan that passed today was rare in its widespread popularity. It was also, to no one’s surprise, very popular with Trinity.

“The rezoning has benefitted from the ideas and close participation of the community board, the oversight of the City Planning Commission and the contributions of the Borough President, ” Trinity Real Estate president Jason Pizer wrote in a statement. “The result is a winning combination for the neighborhood and the city. Trinity has a long history in Hudson Square and, especially recently, has seen it evolve and grow as a home for many creative companies so important to the city’s economy.”

Mr. Pizer added that Trinity felt that the rezoning would, as had been intended, “strengthen this vital and dynamic area while preserving its special character.”

kvelsey@observer.com