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.
Michael Stern was walking to a meeting last summer when he saw the vacant site, barely wider than a townhouse, at 107 West 57th Street. On one side was the Steinway Building, an 87-year-old city landmark with an etched white limestone façade. On the other was a dowdy old SRO about to be gutted and transformed into the Quin Hotel, yet another boutique confection for the tourist masses.
Yet it was not the barren lot’s immediate neighbors that set Mr. Stern’s heart racing, but another edifice further down the block: Gary Barnett’s One57. The 1,005-foot, 90-story tower was only about halfway built at the time, but already it was on its way to taking the crown, on the skyline and in the record books, as the city’s tallest apartment building. Billionaires were already circling the units, which ranged from $5 million to $115 million.
Looking from Mr. Barnett’s site to the one in front of him, Mr. Stern knew he had to have it.
“Right now, there is nowhere else in the city like 57th Street, and it is only going to get better,” Mr. Stern told The Observer.
When Douglas Durst began deciding, yet again, what to do with the almost block-long property he owns at 57th Street and the Hudson River, City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden urged the developer to think big. A high-tech data center, a school and a hotel had all fallen through, so Mr. Durst had fallen back on that most reliable form of New York City development: housing.
Ms. Burden wanted something iconic, especially for a project on such a prominent street at such a prominent location right on the waterfront. With Hudson River Park right there, it ought to be iconic. Mr. Durst delivered something BIG indeed, hiring the Danish wunderkinds at Bjarke Ingles Group to design his project.
Yesterday, Ms. Burden got to put her official stamp on the project, when she and the rest of the City Planning Commission approved Durst/Fetner’s BIG pyramid.
“My own feeling, and the feeling of board, is that we’d like this project to succeed,” J.D. Nolan, chair of Community Board 4’s land-use committee, told The Observer. “The Dursts are great developers, and they have worked very well with us in the past. Nevertheless, this is a rezoning, and the public should benefit as well as the developer.”
And so, the full board voted unanimously against Durst Fenter’s new apartment building on the far West Side last night. One of the most dynamic designs of the decade, 625 West 57th Street calls for a swooping white pyramid that rises dramatically up from the Hudson like an origami dove taking flight. Designed by Danish wunderkinds Bjarke Ingels Group (aka BIG), the project has even decided to eschew LEED ratings in its quest for singularity.