In the Rezone
the planning game
The new Midtown East rezoning proposal is out—“A” Applications, in Department of City Planning speak—and it’s got a little bit of something for everybody. Developers and the community board get more housing, the churches and synagogues get more useful air rights and diners get more rooftop seating. City Planning’s aim remains the same: Read More
With the New York City mayor’s race not even past the Democratic primary, it’s a bit early to be handicapping the city’s next chief city planner, but where’s the fun in being coy?
Crain’s has taken a look at who might fill the post, which it calls “perhaps more important than any deputy mayor position at City Hall,” arriving at a short list that includes names ranging from Vishaan Chakrabarti, a consummate real estate industry insider and former director of the Manhattan office of the Department of City Planning, to the more community-minded Anna Levin, a member of the City Planning Commission and the chair of Manhattan Community Board 4′s Land Use Commission during most of the 2000s.
In the Rezone
The Halletts Point redevelopment proposal to bring 2,644 apartments to a forlorn peninsula of the Queens waterfront has been in the works for three years, but now a different developer is throwing its hat into the ring.
The vaguely-named 2030 Astoria Developers LLC submitted an early application to the Department of City Planning today to rezone another smaller chunk of Halletts Point. They’re calling the project Astoria Cove and they want to build another 1,535 housing units—a combination of townhouses and apartments—on a site overlooking Pot Cove in Astoria, with a pristine view of the Queens leg of the Triborough (RFK) Bridge. Twenty percent of the project, or about 340 units, would be set aside for affordable housing.
Based on the arguments made by those both for and against the Midtown East rezoning—a “sweeping proposal,” wrote New York magazine architecture critic Justin Davidson, with “swollen ambitions for the skyline”—one might think that the proposed land use change, which would affect 78 blocks between Second and Fifth Avenues and East 39th and East 57th Streets, would be a dramatic revision of New York City’s most hallowed business district.
Crain’s New York Business calls the plan “essential.” The Post’s Steve Cuozzo, ever a friend to big real estate, says it’s “vital to the city’s future, a way to ensure that Manhattan’s most desirable commercial zone can compete in the future with global capitals like London and Shanghai.”
Back in 2011, AvalonBay abandoned plans to build a 44-story, 700-unit rental building on the block south of West 57th Street between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues. TF Cornerstone was rumored to be interested in the site, and it turns out the rumors were true: the Manhattan-based developer now wants to build a 45-story, 1,189-unit residential tower on the same site, according to documents filed with the Department of City Planning.
If approved, the project would contain a total of 1.2 million square feet of floorspace, with 42,000 square feet set aside for commercial use and a 550-space underground parking garage. Of the apartments, 20 percent—238 units—would be set aside as affordable housing under the city’s inclusionary zoning program.
Best Laid Plans
Everyone has been praying for the inclusion of churches and synagogues in the Midtown East rezoning, but no one has checked in on the situation of hotels yet.
The religious institutions fear they will not be able to profit from the rezoning the same way their private neighbors will. Now, the hotel union and its political backers are worrying that hoteliers might be in the opposite position, of profiting too much from the rezoning. They are requesting that the Department of City Planning require special permits for new hotel development within the rezoning area. So far, the Department of City Planning has reservations about the proposal.
Best Laid Plans
Earlier this week, Councilman Dan Garodnick called on the Department of City Planning to slow down the planning for the new Midtown East rezoning that would add possible a dozen new skyscrapers to the Manhattan skyline. The argument was that with such an important rezoning—the city’s fate as a competitive marketplace hangs in the balance!—more time was needed to consult all the parties and get the plan right.
For essentially the same reasons, the department is now arguing that it cannot wait. Time is of the essence to get these new projects underway.
Best Laid Plans
Last Friday night on far west Spring Street, the Ear Inn was crowded as usual. A mix of neighborhood regulars and happy-hour-indulging co-workers from the nearby loft buildings—architects, ad execs, programmers, writers—were crammed around the mahogany bar imbibing. Others were gathered outside around benches on the uncrowned sidewalk two blocks from the West Side Highway.
The bar has been there for 195 years, but forget asking for some sort of mixological cocktail that could be found at hundreds of establishments citywide pretending at this sort of authenticity. Above the bar, beyond the shelves of dusty liquor bottles, are glass carboys, ruddy green and brown glass, the size of harbor buoys. They held wine more than a century ago and disappeared into the bowels of the basement, only to be excavated in the 1970s when the bar was made over by a band of eccentric artists. One of their rank tended bar until five years ago. He has since moved upstate. Things change, then they don’t.
“We’ve gotten the holy trinity of Pret a Manger, Starbucks and Hale & Hearty soups, but otherwise the neighborhood looks the way you imagine it did 100 years ago,” said James Parvin, a segment producer at NBC who lives in a loft he converted himself on nearby Charlton Street.
Best Laid Plans
Easy does it. That is the message from Councilman Dan Garodnick, echoing concerns of two Midtown community boards, that the Bloomberg administration is moving too fast in its plans to rezone Midtown East to allow for taller skyscrapers.
The Councilman, who represents the eastern flank of Manhattan, applauded the plan in a letter [PDF] to Planning Commish Amanda Burden last week shared with The Observer, but he worries to plan is so complex, it needs more time to be considered. The Department of City Planning argues there is enough time to get the job done before the Bloomberg administration is out in a year and a half.
Trinity Church has controlled vast swaths of Lower Manhattan real estate for more than three centuries, since the Queen of England deeded 215-acres to the church in 1705. Much of that property has been given away or sold off, but the church still controls one pocket of land at the mouth of the Holland Tunnel, known affectionately these days thanks to developers and brokers, as Hudson Square.
Over the years, the neighborhood has been remade repeatedly, from farmland to factories to the heart of the city’s printing district. More recently, it has become a hub of media and tech firms—Saatchi and Saatchi, New York magazine, MTV, the New York Genome Center—but the church wants to take things a step further and create a 24/7 live-work neighborhood, like neighboring Soho and Tribeca.
For the past five years, Trinity has been working on a rezoning of 50 acres spread over some 20 off-the-grid blocks—the area often feels remote cut off from the rest of the city as it is by the Holland Tunnel. On Monday, it officially begins the public review process, as the City Planning Commission is expected to certify Trinity’s in-hourse rezoning proposal.