Walking through the two N.Y.U. superblocks just north of Houston Street can be both a tranquil and oppressive experience. Surrounded by brusque, mid-century apartment buildings many times taller than the townhouses and loft buildings surrounding them, the open space at the Silver Towers and Washington Square Village is not exactly inviting.
Created by some of the greatest landscape architects of their day, these spaces are, to put it mildly, challenging. Like the modernist architects redefining what buildings should look like in the middle of the last century, so too did these landscape architects, favoring viny slopes and more concrete than vegetation in places. At the corner of Houston Street and LaGuardia Place, Alan Sonfist’s Time Landscape, which to most New Yorkers may look like an overgrown thatch, is actually a celebrated space taught in design and art schools around the world.
These “parks” need, if not improving, at least updating. That is a big part of N.Y.U.’s pitch to the community as it works to rezone the area, one of the most vicious Village NIMBY fights since Robert Moses built these superblocks half a century ago.
Still, does that mean N.Y.U. can bend the truth when talking about the project?
In the Rezone
It turns out a one-liner in Mayor Bloomberg’s State of the City may indeed be one of the biggest development proposals of the waning days of his administration. Last Thursday, the mayor declared, “In the area around Grand Central, we’ll work with the City Council on a package of regulatory changes and incentives that will attract new investment, new companies and new jobs.”
At the time, this could have meant any number of things, from tax incentives to a rezoning. The latter would be the most ambitious, but also the most complex, given it would require the demolition of some of the most built-up real estate in the world. According to a spokesperson for the Department of City Planning, the city is studying exactly what the best approach would be for the area, and expects to have the results by the spring, but according to The Journal, a major rezoning, stretching as far north as Central Park, may well be in the works.
Best Laid Plans
When the city rezoned Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn in 2005, it tried to nudge retail development onto Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, via the natural selection. Developers built huge residential towers, but the street wall remained blank, empty of retail, a blight for pedestrians. The Department of City Planning is revising its plans for the strip, hoping to ensure any future development will be better, but Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, as is his wont, wants more.
In the Rezone
Yesterday, the City Council voted to suburbanize another piece of Queens. This time it was the neighborhoods of Sunnyside and Woodside getting rezoned. The plan helps preserve the neighborhoods’ character by limiting new development to a few main thoroughfares, but as arguably two of the best neighborhoods in the city, limits newcomers. “The pace of development in Sunnyside and Woodside has increased in recent years for many reasons, including its attractive and well-kept streetscapes, bustling commercial corridors, and convenient mass transit to and from Manhattan,” local Councilman Jimmy Van Bremmer said in a release, which you can read in full after the jump. ”By taking this action today, we will prevent development that is out of character while protecting the low density nature of much of the area.”
Better get in while the getting is good.
I don’t know if I’d go as far as real estate reporter Matt Chaban does in describing Aron Namenwirth of Williamsburg, who says the rezoning (and subsequent development and higher rents and taxes) of his neighborhood is forcing him out of his Williamsburg loft.
But Chaban does point to an under-reported angle in one of Bloomberg’s signature Read More
The Biggest Boro
Last year, New York magazine, via the magic of stats wizard Nate Silver, declared Sunnyside, Queens, the third best neighboirhood in the city. The first two were obvious–Park Slope and the Lower East Side–but the choice of the (for how much longer?) working-class neighborhood just off the 7 train was a bit of Read More
In the Rezone
When Columbia announced its plans to create a new 17-acre campus in the Manhattanville neighborhood of West Harlem, those living just next door were understandably worried. The university has had a fractious relationship with Morningside Heights, from the controversial 1960s gymnasium that sparked riots to its imposing campus that is seen as off-limits to Read More
During the boom, it looked as though the city’s storied Garment District would go the way of Radio Row and Ladies’ Mile. (There’s a good reason you probably haven’t heard of them.)
Once home to the most famous names in American fashion and an equal number of workaday brands, the district has dwindled in Read More
Charles Barron, a City Council representative from what he called “the People’s Republic of Brooklyn,” stood on the steps of City Hall this morning before a scheduled hearing on 125th Street rezoning and denounced it as an “abusive use of eminent domain.”
“Harlem is not for sale,” he said, prompting cheers from the Read More
The City Council approved proposals today for the rezoning of five New York neighborhoods as the Mayor presses forward with the sustainable planning goals of PlanNYC. The neighborhoods affected by the rezoning are Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Dyker Heights, Fort Hamilton, and the Bronx neighborhood of Wakefield.
The goal of the rezoning is to Read More