Best Laid Plans
Standing on Sixth Avenue and peering west down 26th Street, one is greeted with a familiar Manhattan sight: a sheer wall of buildings, flanking the street on both sides. But look a little closer, and a gap emerges in the street wall at 125 West 26th Street, with the blank brick walls and sparsely-placed, unadorned lot line windows of the neighboring pre-wars peeking out from the sides.
This wouldn’t be unusual if it was an empty lot—something a developer was sitting on until the time was right to build—but approaching the gap, it becomes clear that there is already a building there, and a tall one at that—a Holiday Inn. It just doesn’t meet the sidewalk.
Who needs the Midtown East Rezoning to transform the area when you have intrepid developers and unlikely circumstances? O.K., so both of those are super-rare, so bring on the rezoning,
In the meantime, though, we can occupy ourselves with David Levinson’s daring plan to tear down 75 percent of 425 Park Avenue and replace it with a dynamic new tower by Lord Norman Foster. Foster + Partners have emerged victorious from a competition Mr. Levinson’s L&L Holdings held over the past few months between some of the world’s most high-profile designers. The British Pritzker Prize winner beat out fellow starchitects Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid and Richard Rogers (no Americans, unfortunately).
Best Laid Plans
We often think that zoning codes, the string theory of our cities big and small, as shaping every inch of the built environment. But really, zoning is more like the mold into which we pour our hopes and desire. Emphasis on desire.
The Times reports that a zoning law meant to bar smut sellers and strip joints from residential neighborhoods has been struck down in court. It used to be common for shops to carry a mix of licit and illicit goods, pretending, life those softcore flicks on Cinemax, that it wasn’t what it really was.
Best Laid Plans
Much as we want to be, The Observer is no real fan of the transformation of the Fourth Avenue from grotty auto shops to shoddy “luxury” apartment buildings. As usual, The Journal‘s Robbie Whelan delivers another brilliant diagnosis for the city’s architectural woes, and this time he focuses in on “Brooklyn’s Burden.”
It Takes a Village
The arguments for NYU’s, creatively named, “2031” expansion have been predictable in their rhetoric: You shouldn’t—and, frankly, can’t—stand in the way of change. The majority of press in the city has adopted this stance and backed the new proposals. Now Manhattan borough president, Scott Stringer, has given his approval, albeit with stipulations that reduce the build by some 20 percent.
Those who disagree with the 1.9 million square foot expansion have been cast as one-dimensional curmudgeons who are stuck in the past. “Change never comes easy to New York” read a Times op-ed. Really? In more polemic media, the anti-expansion crowd have even been accused of wanting to “steal” one of NYU’s buildings.
“I think they pretty much get what they want, I feel like they are a little principality,” Diane Peterson said of the university, sitting on a stone slab in La Guardia community gardens, the southern block of the two “Super Blocks” that most of the 2031 plan is based upon.
Ms. Peterson has maintained her plot, where she grows tomatoes and roses amongst other shrubs, for more than three decades. Although NYU does not own the land that La Guardia Gardens is situated on—it belongs to the Department of Transportation—if the planned expansion does go ahead the garden will be embedded in the midst of a construction site for some 20 years.
Tales of Retail
Maybe the Fulton Mall just needs some zoning changes to save its mom and pop shops. That’s what they’re doing on the Upper West Side, tired of all the giant Duane Reades and Chases. New zoning requirements would limit the size of stores on Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, protecting the character of the neighborhood and possibly discouraging national retailers, who tend to prefer bigger spaces.
Not surprisingly, landlords are not happy about the proposal, according to The Journal.
The protestors occupying Wall Street/Zuccotti Park are worried about the new plans to clean up the park tomorrow, calling it an eviction notice. The mayor showed up last night, politely informed the occupation of the move, and asked them to make way for Brookfield’s cleaning crews.
The protestors have responded by calling for bucket brigades, but according to a source with intimate knowledge of the site, they may not have to. It appears Brookfield, and not the occupiers, would be breaking the law if they tried to return and were denied access.
Tales of Retail
It may be the worst shopping experience after the Trader Joe’s in Union Square. Still, when Century 21 is good, it’s really good. Dress shoes, bow ties, and some of the best clearance deals in town—if you can stand slapdash shelves and crammed clothes racks, the flood of tourists fighting for clothes and the woefully indifferent staff, the store can be a goldmine.
These problems could be disappearing as Century 21 plans to expand its downtown flagship in the coming months, according to Crain’s. Well, everything except for the rudeniks behind those red aprons.
Farewell to All That
In a move that could help revive debate about the future of midtown west’s grungy office stock, Edison Properties wants to build a 407-unit residential tower in the area directly south of Penn Station, currently a no man’s land of cheap office lofts and questionable pizza joints.
The New Jersey-based developer owns a parking lot Read More
The city is moving to rezone a six-block area in the far West Village, a victory for local preservation groups and a potential obstacle for developers in the area.
The rezoning would affect buildings between Washington and Greenwich streets, from 10th to 12th streets. The effort is expected to take six months to a year Read More