Council Subcommittee OKs Solow’s Towers by UN [UPDATED]

Developer Sheldon Solow received a key vote from a City Council subcommittee this morning, clearing the path, seven years after

Developer Sheldon Solow received a key vote from a City Council subcommittee this morning, clearing the path, seven years after he agreed to buy the land, for him to build a $4 billion set of towers just south of the United Nations.

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Mr. Solow’s plan, modified some in an agreement with local Councilman Daniel Garodnick, will bring seven towers to the 9.2-acre former Con Edison site, a site that is perhaps Manhattan’s largest single privately owned tract of undeveloped land.

While we’re waiting for full details of the arrangement between Mr. Solow and Mr. Garodnick, who was looked to by other council members given that he represents the area, those announced at the hearing made clear that the building heights were all lowered; five acres of open space was preserved; an arrangement was made to create or preserve affordable housing; and the orientation of some of the buildings was flipped to run east-west.

The agreement came very much down to the wire—multiple votes, including one yesterday, were missed as an agreement had not yet been reached. Today was the final deadline for the Council subcommittee to vote, though now the project goes back to the City Planning Commission before it goes before the full City Council, where its approval is expected.

More to come.



Update 12:43 p.m.

With details on the deal [see below] from Mr. Garodnick’s office, we have a few more nuggets of info.

In lowering the heights, the two sides met somewhere in the middle. The community and Mr. Garodnick had previously said they did not want any buildings taller than the U.N. Secretariat to the north, which rises to about 505 feet. Mr. Solow had once proposed a building on the site taller than 830 feet.

The agreement calls for the tallest building to be 595 feet, which, as Mr. Garodnick noted at the Council, was “now shorter than the shortest building before,” referring to Mr. Solow’s plan presented to the community in 2007.


Update 5:30 p.m.

A clarification from Mr. Garodnick’s office: The major modifications that were referred to were on the northern site (there is also a southern site with two buildings). The southern site had no modifications to height, where the two towers planned would rise to 433 feet and 506 feet.

The release from Mr. Garodnick’s office:


Garodnick Announces Agreement on East River Development

Major Modifications to Plan to Address Height, Density, Open Space Concerns

Council Member Dan Garodnick today announced an agreement with the East River Realty Company (ERRC) on the rezoning of over nine acres of First Avenue from 35th to 41st Streets.

The plan, which was approved by the City Council’s Land Use Committee, allows for growth on the scale proposed by Community Board 6, and greatly reduces the environmental, traffic and shadow impacts that the proposed towers would have imposed on the surrounding neighborhood.

“This is a truly sensible development, and one that respects open space and will add value to our neighborhood,” said Council Member Garodnick. “The Council is amending the project to address every area of concern put forward by the local community, while clearing the way for development that will bring significant revenue to the City and create thousands of new jobs.”

Additionally, the plan creates five acres of new public open space, a new public school, affordable housing (with incentives to create moderate- and middle-income housing), and ground-level retail to establish a vibrant mixed-use community.

“From the beginning, I have supported significant development and job creation at this site, but demanded a plan that respects community planning goals, provides affordable housing and promotes the neighborhood’s waterfront and open spaces,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer. “I am proud to have worked to achieve significant progress on those issues today, and I commend Speaker Quinn, Council Member Garodnick, and this determined and united community on their efforts to create one of New York’s great new places on the East Side waterfront.”

“The deal that Council Member Garodnick and the ERRC have come up with is a win-win-win situation: a big win for the community, a win for the developer, and a win for the City,” said Lyle Frank, Chair of Community Board 6. “It provides for permanently accessible public open space. It recognizes the need for middle- and moderate-income housing. It also provides funds toward a much-needed waterfront park, as well as the easements necessary for future access to such a park. We are also pleased that there have been significant steps taken toward minimizing the impacts of the commercial building, and toward creating a project that is similar in scale to what exists in the neighboring area.”

The plan approved by the Land Use Committee reflects significant departures from the proposal ERRC delivered to the Council, including:

Smaller Buildings

The heights and density of all the buildings were cut to address shadow, traffic and other environmental impacts. Under the new plan, the tallest building on the site is now 595 feet. When the discussions began, the shortest building on the site was 606 feet.

Fewer Shadows on Neighboring Parks

The proposed building adjacent to Tudor City, originally proposed for 721 feet has been reduced to 462 feet, with the result that the landmarked Tudor City Greens will now see very few additional shadows. In addition, the two buildings to rise at 616 First Avenue have been reoriented to greatly reduce the shadows on St. Vartan’s Park.

Scaling Down the Commercial Building

The height of the commercial building was cut from 688 to 550 feet, as part of a reduction of 100,000 square feet of commercial space — a move that will alleviate traffic generated by the building. Additionally, the public parking next to the office building was cut by 50 percent to discourage car use. The new plan also creates a performing arts space on the eastern side of the building — programmed by an independent not-for-profit organization — to ensure that there is activity on nights and weekends.

New Kinds of Affordable Housing

The affordable housing plan previously agreed to by ERRC has been revised to include an option for moderate- and middle-income housing, in addition to low-income housing, as in the Hudson Yards rezoning. It will represent at least 20 percent of the new residential space, at approximately 579 units, which will comprise both on-site new construction and permanently preserving the affordability of existing units in the neighborhood that would otherwise go market-rate in the next few years.

Enhanced Public Space

Half of the entire site is dedicated to open space — just under five acres. The approved plan also ensures the public’s access to the open green space by creating an independent 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation run by representatives of community stakeholders to monitor and program it. Additionally, the new open-air performing arts space on the eastern side of the commercial building is the first of its kind in this neighborhood. ERRC also committed $10 million toward the creation of a new waterfront park, long sought by local residents.

More School Seats

The new school to be built in this development will provide 630 seats for children in grades K-8. The school is slated to open in the fall of 2012, and serve children from the new residential buildings as well as the surrounding neighborhood. As a result of the Council’s modifications, the school will now front First Avenue instead of its proposed location adjacent to the FDR Drive.



Council Subcommittee OKs Solow’s Towers by UN [UPDATED]