City to Move on Massive Pier 40/
St. John's Development Plan,
While Ignoring Appeals
For Neighborhood Zoning Protections
Last week the City announced an agreement with a developer and the Hudson River Park Trust for a massive rezoning plan for the 3-block St. John’s Terminal site (bounded by West, Clarkson, and Washington Streets, extending two blocks south of Houston Street). Under the plan, five towers would be constructed on the site, ranging from 430 to 240 feet in height, and include residential uses, commercial (hotel and/ or offices), a large amount of retail space, and some public open space. Currently the developer can build about 1 million square feet of space on the site with no height limit, limited to commercial uses (office, hotel, retail). Under the plan, much more lucrative residential uses would be allowed, and the size of allowable development would increase by about 70%, or 810,000 square feet. As part of the plan, $100 million would be paid for 200,000 square feet of “air rights” from Pier 40, which would go towards repairing the public pier, and 25% of the residential space/30% of the residential units (approx. 325,000 sq. ft.) would be reserved for affordable housing.
You can see the full plan here (“550 Washington Street”), and read more about it in the NY Observer, The Villager, and The New York Times.
This plan is deeply concerning for many reasons. It will create a wall of towers along the waterfront, blocking light and air and potentially attracting significant traffic with huge retail uses at the base. And while a very large development with no height limits would likely be built on this site without the rezoning plan, the new proposal is significantly more massive than currently allowed, while granting the much more lucrative residential development rights for the site. Additionally, while GVSHP understands the need for funding Pier 40 and other parts of the park, the plan uses the highly questionable and problematic transfer of “air rights” from the Hudson River Park to do so, which increases development size, to do so. This ignores other potential methods for funding the park used elsewhere and put forward by GVSHP and a coalition of community groups which do not increase development size, including placing a special tax on new development adjacent to the park to go towards funding its construction. The plan also does not address long-standing issues about the transfer of air rights from we and others have raised, including when, where, and how many may be used.
Perhaps most disturbingly, while the city officials have moved ahead with this massive upzoning and development plan, plans to protect parts of the nearby historic South Village which lack zoning and landmark protections from ever-increasing out-of-scale development have been ignored. Much as with this air rights transfer, other plans put forth by GVSHP and community groups which would create affordable housing without massive upzonings have been continuously disregarded by the City.
As this process moves forward, GVSHP will provide information about hearings and opportunities for public input and testimony.
HOW TO HELP:
Read more about Hudson River Park Air Rights issues here, and South Village preservation efforts here.