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NYCLuver Jun 22, 2009 2:51 AM

Why does this city have community boards again? Can't we just abolish them and let the people have no say in development.

Of course that's not always a good thing, but giving these creatures too much power isn't good either! Can't someone tell them to go jump off a bridge?

NYguy Jun 22, 2009 12:21 PM


Originally Posted by Crawford (Post 4319103)
No, they're just doing their regular absurd ranting.

The site already has an agreed-upon maximum of 6.4 million square feet of space. This was already agreed to by the City Council, City Planning, the MTA and the developer.

That's only half of the railyard development. The entire development is larger than the WTC redevelopment, and its still just a fraction of the entire Hudson Yards redevelopment. The western railyard is going through this phase now because back when the Hudson Yards zoning was approved, that site was originally planned as a new home and stadium for the JETS. Ironically, these are the same people who fought against building a stadium on that site, and they believe they won that battle, though in reality they didn't - only costs kept the JETS from building. But it's that belief that they can stop these things that empowers them. They'll win some, and lose some, but they'll never go away.

antinimby Jun 22, 2009 4:59 PM


Originally Posted by NYguy (Post 4319530)
only costs kept the JETS from building.

I think Sheldon Silver (and the NYS Assembly) had a little something to do with the stadium not getting built. ;)


They'll win some, and lose some, but they'll never go away
If they manage to reduce the scale of the project then they've won. The railyards were always going to get developed and the NIMBYs know that. It was just a matter of size, layout and content.

These people are stupid because this is the last parcel of developable land left in Manhattan and if they reduce the amount of buildable space here, in the future, growth will have to come at the expense of razing older structures in other parts of Manhattan. Dumb NIMBYs.

One of these days I'm going to have to write a letter to our dumb elected officials to explain a concept as simple as this so that they can understand.

Krases Jun 22, 2009 5:25 PM


Originally Posted by NYguy (Post 4319530)
That's only half of the railyard development. The entire development is larger than the WTC redevelopment, and its still just a fraction of the entire Hudson Yards redevelopment.

Um....could you provide a link to the other half of the development? I really want to see this.

Crawford Jun 22, 2009 5:28 PM


Originally Posted by NYguy (Post 4319530)
That's only half of the railyard development. The entire development is larger than the WTC redevelopment, and its still just a fraction of the entire Hudson Yards redevelopment.

Correct, I was just referring to the Related Companies project (the eight towers).

The good thing is that the MTA owns the land, and they already worked out an agreement on zoning specifics with the City Council prior to the official land use process.

NYguy Jul 2, 2009 6:40 PM

No lie: Javits Center redo finally good to go
Long-delayed renovation and much-scaled-back expansion of meeting space gets last bureaucratic approval in Albany. Work on $463 million project to begin immediately.

By Erik Engquist
July 2, 2009

The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center renovation starts soon. Really. No kidding.

The long-troubled project, which was supposed to begin three governors ago, received final approval Wednesday at a meeting of the Public Authorities Control Board in Albany. Work on the West side site will begin immediately.

The repair and expansion project is expected to generate close to $880 million in direct and indirect sales and 9,000 direct and indirect construction and construction-related jobs, according to Gov. David Paterson’s office.

“We may now proceed with this significant development project,” the governor said in a press release.

But the project is just a fraction of the major expansion that was originally envisioned during the Pataki administration. That plan had to be shelved when the Spitzer administration calculated it would cost over $3 billion, more than twice the previous estimate.

The $463 million compromise approved Wednesday will focus on repairing the convention center’s leaky roof and include a modest 100,000-square-foot expansion. Only 40,000 square feet of true exhibition space will be added; the other 60,000 will be devoted to pre-function and registration areas, restrooms, food service areas, a truck court and loading docks.

The Legislature had approved an expansion six times larger in 2004, but rising costs killed the idea. Still, approval of the scaled-down plan Wednesday came as a relief to the Hotel Association of New York City, whose member hotels have been tacking a $1.50 per night surcharge to visitors’ bills since April 2005 to fund the Javits project. More than $150 million has been collected so far to back the bonds that will pay for the work upfront.

“It’s not how we started out, but it’s certainly better than nothing,” said one hotel industry representative, speaking on background about the project because he was not authorized to discuss it publicly. “At least we’ll get a facelift, some much-needed repairs, and a little more exhibition space.”

Joseph Spinnato and John Fitzpatrick, president and chairman of the Hotel Association of New York City, respectively, were each overseas and could not be reached for comment.

The 23-year-old Javits Center’s roof is in such bad shape that huge “diapers” hang from the ceiling to catch the falling water. Javits supporters had wanted a larger expansion because there is a high demand for exhibition space. But trade shows, conventions and exhibitions alone would not generate enough direct revenue to pay for the project, and the Spitzer administration rejected the argument that large subsidies would pay for themselves by boosting the local economy. The Paterson administration maintained that stance.

The Javits approval had been on the control board’s agenda June 17, but it was delayed because legislative staffers asked for more information about the differences between the original plan and the one slated for approval. Wednesday’s board meeting was called solely to approve the project.

The expansion will be built on the block bounded by West 39th and West 40th streets and 11th and 12th avenues. The Javits Center opened in 1986 as a replacement for the old Coliseum Convention Center at West 59th Street and Broadway.

NYguy Jul 9, 2009 12:02 PM

Hudson Yards Heights: a gated community of skyscrapers?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009
By Diane Vacca

“The thing is just too big and does not function.”

That’s how Joe Restuccia, co-chairperson of Community Board 4’s housing committee, summed up the board’s exasperation with development plans proposed for the western portion of the Hudson Yards at a joint meeting with the board’s land use committee held on Thurs., June 25.

The meeting was part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process, in which the public and the community board review and comment on the proposed development. Open space and the High Line’s relationship to the site garnered much discussion, but the development’s density proved the biggest sticking point.

The plan currently calls for one commercial and six residential towers set within five acres of open space on the 13-acre lot, which is bounded by 11th Ave and the Hudson River from 30th to 33rd Sts. The proposed zoning has a maximum FAR (floor-area ratio) of 10, which means that the total area of all the floors in all the buildings constructed on the parcel must be no more than 10 times the area of the parcel itself. In typical city lots, a building’s footprint covers most of the site, but the seven buildings proposed for the Western Rail Yard will be sited on a parcel that includes five acres of open space with two streets.

Anna Hayes Levin, chairperson of the Hudson Yards Community Advisory committee, reminded those present of the comments made by the board last October, when it wrote that a base FAR of 10 would be reasonable if it weren’t “calculated across the entire Western Rail Yard, including streets and open space.” Levin explained that as a result of this planning, “the effective density of the proposal is closer to 25 FAR if you exclude streets and open space in the calculation, as is commonly done elsewhere in the city.” This density is “unprecedented … over such a large area anywhere in the city and far exceeds what can be considered good planning for the future of the city or the local community.”

Elaine Marlovitch, a resident of W. 52nd St., questioned why open space was included in the FAR calculation for this site. “The MTA wants to make more money,” Restuccia responded. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority owns the property, and one of the goals of the proposal is “maximizing value and revenue for the MTA’s capital financial plan,” according to the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

“But why are we letting them?” Marlovitch asked.

“The MTA and the city made a political deal for it to be that way,” Restuccia replied.

“I know why it happened,” Marlovitch shot back, “but why are we letting it happen?”

“Because we’re powerless,” Levin interjected.

Public-private tangle

The open space presents its own problems because of the hybrid nature of the site—it is privately owned, but the park will be used by the public.

The overriding concern was that the development not become a type of gated community. The two streets in the development will end in culs-de-sac on the western end because there is a grade differential of more 20 feet between the site and 12th Ave. Board member Gretchen Minneman observed that the lack of through streets, coupled with the development’s siting high above pedestrians’ heads, would serve to keep people out.

The requirement that the rail yards continue to function unimpeded necessitates the building of a platform that will serve as a base for the development. The louvers and curb cuts along 30th St. and 12th Ave., needed for ventilation and access to the rail yard, “will be a bleak façade for pedestrians,” Levin said. Asked where the ventilators for the rail yards would be situated, Michael Samuelian, a representative for developer The Related Companies, replied that they are “not designed yet.”

Elisa Gerontianos, chairperson of the land use committee, wondered what the ground rules are for public use of private space, while Board 4 chairperson JD Noland considered First Amendment rights: Can people hold a rally in the park? Would they be able to demonstrate against Related, the current developer? Under what circumstances can the developer exclude the public, Levin asked. How will the streets be governed? Will the city have any jurisdiction at all?

The park will have no gates, fences or barriers, as stipulated in the zoning text. Sarah Desmond, co-chair of the housing committee, asked if private security guards would drive a homeless person out of the park. She also worried about “café creep,” which may occur when a developer leases out space for tables and chairs that may infringe on public space.

Minneman asked what would happen if non-residents, or even residents, had a loud picnic at night. “Do we really want this huge, public, open space to be run by Related?” asked Restuccia. “There’s such a public-private mishmosh.”

“It’s even worse,” Levin contended, “because there are all these buildings that are probably, at the end of the day, under different ownership.” That “fractured ownership,” as board member Jay Marcus put it, implies other governance and jurisdiction issues that will have to be addressed in the future.

In an exchange with Peter Mullan, the High Line’s director of planning, the committees agreed that changes to the original proposal, such as the creation of a five-foot “safe zone” between buildings and the High Line, were beneficial. But some things are still uncertain, Mullan said. There are no specific protections for the High Line in the zoning text, so it is feasible that it could be torn down. A commitment to preserve the High Line should be added to the zoning text, the committee concluded, as well as a specification that it will be developed in its own time frame with its own design process. In addition, dedicated facilities for maintenance and trash removal should be required. Mullan also said that for the High Line to work, it should be owned by the city and run by the Parks Department.

But no one could figure out how this “behemoth of a project,” as Gerontianos called it, will work.

“This is a whole dream happening here,” Restuccia claimed. “This has nothing to do with the market reality.” The deal amounts to an agreement between the MTA and the developer “to control a large site over a long period of time,” he concluded. “And the mayor wants his vision realized. It has nothing to do with what the market wants today.”



But no one could figure out how this “behemoth of a project,” as Gerontianos called it, will work.

“This is a whole dream happening here,” Restuccia claimed. “This has nothing to do with the market reality.” The deal amounts to an agreement between the MTA and the developer “to control a large site over a long period of time,” he concluded. “And the mayor wants his vision realized. It has nothing to do with what the market wants today.”

Bingo idiots!

Nothing - and I do mean nothing - will be built on that site today. Or most likely for the next few years. So someone shut those morons up already about what the "market" wants today. That goes out to the idiots all over New York who insists all planning should cease because of "today's" market.

NYguy Jul 29, 2009 3:50 AM

Manifest Density

By Eliot Brown
July 28, 2009


...amid the rubble, Related is still plodding away on its $15 billion plans for the rail yards, a tremendously complicated project that would be larger than the World Trade Center and that has been dubbed a 21st-century Rockefeller Center. Related is in the midst of the city’s onerous public-review process, and executives now say they expect to sign a development contract in January with the M.T.A., the site’s owner.

This puts Related, one of the city’s largest developers, in an uphill battle to transform an unproven area that the economic crisis has pushed far back to the fringes. Numerous competitors expressed deep skepticism that Related’s commitments are realistic, and the first step would be a platform atop half the rail yards costing around $1 billion, a number that demands tremendous confidence in the project’s future.

Leading the project for Mr. Ross is Jay Cross, a wiry, relatively demure native of Canada who joined Related in June 2008. The public face of the Jets’ failed effort to build a stadium on half of the rail yards during New York City’s 2005 bid for the 2012 Olympic Games, Mr. Cross now is left to try to sell the idea of the small city-within-a-city at the rail yards to the local community, elected officials and potential tenants and investors.

“We’ve always believed that it’s a long-term, great project,” he said, adding what has become a standard line these days with large projects: “They’re going to go through ups and downs.”

Related’s vision for the site, which runs between 30th and 33rd streets and between 10th and 12th avenues, includes 13 towers resting on two massive platforms atop a Long Island Railroad storage yard. The tallest buildings, and probably the first to rise, would be on the eastern-most part of the site, where there would be both a hotel tower and office buildings, with a giant retail complex in the vein of the Time Warner Center (though almost twice the size).

In all, if it is ever built out to plan, the project could produce well over 5,000 apartments and about 6 million square feet of commercial and retail space, amounting to a development 50 percent larger than Rockefeller Center.

To get started and to build the first of the two platforms, Mr. Cross said that Related would need a set of major tenants signed on to take office, hotel and retail. “If we have an anchor store and an anchor office tenant and a hotel commitment, then I think we’ve got enough commitment to go with phase one,” he said.

FROM THE TIME WORK on the first $1 billion platform starts, Mr. Cross estimates it will take four years to be ready with a first building, putting 2015 as the earliest delivery.

“We’re talking to people—we’ve made presentations to all the major brokerage houses and we’ve talked to some tenants in particular,” he said, declining to name names. “No one’s making major growth decisions.”

In headier times, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., Si Newhouse’s Condé Nast and the pre-recession Morgan Stanley each agreed to move their headquarters to the rail yards before separately pulling out. Now, just who would eventually trek out there is anyone’s guess, as no one is talking about 2015 right now (though Condé was still pondering the move as of earlier this year). But, if the economy stabilized, it seems reasonable to think that a diversified media concern like News Corp. could again be interested in anchoring a re-imagined West Side.

Also, a number of large law firms have lease expirations six or seven years out—Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, for one—and perhaps financial firms, if they ever grow again, would want the prestige of a large headquarters.
On the department store side, Nordstrom’s, currently with no New York presence, has for years been on the lips of landlords with big chunks of retail space (Related, of all landlords, just landed a Nordstrom’s Rack in its building on Union Square).

More than anything else, the battle Related faces is to convince any of these businesses to take the first dive in the cold water of an untested district that is in many ways still the wild west of Manhattan (it’s deserted at night and prone to Dust Bowl–strength winds). All this at a time when the local economy and workforce continue to shrink.

Such a task spawns pessimism.

“If they do build the 7 line, it’ll provide some transportation and eventually the area will get developed,” said a major New York landlord. “I wouldn’t want to bet any money that Related will do it.”

“No one believes this will happen,” said Joe Restuccia, a member of the local community board, which this week issued its official recommendations on the plan (more infrastructure investment, more affordable housing and less density, among other concerns). Large-scale development in New York is far more gradual than the current project calls for, he added. “Long-term, is this going to work? In some version, yes,” he said.

LESSONS FOR RELATED CAN be divined from the history of another large chunk of prime Manhattan real estate once owned by the M.T.A.

In 1985, the agency first designated Mort Zuckerman’s Boston Properties to develop an office tower on the site of the Coliseum exhibition center by Columbus Circle. It quickly hit hurdles: litigation, an economic downturn, the loss of a financial partner, another downturn. Boston hung on for nine years in on-and-off renegotiations before the deal ultimately collapsed, in 1994. (A decade later, a building finally did rise: Time Warner Center, co-developed by Related, and anchored commercially by its namesake.)

On the West Side, the most relevant question is whether Related will indeed sign on the dotted line with the M.T.A. Such an act—due to happen by Jan. 31, per Related’s agreement with the agency—would subject the company to rent worth $1 billion over a 99-year lease, an amount reached near the real estate market’s peak and one that adds substantial pressure to start building.

Mr. Cross, for his part, insists Related expects to commit at that price by January, even in the recession, as the opportunity to control the land is tremendously valuable and the rental payments aren’t all that painful.

“We think that we can complete the transaction without having to go and immediately start building buildings, so it still proves to be a long-term good hold,” he said. “It’s not a small price to pay in the sense that it’s tens of millions of dollars a year. But it is a relatively affordable price in the context of a 12 million–square–foot development.”

“It’s not a question of delay, delay, delay,” Mr. Cross added. “We believe fundamentally that the market will come to us sooner rather than later.”

JDRCRASH Jul 29, 2009 4:45 AM


Originally Posted by NYguy (Post 4348689)
Nothing - and I do mean nothing - will be built on that site today. Or most likely for the next few years. So someone shut those morons up already about what the "market" wants today. That goes out to the idiots all over New York who insists all planning should cease because of "today's" market.

How long can it take for a development to go throught the approval process in NYC?

NYguy Aug 14, 2009 1:28 PM

^ About 7 months...(or 9, I forget)

West Side neighbors have harsh words for Hudson Yards

August 13, 2009
By Patrick Hedlund

In playing a game of word association regarding the Hudson Yards mega-project, members of the West Side Neighborhood Alliance didn’t hesitate in expressing their dissatisfaction with the proposed development currently wending its way through public review process.

The organization’s Rail Yards Committee met on Thurs., Aug. 6, to discuss the western portion of the sprawling development site and to prepare testimony for an upcoming public hearing with the Department of City Planning. Following Community Board 4’s contentious approval of a plan that will compromise height limits in the Clinton Special District to accommodate off-site affordable housing, WSNA offered a more visceral interpretation of the ambitious proposal for the 13-acre rail yards.

“You guys can think of better uses for that site,” declared WSNA and Board 4 member Pete Diaz, speaking of the project’s genesis from sports stadium to a massive work/live community stretching from 30th to 33rd Sts. on the Hudson River.

In contrast to Board 4—which in recent years has expended great energy in poring over every detail of the Hudson Yards—some WSNA members learned of project’s impacts for the first time at the meeting.

Chief among the reservations held by the committee were the site’s use of a high FAR (floor-area ratio) to accommodate the development’s planned skyscrapers, the dearth of permanently affordable housing accompanying the project, and the lack of community facilities and school seats to handle the influx of new residents.

The seven towers slated for the western rail yards (one commercial and six residential) will utilize a 10 FAR per zoning regulations, meaning that the total area of all the floors in all the buildings constructed on the site must be no more than 10 times the area of the site itself. However, since the FAR was calculated across the entire site—including streets and open space, and not just the individual parcels—the effective FAR is more like 25.

“That thinking is so crooked,” offered Elaine Marlovitch, noting that the same calculation was not used during the development of a similar mega-project, Battery Park City. Yetta Kurland, a candidate for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s District 3 office—which covers the Hudson Yards—called the plan “unconscionable.”

“I think [Quinn] is a little too close to the mayor,” she added of why a project of this scale was allowed to move forward.

Additionally, not one unit of affordable housing will be included in the 6 to 7 million square feet of space to be built on the western portion of the rail yards, members explained. Instead, the affordable units will be located at two off-site locations: a Department of Environmental Protection-owned site on 10th Ave. between 47th and 49th Sts., and an MTA-owned site at 54th St. and Ninth Ave.

“I want you to pay attention to the fact that it’s listed as affordable, not permanently affordable,” said Anita Black, explaining that that 20 percent of the residential units are being considered for the state’s 80/20 program—which stipulates that 20 percent of the project’s units must remain affordable for low-income households, but only for a period of about 20 years.

When the units revert to market-rate after 20 years, residents are “going to have to move into senior citizen housing” if they can’t afford to stay, Marlovitch commented.

The group then discussed how the community board’s concession regarding the off-site affordable housing will force those buildings to rise above set heights for the nearly 40-year-old Clinton Special District, which limits buildings to a 66-foot maximum.

“We need affordable housing, but we’re forced to build upward,” Diaz stated. However, some weren’t willing to give in just yet.

“We cannot be pushed,” said Marguerite Yaghjian. “We can’t allow ourselves to give up on this. We have to take a stand at this point.”

Members also said that police and fire stations should be included in the plan to help ensure the safety of the thousands of residents who will move there. As well, school overcrowding on the West Side demands that more seats be added to the neighborhood. Members explained that the school being considered for the site only addresses the current need for additional seats and not future overcrowding.

“We can’t keep up with it,” Marlovitch said of the increasing number of students.

The project’s designated developer, The Related Companies, has estimated the site will require 1,300 parking spots, a figure that “traffic won’t allow,” Diaz said. He said he expects for Related to ask for even more parking in the future.

If anything, the meeting functioned as a trial run in advance of the public-testimony portion of City Planning’s hearing on the project scheduled for Sept. 9. The committee agreed to break up into smaller two- and three-person teams to focus on specific aspects of the development while preparing their statements. In typical WSNA fashion, the group also discussed making T-shirts, buttons and signs with “provocative” language to draw more attention to their cause.

In response to the wide-ranging criticisms, Gloria Sukenick struck a more plaintive—if not realistic—tone regarding the upcoming proceedings.

“We talk like we have power,” she said.

Dac150 Aug 14, 2009 4:14 PM

They have to take a stand is right.

NYguy Aug 21, 2009 5:32 AM


Originally Posted by NYguy (Post 4337748)

No lie: Javits Center redo finally good to go
Long-delayed renovation and much-scaled-back expansion of meeting space gets last bureaucratic approval in Albany.
Work on $463 million project to begin immediately.

By Erik Engquist
July 2, 2009

The expansion will be built on the block bounded by West 39th and West 40th streets and 11th and 12th avenues.

Some images posted on
The big Javits shed going up on Twelfth Avenue and West 40th Street
Looking east: An old classic and the new Rockrose siblings at 455 and 505 West 37th.
A full block for more shows 'n' stuff on West 39th running east from Twelfth Avenue.
The spires of Times Square rising in the east.
The crown of 1 Bryant Park points the way to the new Javits shed.

NYguy Sep 8, 2009 1:01 PM

The Week of Amanda Burden

By Eliot Brown
September 7, 2009


West Side Rail Yards — Stephen Ross’ vision for the West Side rail yards is up for review, with a hearing Wednesday. The project has been relatively lacking in the arena of dramatic land-use battles, as most of those complaints were aired when the mayor tried to put a stadium on the site. The community has many a complaint for two middle-income housing projects that accompany the rail yards plan, and there is sure to be a continued push to preserve the High Line in the area. Related, again, is the designated developer, but it hasn't yet signed a contract with the site's owner, the M.T.A., to build.

NYguy Sep 11, 2009 3:52 PM

The RPA comes out in favor of something...

Statement for the Western Rail Yard Rezoning
City Planning Commission Public Hearing

by L. Nicolas Ronderos, Director of Urban Development Programs, RPA September 9, 2009

My name is L. Nicolas Ronderos and I'm Director of Urban Development Programs for Regional Plan Association, a private, nonprofit research and planning organization serving the greater New York metropolitan region.

RPA wants to comment on the Western Rail Yard Rezoning and express our support for the actions under review. The proposed actions would have an overall beneficial effect on neighborhood character at the development site, additional housing sites, and the areas surrounding them.

As we expressed in our 2004 report "Urban Development Alternatives for the Hudson Rail Yards", a mixed-use development on the yard is more desirable than other options and would better connect the waterfront to the district, promote urban development throughout the area and provide a significantly larger rate of return for public infrastructure investments.

The project under review will provide a new mixed use neighborhood, will generate a consistent source of income for the MTA capital plan, and provide a source of jobs and economic activity to support the long-term growth of midtown and the Hudson Yards. Construction of permanently affordable housing on the additional housing sites would support the Clinton neighborhood by emphasizing its residential character and help to preserve its mixed-income character.

Replacing a large, underutilized, and inaccessible site with a mix of uses, open spaces and reactivating the street grid would complement the emerging development in the Hudson Yards and West Chelsea neighborhoods, and would provide a link in the system of open spaces now under development. The proposed density is consistent with the rest of Hudson Yards and will create a transition from the higher density development along 34th Street and 11th Avenue to the riverfront to the west and Chelsea to the south.

As the EIS states, the Western Rail Yard Rezoning will succeed in meeting project goals-- It will provide much-needed funds for MTA's capital program, create a transit oriented development, accommodate anticipated population and employment growth in Manhattan, enhance the vitality of the Hudson Yards area, add to the system of public open spaces now emerging in the Hudson Yards and West Chelsea areas, help meet the need for affordable housing, and expand the City's tax base. RPA supports this project and hopes the City Planning Commission approves the application.

Rail>Auto Sep 11, 2009 4:15 PM

A shot in the wind here but is there any chance Brookfield can get back into it with Related not signing a contract yet?

NYguy Sep 11, 2009 9:30 PM


Originally Posted by Rail>Auto (Post 4451072)
A shot in the wind here but is there any chance Brookfield can get back into it with Related not signing a contract yet?

I would say the odds are against it.

NYguy Sep 15, 2009 9:08 PM


Originally Posted by NYguy (Post 4417138)
Some images posted on
[b][size=1]The big Javits shed going up on Twelfth Avenue and West 40th Street
Looking east: An old classic and the new Rockrose siblings at 455 and 505 West 37th.
A full block for more shows 'n' stuff on West 39th running east from Twelfth Avenue.

Another shot of Javits expansion...


uaarkson Oct 22, 2009 9:17 PM

Saw this over at SSC:


Originally Posted by Buyckske Ruben (Post 45016480)
Amid flurry of major approvals, New York moves forward on the High Line
The City Planning Commission decided on four major development proposals yesterday (clockwise from left): the Hudson Yards, Kingsbridge Armory, MoMA Tower, and Broadway Triangle.
Courtesy Related; Hines

When the real-estate industry went into deep freeze, word had it that developers would use their recessionary downtime to get planning approvals in line for the uptick to come. And sure enough, New York’s City Planning Commission had a marathon day yesterday, approving the Related Companies’ Hudson Yards project and Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment, the rezoning of the Broadway Triangle in Brooklyn, new approvals for Jean Nouvel’s MoMA tower, and—the biggest surprise of the bunch—the announcement that the city was moving ahead on acquisition of the final stretch of the High Line.

The High Line news came just after commission chair Amanda Burden voted in favor of the re-rezoning of the western portion of the Hudson Yards, which had been designated for a stadium in 2005 as part of the city’s Olympic bid. Burden perked up noticeably when she made the announcement, declaring, “The vision of the High Line will not be realized until it extends all the way from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street. That’s why I’m pleased to announce that the city is preparing an application to acquire the final piece of the High Line.”

Burden added that she expects the process to be completed by the end of the year, at which point it will enter the public review process. The continuation of the elevated park, the first phase of which opened to great fanfare earlier this year, has been an open question throughout the Hudson Yards development process. While commensurate open space was required, some developers bidding on the project wanted to replace the High Line with a new park north of 30th Street, arguing its preservation would make building the deck over the rail yards more difficult.

Related, which took over the project after Tishman Speyer backed out last year, was ambivalent about including the High Line in its plans. The developer did seem to warm to the idea as the commission increasingly indicated that was the direction it was leaning, working language supportive of preservation into the rezoning in September. Until today’s announcement, though, nothing was assured.

Peter Mullan, director of planning for Friends of the High Line, said after the announcement that he was excited by the news, but more work remains. “This does not guarantee preservation, but it’s the beginning of the process to ensure preservation and the most significant and concrete step in the process,” Mullen said.

The city must now come to an agreement with CSX, the national railroad operator, to purchase the final stretch of track. No previous deal had been made because the tracks would have been demolished under the stadium plan, and then the city was unsure what action the developers would take.

As for Related’s massive project abutting the High Line, the commission approved changes to the 2005 rezoning, replacing the stadium with one commercial and seven residential towers surrounded by acres of open space, by a vote of 12-1. This will be a part of the completed Hudson Yards, which also includes a parcel east of 11th Avenue that was rezoned in 2005 for commercial and residential use.

The commission made some changes to the Related plan for the western yards that was certified in May, following criticism from the local community board and the borough president. In further deference to the High Line, one tower at the project’s southwest corner that would have straddled the elevated park has been pushed back and its height reduced, though it still overhangs the tracks by 50 feet (the Standard rises 30 feet above).

Changes were also made to the open space, which had been described as “too Bryant Park” by the board. Now, it will be more tightly integrated with the surrounding buildings, along with more seating and other minor changes. Burden also announced the assent of the School Construction Authority to develop a new primary school within the western development. Related could not be reached for comment about these changes.

“They heard everything we said,” Lee Compton, former chair of Community Board 4, told AN after the vote. “They did not agree with everything, though, and we’re going to continue to fight for them.”

The major sticking point, and the reason for the one dissenting vote, is affordable housing. “This project will contribute a number of important, positive aspects to the borough,” commissioner Karen Philips said. “But I am concerned by the lack of onsite affordable housing.” Related has pointed out that 600 units will be created off-site, but Compton said that those were promised during the 2005 rezoning. “To take credit for them would be double dipping,” he said. The community hopes to sway the City Council to require the developer to include more affordable housing, ideally within the site, when the council votes on the project in the next 50 days.

Things did not go as smoothly for Related’s Kingsbridge Armory, an old military hall in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx that has lain vacant for 15 years. The developer wants to turn the massive 57,500-square-foot building into a mall, including a 60,000-square-foot grocery store, which has drawn fire from two local grocers that fear it will put them out of business. Four commissioners sympathized with this issue and voted against the project, though it was still approved by 8-4 with one abstention.

During the meeting, the room was stormed by about two dozen unionists who have also been fighting Related for wage guarantees, along with the borough president Ruben Diaz, Jr., who was in the audience. The commission did not comment on this issue, but pressure will no doubt be brought to bear on the council. “I vote yes on this item trusting that progress on this project will continue,” commissioner Richard Eaddy said.

Another contentious community project was approved yesterday, this one with little uproar. Despite an alternative plan with the support of some 40 community groups, the commissioners approved the city’s rezoning application for the Broadway Triangle 11-1 with one abstention.

The commissioners who did speak up embraced the position of the community board, which argued that a good plan—with contextual zoning and nearly 1,000 potential units of affordable housing—was created in the worst of ways by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which largely ignored the community in the process. “We have had these issues with HPD in one manner or another in the past,” commissioner Irwin Cantor said. “I hope we don’t see HPD making similar errors in the future.”

As for Jean Nouvel’s midtown tower, it had already been approved in September, when the commission unexpectedly chopped 200 feet off the top, leaving it at 1,050 feet. Then, at City Hall two weeks ago, the council decided further changes needed to be made to the street-level facade, which had been more of a concern to the community all along.

Despite a personal plea from Nouvel to restore the full height of the tower, the council instead referred it back to the commission after reducing the hotel square footage from 150,000 square feet to 100,000, which eliminated the requirement for a loading dock on 54th Street. (The council also requested that MoMA make the wall to its sculpture garden more transparent and community friendly, something that has been a bone of contention since the expanded MoMA reopened in 2004, though that changes was not under the purvey off the commission.) The changes were approved unanimously, and the council is now expected to vote on them in the next few weeks.


NYguy Dec 14, 2009 11:04 PM

Council O.K.'s Key West Side Rail Yards Rezoning

By Eliot Brown
December 14, 2009

While the Related Companies on Monday was handed a rare, high-profile rebuke by the City Council over its $323 million Kingsbridge Armory retail project, the giant developer did happen to win the Council's thumbs-up on another little project: the $15 billion West Side rail yards development.

The Council approved a rezoning for half of the 26-acre development, a planned complex of towering commercial and apartment buildings by the Javits Center, finishing a job it started in 2005 (the other half was approved in the run-up to the failed Olympic bid).

And, as usually happens in the worlds of land-use and government, the approval came after the developer and the city offered a set of concessions to assuage the concerns of the local Council member, which, in this case, was Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

The main deal struck was one over below-market rate housing, in which Related and the city agreed to boost the number of apartments with affordability restrictions in exchange for a "yes" vote from the Council. Related had previously had no affordability requirements on the project, which envisions more than 5,000 apartments on the western half of the development (the half that was being rezoned Monday), though the firm would be able to build more density on individual buildings if 20 percent of a building's apartments were below market rate.

According to Ms. Quinn's office, Related agreed to set aside at least 431 units on the rail yards for low-income families, and then to extend the length of affordability programs in five other Related-owned apartment buildings in the West Side. Taken with a city-owned lot and a state-owned lot on which the city would develop moderate- and middle-income housing, there are nearly 1,300 below market-rate apartments: either new units or ones with affordability requirements extended.

The biggest question with the rail yards, of course, is whether Related will actually develop them. The firm has until the end of January to execute a contract with the M.T.A., which owns the site, and Related executives have said they expect to do so. Still, committing to building--and starting payments for a price tag totaling $1 billion--is a harrowing task in this market.

NYguy Dec 22, 2009 2:07 PM

Rezoning Will Allow Railyard Project to Advance

December 21, 2009

The last element of the Bloomberg administration’s eight-year effort to transform a 26-acre railyard on the Far West Side into a residential and commercial complex fell into place Monday with the approval of a new zoning plan for a portion of the land.

The new zoning approved by the City Council would enable the developer — a joint venture of Related Companies and Goldman Sachs — to build eight towers, which will house a hotel and more than 5,000 apartments on a platform on the western portion of the railyard stretching from 11th to 12th Avenues, between 30th and 33rd Streets.

Monday’s action also included an agreement between the project’s developers and the city to build or preserve a total of 1,294 apartments in the neighborhood for poor and working-class tenants.

This phase of the rezoning is the culmination of years of work on Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s signature project, which began when he first took office in 2002 with plans to turn the former industrial area into a bustling high-rise district. His initial proposal, to build a $2 billion football stadium for the Jets at the site, was widely criticized and collapsed in the State Legislature.

In 2005, the city rezoned a stretch of the railyard on the east side of 11th Avenue, between 30th and 33rd Streets, for office towers, retail space, a hotel and housing. The city and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the railyards, selected Related, which agreed to pay $1 billion for the development rights for what would be a $15 billion project over both railyards.

“With the rezoning in place and the extension of the No. 7 subway line on the way,” Mr. Bloomberg said at a news conference Monday, “the area is finally poised to become a vibrant new residential and commercial neighborhood with more than 10 acres of open space, new cultural amenities and a new public school.”

Still, it may be years before the first building is erected, given the recession, widespread layoffs and hundreds of stalled residential projects in the city.

Jay Cross, president of the joint venture, Related Hudson Yards, acknowledged Monday that the developer had yet to design the residential towers and would not begin the office towers until it secured a major tenant.

After lengthy negotiations with community groups, elected officials and the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, Related promised that 431 of the more than 5,000 apartments it planned to build at the site would be at below-market rates. The developer also pledged to preserve an additional 401 apartments in nearby housing complexes it owns for subsidized housing.

At the same time the city agreed to build 320 apartments for low- and moderate-income families on sites it owns in the neighborhood and to try to acquire an additional 150 units in single-room occupancy hotels.

“Compared with where we started, this is fantastic,” Joe Restuccia, a member of Community Board 4, said of the affordable housing.

Related is scheduled to sign a contract with the transit authority for the development rights at the end of January and to give the authority a $43.5 million down payment. The developer is still negotiating a closing date for the eastern railyard; the closing for the western yard will take place a year later. So far it has paid the authority about $25 million.



Jay Cross, Related's president for the Hudson Yards project, said construction on a $2 billion platform above the rail yard could begin as soon as 2011. But the timeline for finishing the development is uncertain.

"It's a 10-year process, at least, to build up the Yards," Cross said.

The entire project would be built above the yard, which is used to store Long Island Rail Road trains.

Timing of the construction, and deciding what gets built first, will depend on the economy and Related's ability to line up major tenants, Cross said.

Related, which is partnered with Goldman Sachs, will be looking for corporate tenants just as two of the World Trade Center's towers are set to be finished, with few tenants lined up so far.

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