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Lecom Dec 9, 2008 4:19 AM


"This is my fault—the fault of the M.T.A.," he said. "This is not a product of either Related or Goldman or their lawyers."
Hot damn, a politician owing up to his missteps. That's a rarity.

NYguy Dec 9, 2008 12:46 PM

Meanwhile, Related continues to work on the railyard master plan...

High Line supporters ‘spur’ developer to save section

Vishaan Chakrabarti (at microphone), Related’s executive vice president of design and planning, and Jay Cross, president of Related Hudson Yards, address the crowd.

By Heather Murray
December 5-11, 2008

High Line supporters flooded a public meeting on Monday wearing matching red T-shirts and waving signs to lobby developers of the Hudson Yards to preserve the northern portion of the former elevated railway.

The meeting, held by Community Board 4 with the development team of The Related Companies/Goldman Sachs, intended to cover the developer’s request for a zoning amendment to add a building and limit on-site parking at the eastern portion of the rail yards. Instead, Related spent most of the evening rebuffing attempts from High Line advocates to obtain a clear commitment from the developer to protect the High Line’s 10th Ave. “spur,” where it abuts the yards along W. 30th St.

Supporters filled the Red Cross conference room on W. 49th St. donning “Save the Spur” shirts handed out by Friends of the High Line and holding signs reading “Spur of the Moment” to draw attention to the section, which represents a third of the entire High Line structure. The spur is located where the developer plans to build commercial buildings and an urban plaza, and discussions between the Friends and Related about the fate of the section have been ongoing since the developer was chosen this spring.

Several minutes before the meeting began, attendees filled every chair and the audience snaked around the back and sides of the room. FHL cofounder Robert Hammond, the first to sign up on the public comment sheet to speak, asked how many people in the room were High Line supporters—with more than three-quarters of the audience shooting up their hands.

“Ten, 20, 30, 100 years from now, no one is going to remember these discussions about the spur. It’s either going to be there or it’s not going to be there, and that’s all that really matters,” he said. “I think the city wants to be on the right side of history, and I think we have that opportunity … The High Line is going to be the only piece of history that’s visible on the site. It’s what will give this new development soul. Hopefully.”

Hammond added that he is still concerned about future buildings blocking the 30th Street view corridor on the Western Rail Yard.

Frank Sanchez, senior vice president of the Municipal Art Society of New York, said that the spur illustrates how the High Line weaves through the city and ultimately connects to the rail yards. “It’s not intelligible unless the entire High Line is preserved,” he noted, wondering “why we have to keep coming back at hearing after hearing to defend something that has proved itself so much.”

Congressmember Jerrold Nadler also came to the meeting to advocate for the High Line as a longtime supporter of the structure. He filed a lawsuit back in the 1980s along with other elected officials to keep the city from tearing it down. He commented that the High Line enhances property values located near the “very valuable and unique open space.”

“Why anyone would even think of tearing down the spur is frankly beyond me,” he added. Nadler then asked that the public be given assurance that the entire High Line be preserved. “We shouldn’t have to re-fight the battle we fought 10 or 15 years ago.”

He also supports the reduction in parking spaces and Related’s reintroduction of the street grid to the site.

Several residents also questioned the developer’s reasons for not committing to saving the spur. Related’s executive vice president of design and planning, Vishaan Chakrabarti, who is also a board member of the Friends of the High Line, reiterated that Related has made “no decision about the spur.”

“Many of us truly believe in the High Line,” he said. “The spur is very unique. It has a very specific location vis-à-vis our site. I think those discussions with Friends of the High Line have been very productive. We need to work together to solve the problem.”

Board 4 chairperson JD Noland had earlier kicked off the forum on a more humorous note. “Goldman Sachs wants to put a farm down there and raise corn and soybeans, so they will get at least some return on their investment,” he quipped, while the community would be delighted with “six-story brick buildings with 90 percent permanent affordable housing and each apartment to have a view of the High Line.”

Obviously, Related has different plans for the site, located roughly where Chelsea meets Hell’s Kitchen between 10th and 11th Aves. and 30th and 33rd Sts. The concept the developer presented had mostly been set in stone in the 2005 rezoning of the Eastern Rail Yard, where Related plans to build primarily office and retail buildings on roughly 6.27 million zoning square feet, including three residential buildings, several acres of open space, cultural and parking facilities.

“There’s a limited number of things we can persuasively comment on,” said Hudson Yards Community Advisory Committee chairperson Anna Hayes Levin, who is also a Board 4 member, adding that has never before stopped the community from letting its views be known.

Levin said that the City Planning Commission would put the minor zoning changes Related is seeking out for public comment later this week,
one of which seeks to lower the number of required parking spaces on-site—a move that many community members said they endorsed wholeheartedly.

The zoning currently requires a minimum of 2,000 parking spaces, and Jay Cross, president of Related Hudson Yards, said the developer is seeking to have that minimum removed entirely. Related does plan to have on-site parking, but would prefer to have a maximum of 1,000 spaces, 350 of which would be designated for commercial purposes. Cross said his team hopes to remove the potential for public parking at Hudson Yards, allowing only parking that is linked to residential and commercial uses.

The other change Related hopes the city will approve is to allow a building to go up on the southwest corner of the site at 30th St. and 11th Ave., adjacent to the proposed cultural facility, which Cross said would decrease the size of the facility.

Chakrabarti stressed that, “While we’re permitting a building where before there wasn’t a building, we haven’t increased the density in any way.”

Assemblymember Richard Gottfried offered four proposals for the developer to consider, suggesting first that a school be incorporated into the cultural facility. “It could be themed to take advantage of that co-location,” he said. A 120,000-square-foot elementary/middle school is already proposed for the western portion of the rail yard, but it would likely seat only about 800 students, and Gottfried felt “the current plan should be expanded and come online sooner.”

He also advocated for the spur’s survival, saying removal of the spur is unnecessary, would violate New York’s commitment to maximizing the revitalization of the High Line, and simply “is not acceptable.”

“It is hard to fathom why in the last six months there has not been a solution to this problem, as other issues have been resolved,” Gottfried said. “This can and must be worked out.” He also requested that Related pay special attention to open space and sustainability, and work to reduce traffic flowing into and out of the site.

Several residents asked for more details on the residential housing planned for the eastern portion. Chakrabarti responded that 1.7 million square feet of residential housing would be built, the maximum allowed in the current zoning, which works out to roughly 1,700 units. Related plans to make 20 percent of the rental units affordable, but hasn’t determined how many rental units will be included in the project.

Chakrabarti noted that out of the three residential buildings, it is “reasonable to assume one will be rental, but we haven’t made a determination yet.”

Christine Berthet, co-chairperson of CB 4’s Transportation Planning Committee, said that she hoped Related would commit to reduce parking even further than stated in its proposed text amendment. She noted that even in the richest areas of Manhattan, the highest level of ownership for cars is 31 percent. Lower-income people are much less likely to own cars, she stated, and pointed out that Related’s proposed number of parking spaces would still provide roughly 35 percent of potential residential units with a parking spot. “The average should be more around 25 percent,” Berthet added, noting that the federal Clean Air Act “suggested that 20 percent would be good.” More money should be spent on transportation infrastructure like the No. 7 subway extension and less on parking, she said.

Board 4’s Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen Land Use Committee will discussRelated/Goldman Sachs’s proposed text amendments at its next monthly meeting, scheduled for Dec. 10 at 6:30 p.m. at John Jay College.

NYguy Dec 13, 2008 12:58 PM


Representatives from The Related Companies’ Hudson Yards arm got the support they wanted from Community Board 4’s Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen Land Use Committee Wednesday night for two zoning changes the developer is seeking on the Eastern Rail Yard.

The first text amendment would create a predominantly residential building on the southwest corner at the site, thereby reducing the size of the community facility proposed there. Committee chairperson Anna Hayes Levin said the amendment gives the community two great benefits: It reduces the height of all on-site buildings and adds a residential element at that corner.

The second amendment would remove the zoning requirement for 2,000 on-site parking spaces, replacing it with a maximum of 1,000 spaces—350 of which would be for commercial use.

photoLith Dec 13, 2008 11:04 PM

Im not a big fan of all that green space in the renders. Tons of green space like that makes it feel suburban which sucks.

NYC4Life Dec 16, 2008 11:09 AM

More green, more NIMBYs rejoycing.

NYguy Dec 16, 2008 2:46 PM


Originally Posted by photolitherland (Post 3972174)
Im not a big fan of all that green space in the renders. Tons of green space like that makes it feel suburban which sucks.

It won't feel like that at all because it's in Manhattan, which has great public (and urban) green spaces (Bryant Park, Madison Square Park, Union Square Park, etc.). There's nothing quite like that in that area. And there's something about New York's parks that let's you know you're still in the city.

NYguy Jan 21, 2009 1:37 PM

Deal or No Deal Time on West Side Yards
Related confronts different financing climate than when it inked deal with M.T.A. in ’08; time frame faces tweaks

by Eliot Brown
January 20, 2009

Stephen Ross confronts a wildly different world than when his Related Companies was designated as the winning bidder for the 26-acre West Side rail yards last May, earning the opportunity to transform the far West Side with $15 billion in office and residential development.

Mr. Ross now faces his first major test on the project since the economy imploded last September, as the end of this month brings a key deadline with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the yards’ owner. Related is supposed to enter into a contract with the agency, plunking down about $50 million in an initial deposit and fees, and officially starting the clock for plenty more payments to come (the entire deal involves paying about $1 billion to the M.T.A.).

Related, for its part, has said it is committed to the project and clearly views it as a long-term investment. But as the deadline for the contract approaches, there are signs of trouble amid the global financing drought, suggesting the deal between the M.T.A. and the developer might not work out quite as swimmingly as imagined, or perhaps not in the initial time frame envisioned.

Related has recently expressed worries about financing to numerous real estate executives and others familiar with the project, saying that the company has had trouble raising new money, according to those people.

Although such credit problems are hardly unique, Related, not known for doing much on a shoestring budget, has also cut back its payments to contractors. The firm stopped paying its architects, according to people familiar with the developer. And just as the public review is beginning for zoning changes integral to the project, Related has cut by half the amount it is paying its lobbying firm Capalino + Company, according to lobbying records. The lobbying firm specializes in guiding projects through the public review process.

Statements from the two parties were hardly brimming with optimism.

“Discussions with Related are at a sensitive point, so we will not be commenting substantively on them,” said M.T.A. spokesman Jeremy Soffin.

A Related spokeswoman, Joanna Rose, said that the project “continues to move forward.”

“We remain focused on the various governmental and required reviews that continue to progress,” she said.

Based on the terms of the deal struck in the less inclement climate of May 2008, Related would seem to benefit from putting off any contract execution, as it would acquire more time to observe the economy’s effects on office rents and apartment prices. The developer is also better positioned to negotiate concessions now than it was back in May, when other bidders were vying as well; and the agency would presumably be reticent to just break off the deal with Related if the developer wants any changes, as it did when the initial winner, Tishman Speyer, tried to change the terms of its initially victorious bid last spring.

Related must start paying rent three years after it closes on the deal—M.T.A. documents issued to bidders last year set the timing of the deal’s closure at three months after the contract is signed—though it could push those payments off for an extra two years based on the terms of the initial agreement with the M.T.A., as construction could easily be put off due to a dearth of commercial tenants desiring new office buildings.

NYguy Jan 23, 2009 6:31 PM

MTA in Rail Yard trouble

by patrick arden / metro new york
JAN 23, 2009

The MTA is still counting on $1 billion from the sale of its West Side rail yards. But the centerpiece of the city’s Hudson Yards development plan now faces an uncertain future, just nine days before a contract deadline.

“Very sensitive” is how MTA CEO Elliot Sander described negotiations with the Related Companies on Wednesday. Related is supposed to put down a $50 million deposit next week, at a time when banks have grown increasingly tightfisted.

Related’s Stephen Ross, chair of the Real Estate Board of New York, was lobbying lawmakers last month in Washington, D.C. REBNY President Steven Spinola said developers want help from the $350 billion remaining in financial-industry bailout funds to refinance their loans.

“If [new] loans are not available, it could have an even more devastating impact on the nation's economy than the mortgage crisis,” Spinola said.

This week Ross completed his purchase of the Miami Dolphins, leading one Florida newspaper columnist to marvel, “What a country we have, where Ross can ask for hundreds of millions in welfare with one hand and plan to buy a $1.1 billion football toy with the other.”

A Related spokeswoman said Ross isn’t involved in the bailout effort and the Hudson Yards “continues to move forward.” In 2006, the city backed $2 billion in bonds to extend the 7 line to the Hudson Yards. Former Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff called it “the best investment in our future.”

NYguy Feb 2, 2009 11:36 PM

Talks to continue on Hudson Yards contract
MTA spokesman says negotiations with Related Companies are "constructive" over multibillion-dollar West Side project.

January 31, 2009

(AP) - The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and a developer will keep negotiating past a deadline for reaching a contract to overhaul a swath of rail yards on the Hudson River in Manhattan, an MTA spokesman said Saturday.

The transit agency and Related Cos. had set a Saturday deadline for a deal on the 26-acre, multibillion-dollar Hudson Yards project. It is considered one of the best development opportunities left in the city, but it comes as the credit crisis is hitting commercial real estate hard, leaving many developers without financing sources.

MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said the agency and company had "constructive negotiations" Saturday and agreed to continue talking Monday. A Related spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an e-mail message Saturday.

The Hudson Yards project is paired with a subway line extension that aims to create a media-based, western Midtown Manhattan district. Related, which is partnered with investment bank Goldman Sachs, has proposed 5.3 million square feet of apartments, 5.5 million square feet of office space, shops, hotels and a public school.

The company was chosen for the project in May, after developer Tishman Speyer Properties dropped out of the deal over price. Related bid just over $1 billion and will pay at least $2 billion more to build platforms over the rail yards.

The developer and the MTA extended a November deadline to close the deal by 90 days. Related would need to make a $50 million payment at closing.

NYguy Feb 3, 2009 1:22 PM

M.T.A. and Developer Agree to Delay $1 Billion Railyard Deal

February 2, 2009

Last year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority struck a deal to sell the development rights for a 26-acre complex of office towers and apartment buildings on the West Side of Manhattan for $1 billion, much needed revenue for new trains, track repairs and the expansion of the public transit system.

But with a severely ailing economy and a lack of financing for real estate projects, the developer, the Related Companies, have reached an agreement with the transportation authority to delay closing on the project for a year. As a result, Related will not have to make a $43.5 million down payment immediately, although the company will have to pay a nonrefundable $10 million for the delay, according to two executives who have been briefed on the agreement.

Related is expected to sign a letter on Tuesday extending its designation as the developer for the site, which sits on both sides of 11th Avenue between 30th and 33rd Streets. The agreement needs the approval of the authority’s directors.

Stephen M. Ross, chairman of the Related Companies, said the new agreement was necessary because of the recession and the frozen state of the credit markets, which has brought construction projects in the city to a halt.

But, Mr. Ross said in an interview Monday evening, he remained committed to both the project and to New York.

“I’m excited about the future of New York,” Mr. Ross said. “I believe it’ll come back even stronger than before. But right now we’re going through a financial crisis.”

Gary Dellaverson, chief financial officer for the authority, confirmed that he had reached “an understanding” with Related, but declined to discuss the details until Related signed the agreement and his board approved it on Tuesday.

Under the new agreement, Related would sign the contracts in a year, instead of now, according to the two executives. The developer would not have to begin making the down payment until then, and it would be staggered over another year. The developer would still pay $1 billion over time, but the money would not get to the authority as quickly.

The authority selected the Related Companies for the project last May after another bidder, Tishman Speyer Properties, dropped out. Related agreed to pay $1 billion over 99 years for the right to build 5.5 million square feet of commercial space, 5,500 apartments and a park over the West Side railyards.

But the ambitious project requires Related to spend about $2 billion to erect platforms, columns and foundations over a working railyard before it can build the first tower.

Mr. Ross, who closed last month on his $1.1 billion purchase of the Miami Dolphins football team, was supposed to sign the contracts for the West Side project by Jan. 31 and make a $43.5 million down payment. He was to close within 120 days on the eastern half of the project and at the end of 2009 on the western half. In recent weeks, the developer asked the authority to delay the closings and payments.

Related has told city and state officials that it has spent about $30 million on architects, engineers and fees so far. It is seeking to rezone the western portion of the property, a public process costing about $7 million.

The transportation authority, which is under enormous financial stress, was not eager to forgo the payments. It is considering steep increases in fares and bridge tolls, as well as service cuts, to bridge a $1.2 billion shortfall in its operating budget. And it has pared more than $2 billion from its capital budget.

But transportation officials ultimately agreed, saying they would not have been able to replace Related given the current economic climate.

Goldman Sachs, Related’s original partner, declined to comment on whether it was still in the deal.

Scruffy Feb 11, 2009 7:51 PM

1 Year!!

NYguy Feb 19, 2009 3:45 PM

City may have to service Hudson Yards bonds for longer than originally anticipated

Daniel Geiger

With development delayed in Hudson Yards, city will have to fund debt service on bonds for infrastructure in the meantime

The city will likely have to pay more debt service than originally anticipated for the $2 billion of Hudson Yards bonds that were issued in 2007 to finance the extension of the No. 7 subway line and other infrastructure projects on the far West Side.

According to documents released at the time of that bond offering by the Hudson Yards Infrastructure Corporation, the agency that manages the funds, the city calculated that deferred tax payments and other charges tied to projected development on the West Side would be enough to pay the roughly $100 million of yearly debt service on the bonds by 2014.

But with the economy in the midst of a serious recession, that development could take substantially longer to materialize than the city’s 2014 timeline appears to anticipate.

Last week, for instance, the Related Companies, a Manhattan based real estate firm, negotiated a yearlong extension with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on having to place a roughly $43 million payment to secure development rights for the West Side rail yards, where Related has planned to eventually build a $15 billion complex of office, residential and retail buildings. In a release issued to announce the extension, the MTA cited the economic downturn and the “collapse of traditional commercial lending” as reasons for the delay.

But the rail yards isn’t the only super-project that has come under a cloud of increased uncertainty within the Hudson Yards district, a swath of land in the West 30s and 40s that city planners have envisioned transforming into an extension of midtown. The development of Moynihan Station, which would expand and revamp Penn Station while creating opportunities for large office towers and retail development in the direct vicinity of the transit complex, has stalled for lack of funds and issues surrounding its complexity.

In the face of economic headwinds and without the two large developments buttressing the area’s revitalization, smaller scale development such as residential construction that had begun to take off in the district during the real estate boom has also appeared to falter more recently.

According to Nick Samuels, a vice president at Moody’s Investors Service, which maintains ratings for the Hudson Yards bonds, proceeds from tax revenues and one-time charges in 2008 were $1.6 million and $6.9 million respectively. That’s a precipitous decline from 2007, when the city netted nearly $60 million in such payments, most of which appear to have been one-time charges because of the paltry payments in lieu of taxes in 2008, which, once established, become perennial payments.

Led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s championing of the area’s potential as vital expansion room during the prosperous years before the current crisis, city planners devised a plan to defer tax payments and the proceeds from the sale of additional development rights to fund an extension of the No. 7 Subway from its current terminus at Times Square to 34th Street and Eleventh Avenue.

The extension, along with other infrastructure improvements such as a long, tree lined boulevard stretching diagonally between Eleventh and Tenth Avenues, have been viewed as pivotal to attracting residents, tenants and new development to the area.

The city anticipated that it could take years for the area’s makeover to get started and so agreed to fund whatever portion of the bonds’ debt service was left unpaid in the event the area’s development proceeds proved insufficient. Despite the risks, the city’s method appeared to be an innovative way of harnessing the economic potential of the far West Side to fund its own transformation rather than burdening the city’s general budget with having to make the large capital outlays.

But if the economic downturn pushes development in the district years behind original projections and the city has to pick up the tab for the $97 million in yearly interest to service the bonds for an extended period, it could begin to lend credibility to early questions over the wisdom over the city’s decision to use the complex financing plan over a more conventional structure.

One issue is that the Hudson Yards bonds receive a higher interest rate than if the city had issued the bonds directly because the Hudson Yards Infrastructure Corporation, even though it is backed by the city, has a slightly lower credit rating.

Another critique has focused on the city’s decision to discount tax payments in the Hudson Yards in order to spur development there, an incentive that some fiscal experts say will do little to encourage building in the area and only hamper the city’s efforts to generate enough cash flow when development does occur.

“I thought it was illusory that this was paying for itself,” said James Parrot, an economist for the fiscal watchdog group the Fiscal Policy Institute. “We criticized it on the grounds that the financing mechanism was making it harder to pay off the debt than if the city just put it in its capital plan and charged full property taxes.”

NYguy Apr 2, 2009 3:49 PM

Quote from an article in the Observer...

Activists Pressure Pols on Northern Turn of the High Line; It's in Related's Rail Yards

By Reid Pillifant
April 2, 2009

The northern section was not transferred to the Parks Department in 2005, along with the rest of the line, because, at the time, the M.T.A. and the city were still unsure of their plans for the rail yards. The line’s current owner, CSX, appears willing to donate the remaining section of the High Line to the city at no cost, just as did with the preceding sections, but the city has yet to take up the offer.

The yards’ developer, the Related Companies, says it has included the High Line in its plans, and that it remains committed to preserving the northern spur as a public park. But Mr. Hammond would like to see the city take possession regardless as part of the land-use review process for the yards slated to start this summer. Related did not respond to requests for comment.

“It would just make us feel more comfortable for the city to be in control, and for the ultimate decision about the High Line to rest with the city, and not with a developer,” Mr. Hammond said after the meeting.

The city appears unwilling, at least for now, to publicly force Related into accepting the park. The High Line is just one of myriad issues to be settled in the re-zoning process of the western half of the rail yards, and some suspect Related would like to avoid a public guarantee in order to use the potential park as a bargaining chip for other deals, such as the amount of affordable housing or the inclusion of a school on the site.

NYguy Apr 3, 2009 3:44 PM


April 3, 2009

Plans to build a $15 billion district of housing, parks and office towers over the West Side rail yards won a key approval from the City Council yesterday, even though construction of the project has been delayed by the economic downturn.

The council, by a 48-0 vote, approved several zoning changes for the eastern half of the site, which officials at The Related Companies said is a sign that the project is moving forward, even though construction is years off.

Related officials say they expect to begin work on rezoning the western half of the 26-acre site later this year.

NYguy May 19, 2009 12:40 AM

They've completed the DEIS for the western half of the railyards...

Western Rail Yard Draft Environmental Impact Statement

On May 15th, 2009, the New York City Planning Commission and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, acting as co-lead agencies, issued a Notice of Completion for a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Western Rail Yard project.

A public hearing on the DEIS will be held at a later date to be announced, in conjunction with the City Planning Commission’s citywide public hearing pursuant to ULURP. Advance notice will be given of the time and place of the hearing. Written comments on the DEIS are requested and will be received and considered by the Lead Agency until the 10th calendar day following the close of the public hearing.

NYguy May 19, 2009 10:47 PM

Council Vote on Related’s Rail Yards Plans by Jan. 1

By Eliot Brown
May 19, 2009

If there was a race to get large development projects started in the city’s lengthy land-use review process, Stephen Ross and his Related Companies would be the clear winners.

On Monday, May 18, the Department of City Planning launched a long list of projects and initiatives into the seven-month-plus public approval process, two of them—the West Side rail yards and the Bronx’s Kingsbridge Armory—belonging to Related. And based on the maximum length of that process—a length of time that many, but not all, projects take—this was the final round of proposed developments that will be guaranteed a vote before the current City Council.

In the wake of November’s elections, the Council’s membership will change somewhat, starting Jan. 1—and perhaps the mayor will, too—adding uncertainty for developers in what can be a highly political process. The land-use review process is a formalized forum for debate over development projects, at the end of which the Council gives its binding vote.

Also making the cut: the proposed 1,250-foot, Jean Nouvel–designed slender skyscraper that would rise adjacent to MoMA; the Bloomberg administration’s incentive program designed to boost the number of new grocery stores in poorer neighborhoods; and the city’s plans to rezone the Broadway Triangle in northern Brooklyn.

Not every developer can be as fortunate as Related. Multiple high-profile large planned developments have been seeking public approval, but did not make Monday’s list. To name a few: Extell Development’s proposed 8.2-acre, 2,500-apartment development at Riverside South; Steven Roth’s potential new office tower where the Hotel Pennsylvania currently sits; and Community Preservation Corporations’ plans to build 2,400 apartments in Williamsburg on the former Domino Sugar Factory site.

Financing is, of course, in short supply, casting doubt on the immediate viability of such projects. But developers can reap great long-term benefits from getting rezonings now, as they clear the way for quicker construction starts when the market returns; and they typically boost property values substantially with added density allowed on sites.

As is traditional in New York development, discord between the applicants and various community, labor and other groups marks the seven-month land-use review, which includes numerous public hearings.

A collection of organizations are fighting Related’s Kingsbridge Armory project in an attempt to win wage and other concessions. Residents who live across from the MoMA tower are vehemently opposed, calling it an out-of-scale development that should not be in a mid-block location.

By far the largest project to start the public review process on May 18 was the West Side rail yards, of which Related is the designated developer (though it has yet to sign a contract for the land with the M.T.A., the owner). The eastern half of the site is already rezoned, so it is the western half that will be the subject of the approvals, and the accompanying debate.

Based on a framework agreed to in 2007 by the Bloomberg administration, the M.T.A. and Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the western half of the project calls for up to 6.4 million square feet of development, including up to 5,762 apartments.

The debate with the community is likely to revolve around familiar issues: The local community board has repeatedly expressed its desire to see the giant towers reduced in scale, and more affordable housing on the site, as currently it will be 20 percent of whatever Related builds as rental buildings. (The city is also building two developments with more than 300 subsidized apartments as part of the project.)

“The biggest problems are still its scale, which hasn’t changed one bit,” said Anna Levin, co-chair of a Community Board 4 land-use committee. Ms. Levin added that she is pleased with the improvements Related has made to the design of the open space.


Image of massing layout for the western half, from the DEIS released last week...

NYguy May 28, 2009 5:36 PM

Steve Ross' Vision for the West Side

The seven-month public rezoning process kicked off last week for half of the West Side rail yards, the 26-acre development site just south of the Javits Center on the far West Side. Here’s a look at some of the plans from Stephen Ross’ Related Companies, the site’s designated developer. (That said, Related has yet to sign a contract for the project, which would ultimately entail $15 billion or so in new development. The contract is scheduled to be signed by January.)

Above, plans for both the eastern and western half of the yards. The eastern section (between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues) was rezoned in 2005, and now the western half is up for public approval.

NYguy May 29, 2009 6:43 AM

Zoning for the western half of the yards...


As required in the proposed zoning, building massing and heights would gradually decrease from Eleventh Avenue and West 33rd Street to Twelfth Avenue and West 30th Street. The tallest building on the site would be the commercial building in the northeast corner. Taller residential buildings are proposed generally in the eastern and northern portions of the Development Site, and shorter residential buildings in the southwest quadrant of the Development Site (see Figure S-9). Building heights would generally range from approximately 40 to 70 stories, or 350 to 950 feet. WC-1 would be the tallest, at 850 to 950 feet, WR-6 would be between 650 and 810 feet, and WR-7 would be between 550 and 710 feet.

South of the commercial building on Eleventh Avenue, WR-1 would be approximately 700 to 800 feet high. To its west WR-5 would be shorter at approximately 500 to 700 feet. Along West 30th Street, buildings would also decrease in height from Eleventh Avenue to Twelfth Avenue. The tallest building at the southern portion of the Development Site would be located at
Eleventh Avenue, at approximately 650 to 810 feet (WR-2). Directly west of this mixed-use building would be an approximately 550 to 710-foot-tall mixed-use building (WR-3). The shortest building on the site would be at the southwest corner of the site, at a maximum height of 450 feet (WR-4).

THE BIG APPLE Jun 3, 2009 3:12 AM

I like the Brookfield plan. That was the best one.

hunser Jun 3, 2009 4:55 PM

so no supertalls for rhe hudson yards ... :( when are they going to realize that nyc needs new supertalls so badly?! :hell:

Dac150 Jun 3, 2009 5:39 PM

You never know, just as plans changed to this they can change again. If companies want in, the believe me the developer will find a way. It's just a wierd time right now for that so they have to plan something the get something. Doesn't mean that what you see now is what you'll get, though I do feel this is another case and point time to building for the future.

NYguy Jun 3, 2009 9:04 PM


Originally Posted by hunser (Post 4285372)
so no supertalls for rhe hudson yards

Not on the western yards, no. The tallest tower there is estimated to be no higher than 950 ft, but we are years away from a specific proposal there. The larger towers will be on the eastern yards, and although those towers would be developed sooner, we are still not close to any actual proposal there either.

philvia Jun 4, 2009 7:23 PM

this has gone from awesome to fail... so sad.

NYguy Jun 4, 2009 10:39 PM


Originally Posted by philvia (Post 4287709)
this has gone from awesome to fail... so sad.

Still too early to say on this. We have to see what gets proposed, especially on the eastern yards.

koolkid Jun 5, 2009 3:58 PM

Definitely still too early. Besides, i do prefer the larger/taller towers to be more inland, away from the waterfront. That way, they'd stand out more rather than block out the towers behind them. So far I'm not all too disapointed with the heights, although they better get rid of all that useless green space, fast...

NYguy Jun 6, 2009 11:15 PM


Originally Posted by koolkid (Post 4289675)
Definitely still too early. Besides, i do prefer the larger/taller towers to be more inland, away from the waterfront. That way, they'd stand out more rather than block out the towers behind them. So far I'm not all too disapointed with the heights, although they better get rid of all that useless green space, fast...

That green space is mandated. It's also mandated that the taller towers be farthest away from the waterfront, so there will be a stepped back approach to the river.

NYguy Jun 9, 2009 12:09 PM


June 9, 2009

Fresh off of today's public opening of the High Line Park, advocates for the project are turning their attention to saving one last unprotected section of the old rail trestle that snakes around the edge of the West Side rail yards.

Friends of the High Line want this section, running about a half-mile along 30th Street -- from 10th to 12th Avenue, then turning north to 33rd Street, along the edges of the rail yards and a block from the Javits Convention Center -- to be set aside as park space.

"It would be fantastic," Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday.

The Related Companies has been chosen by the MTA to develop a combination of office and residential towers, along with parks, a school and a cultural facility, on a platform over the 26-acre rail yards.

While Related officials have said they would include the High Line in their development plan, Friends of the High Line want the city to officially set it aside for preservation as part of a city rezoning for the site that is now under review.

"It's great that the High Line is in their plans, but there is no regulatory guarantee," said Peter Mullan of Friends of the High Line. "We feel that now is the time for that process to go forward along with the new zoning."

A forum on Related Companies' plans is to be held tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. in the Fulton Center Auditorium, at 119 Ninth Ave.

mrnyc Jun 9, 2009 11:58 PM

i think we have proved today, by the opening of the first section of the high line park, that it would be foolish to mess with the highline. however, i have attended community meetings about westside railyard development and related refuses to commit. in fact they even specifically alluded to wanting to tear down the spur because it's in their way on that corner.

hopefully this changes with new designs, but still the city really needs to protect this railyard section of the high line. hells bells on it's northernmost terminus the high line curls down to the ground right at the door of the javits convention center, a dream for nyc conventioneers!

NYguy Jun 10, 2009 12:09 AM


Originally Posted by mrnyc (Post 4297251)
i think we have proved today, by the opening of the first section of the high line park, that it would be foolish to mess with the highline. however, i have attended community meetings about westside railyard development and related refuses to commit. in fact they even specifically alluded to wanting to tear down the spur because it's in their way on that corner.

They have long been saying that it would impede construction. Basically what they would do is remove it and replace it later. The only problem with the High Line at that point is that it would actually be lower than the platform the buildings will be built on.

Still, its in the latest plans to keep it there, and it would be an amazing experience to have that last link connecting the High Line to Hudson River Park.

mrnyc Jun 10, 2009 3:39 AM

no, unless that is new related did not talk about saving the spur. in fact although they were officially non-committal they made it clear it was in the way and they wanted to tear it down (in fact its not pictured at all on those renders). so as far as the spur goes i hope they have changed their minds, but this is exactly why the city must step in to protect the rest of the high line.

edit: re-reading your post i think you may have misinterpreted. the "spur" is just the part of the se corner that goes across 30th st and hangs over 10th avenue (another great future cut-out viewing platform!).

however, i will add they did verbally commit to keeping the rest of the railyard high line. that is, the major section that turns west, runs up 12th ave and wraps around the railyards to w34th st. that is what you see in renderings.

however, while i applaud related for facing the public, i wouldn't trust one bit of this verbal discussion to any developer. activism is still vitally important to protect the whole railyard section. here's news about the next cb4 forum:

Western Rail Yards Public Forum: June 10
We need your support at a Community Board 4 public forum on the Western Rail Yards - the next critical step in securing the High Line's full preservation.

Wednesday, June 10
6:30 - 8:30 PM
begins at 6:00
Fulton Center Auditorium
119 Ninth Avenue, between 17th and 18th Streets

for more clarity here is the map visual where you can clearly see the endangerd "spur."

NYguy Jun 12, 2009 5:16 PM

The railyards development is in a sleeping phase, and yet the NIMBYs aren't...

Dispatch From West Side Rail Yards Forum

By Joe Pompeo and Eliot Brown
Friday, June 12, 2009

Manhattan's Community Board 4 held a forum Wednesday night about the Related Companies' plans for developing the West Side Rail Yards--a site adjacent to the new High Line Park, which opened to the public on Monday to rave reviews.

Some quick background: Related, which the M.T.A. selected to develop the site (but hasn't yet signed a contract), wants to create a mix of residential and commercial space, as well as parks, a school and a cultural center, on a platform built above the yards. Friends of the High Line, as the New York Post reported earlier this week, want to ensure that an unprotected, half-mile section of the old rail trestle is set aside as park space.

We sent Observer intern Alex Tafet to Wednesday's meeting, where he said a large lumber of people turned out in red "Save the High Line at the Rail Yards" t-shirts. Here are a few notes from his dispatch:

•Hudson Yards Community Advisory Committee Chair Anna Levin said permanent and affordable housing is the community's priority, with other goals being to preserve the High Line, create parking and public facilities, and incorporate the arts into the plans.

•Vishaan Chakrabarti, Related's executive vice president of design & planning, reiterated those goals, as well as the creation of a public school and promoting sustainability. The school, he said, would be a 120,000-square-foot, 750-seat facility for grades K-8.

•Mr. Chakrabarti's presentation also stated: Office and residential space would comprise as much as 2.2 million square feet and 4.4 million square feet respectively; there would be fewer retail shops and tall buildings closer to the water; there would be two 800-space parking garages underneath the parks and buildings; and that the High Line would be integrated into the new design.

•During the question-and-answer session that followed, one person asked how the new site might help fix Hell's Kitchen's "awful" infrastructure. Members of the West Side Neighborhood Alliance said there should be no building's taller than 66-feet. Several speakers said the plan didn't include enough affordable housing.

The community board is weighing in at this point as half the 26-acre site is going through the city's seven-month rezoning process. The next step will be a recommendation by the community board, and ultimately a vote by the City Council on the plan.

Busy Bee Jun 12, 2009 5:35 PM

66 feet. That's hilarious.

drumz0rz Jun 12, 2009 7:55 PM

66 feet, are they kidding? The previously noted design would be such a good one. Tall buildings surrounded by parks, preserving the high line. No developer is going to be willing to pay the huge price to do this project if they can't build anything that'll be profitable (read: buildings under 66 feet tall) on the site. Isn't the Javits Center taller than 66 ft?

samoen313 Jun 12, 2009 9:40 PM


Originally Posted by drumz0rz (Post 4302818)
66 feet, are they kidding? The previously noted design would be such a good one. Tall buildings surrounded by parks, preserving the high line. No developer is going to be willing to pay the huge price to do this project if they can't build anything that'll be profitable (read: buildings under 66 feet tall) on the site. Isn't the Javits Center taller than 66 ft?

It most likely is. 66ft. would be six floors of residential or four to five of offices. I'd imagine this is purely to maintain continuity with Hell's Kitchen's scale.

NYguy Jun 12, 2009 10:56 PM


Originally Posted by Busy Bee (Post 4302517)
66 feet. That's hilarious.

It really is. I would like to have known just how this person came up with that ridiculous figure. One thing about those NIMBYs, just when you think you've heard the most absurd excuse, there's more.

NYguy Jun 18, 2009 5:08 PM

NYguy Jun 18, 2009 5:09 PM

Hudson Yards 'Himalayas' earn public ire at forum

June 18, 2009
By Diane Vacca

“We’re being handed crumbs,” said Marilyn Suroski, speaking at a public forum on the proposed Hudson Yards mega-project on Wed., June 10. “There’s far too little affordable housing.”

Many West Siders agreed with Suroski’s assessment of The Related Companies’ revised plan for the development of the Western Rail Yards. The 13-acre site, bounded by 11th Ave. and the Hudson River from 30th to 33rd Sts., will include one commercial and six residential towers set within five acres of open space.

Local advocates, no doubt encouraged by their success in trouncing plans for a stadium at the same site four years ago, vigorously denounced the “humongous” scale of the buildings and complained that provisions for affordable housing were woefully inadequate. Attendees of the forum also worried about what they perceived as a lack of planning for essential public facilities and demanded preservation of the northernmost portion of the High Line.

Community Board 4 and the Hudson Yards Community Advisory Committee, chaired by Anna Hayes Levin, had specified the need for permanently affordable housing for middle-income households integrated with the on-site market-rate housing. Instead, 20 percent of the approximately 5,000 residential units will be affordable for low-income households, while the middle-income permanently affordable housing will be built off-site at two locations in Hell’s Kitchen. After 20 years, the low-income, on-site affordable housing will revert to market-rate.

Vishaan Chakrabarti, Related’s executive vice president of design and planning, emphasized the revisions of the original proposal in response to community concerns. The plans for two buildings originally cantilevered over the High Line on the west side of the site were altered, with one building eliminated entirely and the other shifted away from the elevated park. There will now be a five-foot gap between the High Line and all buildings, Chakrabarti explained, and small open spaces will form a “necklace,” rather than one great space, as requested. The project will be sustainable, with a series of green roofs and the potential to return power to the grid. Board 4 had requested that commercial development be minimized and restricted to 11th Ave. and east, but most of the buildings will be mixed use, with retail on the ground floor.

Though Chakrabarti’s stated intention was to integrate the development into the city, several people pointed out that the combined effects of the high street wall and the absence of economic diversity, owing to the lack of permanently affordable housing, will create an isolated enclave divorced from the surrounding area.

Related has proposed a 750-seat, K-8 school on the site, but Assemblymember Richard Gottfried said in a statement that the school will accommodate only children living the Hudson Yards project area. A larger or second school is needed, he noted, to alleviate the severe classroom shortage in District 2.

Many feared that public services—such as water, electricity and sewage, as well as safety measures like a firehouse and adequate police protection—were being overlooked or inadequately planned for.

“We need these services in place before the people move in, before we need them, before the toilets start backing up,” said Elaine Marlovitch.

Although there will be an on-site firehouse, its location hasn’t been determined. Joe Restuccia, co-chairperson of Board 4’s Housing, Health and Human Services committee, warned that when the land rises in value, the city will find it impossible to compete for space with private interests.

Christine Berthet, co-chairperson of the board’s Transportation Planning Committee, was concerned that the two proposed garages of 800 spaces each would not be limited to accessory parking and would therefore be available to transient drivers. She also lamented the lack of a direct entrance to the subway. David Karnovsky, general counsel for the City Planning Commission, assured Berthet that the parking would be strictly accessory and the site would be connected to the subway “if we can find a way.”

Karnovsky also responded to the many people who wanted assurance regarding the future of the High Line. He denied that the High Line is at risk, because it is a “component of the open space network.” However, “We haven’t really finalized how we’re going to treat the High Line in the eastern yards yet,” he admitted. “We hope to resolve it.”

Although CB 4 had requested primarily residential development at reasonable density—“not monstrous buildings,” as Levin put it—Related is planning to build 5.7 million square feet distributed among seven buildings. These will be arranged in a cascade, with the tallest building—a commercial tower of 50 to 60 stories and 1.5 to 2.2 million square feet—at the northeast corner of the site and the lowest, 45 stories, at the southwest corner. The massive scale of the development—once jokingly referred to as the “Himalayas between Clinton and Chelsea” by Levin—unsurprisingly evoked many comments.

“You’re not listening to us,” said Chelsea resident Marguerite Yaghjian. “We’ve told you and told you time and again that we don’t want high buildings.”

Advocates also want more affordable housing, but not the way the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development and Related have proposed to provide it, at two off-site locations. One site for permanently affordable housing, owned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, lies on the east side of Ninth Ave. between 54th and 53rd Sts. The area has an 85-foot (nine stories) height restriction and would yield 89 units. In order to provide 19 additional units, HPD is proposing a zoning change that would raise the allowable height to 115 feet (12 stories).

The second site, owned by the city, provides primary access to the city’s third water tunnel, which is now under construction. It lies in the heart of the Special Clinton District, on the west side of 10th Ave. between 48th and 49th Sts. The developable portion sits over the Amtrak rail cut, or half the site. The zoning of the Special District, which has a building-height restriction of 66 feet (seven stories) and a 60-foot rear-yard requirement, would allow construction of two buildings with a total of 119 units. HPD is proposing a zoning change in order to build a single, C-shaped building, 10 to 11 stories (99 feet high), with 204 units.

“We fought for 40 years for the Special District,” said Richard Marans, of the 47-48th St. Block Association. “Now to have the city come along and stick a knife in our back, put a nail in the coffin of the Special District and ruin what makes us special.”

He added that the community doesn’t consider the second affordable housing site on 10th Ave. to be in context with the neighborhood.

“We consider the huge, massive, Soviet-style wall will block out air and light,” Marans said.

Speaking anonymously, an actress added, “I want to live in a city with historical perspective. I don’t want to live in a city that all of a sudden grows higher and higher and higher so we forget our history. Where’s your passion for saving our beautiful, historical spot?”

philvia Jun 18, 2009 7:05 PM

yes, lets please save the hudson rail yards... it's so beautiful and historical!

NYguy Jun 18, 2009 7:09 PM


Originally Posted by philvia (Post 4313913)
yes, lets please save the hudson rail yards... it's so beautiful and historical!

LOL, it almost boggles the mind..


Speaking anonymously, an actress added, “I want to live in a city with historical perspective. I don’t want to live in a city that all of a sudden grows higher and higher and higher so we forget our history. Where’s your passion for saving our beautiful, historical spot?”
Someone should inform that "actress" that she should study the history of Manhattan a little more. The skyscrapers always bloom there. Besides, the railyards will always be there, underneath the towers and parkland.


“You’re not listening to us,” said Chelsea resident Marguerite Yaghjian. “We’ve told you and told you time and again that we don’t want high buildings.”
And someone please tell that woman to put a lid on it.

samoen313 Jun 19, 2009 10:40 PM


Originally Posted by NYguy (Post 4313650)

“You’re not listening to us,” said Chelsea resident Marguerite Yaghjian. “We’ve told you and told you time and again that we don’t want high buildings.”

Not only do you live in a city, but you happen to be in New York City. And not only do you like in New York City, you live in Manhattan. What exactly were you expecting? A subdivision of ramblers? Townhomes?

NYguy Jun 19, 2009 11:30 PM


Originally Posted by samoen313 (Post 4316183)
Not only do you live in a city, but you happen to be in New York City. And not only do you like in New York City, you live in Manhattan. What exactly were you expecting? A subdivision of ramblers? Townhomes?

Yeah, it's almost sickening the nerve of these people. But that's what happens when people start believing that every whim must be catered to. It's fine and sometimes necessary for the public to have a voice in what's being built. But there is a rational limit to how far that extends. That lady is far, far beyond it.

antinimby Jun 20, 2009 1:37 AM

It's funny that most of the people that go to these things are anti-towers but no pro-development people show up.

NYguy Jun 20, 2009 4:17 AM


Originally Posted by antinimby (Post 4316476)
It's funny that most of the people that go to these things are anti-towers but no pro-development people show up.

That's mainly because people who are for developments don't feel there's anything to stop. On the other hand, NIMBYs are usually angry and demanding, and jump at the oppurtunity to complain or voice demands. There's a vague proposal for development over the railyards, yet what the NIMBYs do know is that there will be skyscrapers, and not just a few. There's hardly anything for even the strongest supporter of the railyard development to get excited about.

antinimby Jun 20, 2009 1:43 PM

Unfortunately, all the politicians hear are the NIMBY's side of the story so the perception is that "the public" is against development.

ardecila Jun 21, 2009 4:07 AM

Haha, so now there's a "silent majority" when it comes to zoning issues. I don't dispute the idea, but I think a lot of people are more anti-development than you think. It's just that there is a small vocal group willing to protest it. The rest might grumble about the taller buildings initially, and the construction hassles, but then come to accept it. Few people are explicitly pro-development, besides politicians, urban planners, and architects, because new development ALWAYS adds some level of extra traffic to the streets, sidewalks, and subways.

Krases Jun 21, 2009 5:17 AM

People are afraid of change, they get sentimental and don't want things to interrupt there lives even if it means slightly tweaking the local skyline.

I think this project is awesome and I really want to see the area around the new High Line (which I love) to be developed big time.

One way to combat NIMBYism would be for government to put out polls to people more often. Just needs to get an accurate piece of the population is all.

Zerton Jun 21, 2009 10:09 AM

Wow... It sounds like the people in that meeting chose the wrong city to live in. They don't like the size of the buildings? Do they realize they're in Manhattan? Are they insane? What happened here is really sad.

NYguy Jun 21, 2009 7:18 PM


Originally Posted by antinimby (Post 4317088)
Unfortunately, all the politicians hear are the NIMBY's side of the story so the perception is that "the public" is against development.

It depends. The savy politicians know when and when not to cave in to the NIMBYS. The difference is a project like Atlantic Yards or Willets Point, compared to a development like the Con Ed site or Riverside South. At the railyards development, there really is no height limit, but the buildings are limited in size, which is why those general heights are given.

Krases Jun 22, 2009 1:20 AM

Did the NIMBY's successfully shoot this down?

I hope not.

Crawford Jun 22, 2009 2:50 AM


Originally Posted by Krases (Post 4318993)
Did the NIMBY's successfully shoot this down?

I hope not.

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.

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