Pols ask Blackstone’s intentions on ST air rights

Comptroller Scott Stringer Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Comptroller Scott Stringer (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Local elected officials, while generally enthusiastic about the deal that the city has struck with Blackstone for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, still have some concerns about the details of the agreement, specifically regarding air rights.

Those four officials — Comptroller Scott Stringer, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney — addressed some of these issues in a letter to Jonathan Gray, the global head of real estate for the company, on Monday.

According to the Department of City Planning, “air rights” refers to the difference between the maximum amount of floor area that is allowed on a zoning lot and the actual built floor area. A transfer of air rights, sometimes known as unused development rights, allows that space to be transferred from one zoning lot to another, usually used to preserve historic buildings or open space. Air rights can usually be shifted from one adjacent lot to another but in the cases where historic buildings or open spaces are at stake, a transfer to a different location farther away is sometimes permitted.

One of the main concerns in the letter was the difference between the publicly reported amount of air rights available in Stuy Town and Peter Cooper and the data available from the Department of City Planning, which includes community facility uses in their estimate, and the impact this could have on the surrounding neighborhood. Public reporting indicated that 700,000 square feet of air rights are available while the DCP said that the unused air rights could amount to 10.7 million square feet, a difference that the letter said could be “staggering” to critical infrastructure.

“A change of this potential magnitude deserves immediate public disclosure and discussion,” the letter said.

Some of the questions included in the letter inquired about the scale of density of the air rights that Blackstone is intending to transfer, the company’s intended timeline and if Blackstone intends to concentrate the new density on one site or multiple sites.

Gray responded to the letter from the elected officials the following day, noting that Blackstone has no current plans with regard to the potential transfer of air rights.

“We indicated our willingness to commit not to build and to maintain the important open spaces in the complex, and we simply asked for the city’s support if we sought to transfer air rights to another site,” he said. “We fully understand that such a transfer would require a thorough public process, including formal land use review, public review and votes by the community board, borough president and City Council.”

He added that if the company decides to submit such a request, he’s well aware that Blackstone is required to go through the full process and promised to discuss the plan in detail with the elected officials and the community at that time.

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4 thoughts on “Pols ask Blackstone’s intentions on ST air rights

  1. IT’S REAL SIMPLE: JUST FOLLOW THE MONEY

    I happened to be in an eatery within near PCV/ST and was sitting next to a table where there was a vigorous conversation going on between both GOPers and Dems. There was disagreement but, all agreed that rent laws legislation was a function of the paying of the members of the NYS bicameral assembly and senate.

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo set up the Moreland Committee because we all know that Albany is as corrupt as D. C. — even more so, if that is possible. When they got too close to him and his friends, the commission was fin.

    It is we who elect and pay them to represent the people’s interests — instead most of them take monies from the greedy and really have no interest in serving us.

  2. This matter of air rights is a bit confusing to me. Air rights are as-of-right to a specific tax lot. In certain instances these air rights can be transferred to adjoining lots (or more circuitously, from non-adjoining lots through adjoining lots). But in NYC, the air rights cannot be transferred from/to non-adjoining lots unless specifically approved by the municipal government (think City Planning and Zoning approvals).

    So why does this issue raise such concern in elected officials? The approval process (a tedious one at best) would require the support of the elected officials , think Mr. Garodnick’s required approvals of the East Side rezoning plan and the SL Green’s One Vanderbilt rezoning. While rezoning is not exactly similar to air rights transfers, the processes run along a similar approval road.

    Has the government already agreed to support a Blackstone air rights transfer (which government officials?)? And now that this agreement to support the transfer has seen daylight are they (and other politicians) trying to cover their political posteriors?

    Also, the letter sent to Blackstone was from Stringer, Maloney, Hoylman and Kavanagh. Garodnick and de Blasio were not listed as signatories. Is there a divide among democrats? And how does this divide affect the pawns in this deal (tenants of STPCV)?

  3. Why didn’t that little twerp confer with his joined-at-the-hip pal, Dan, about this? Remember, these two had an “arrangement” that enabled Stringer to run for Comptroller (I voted for Spitzer) even though Dan had said he wanted hat job. There has to be something more than Stringer stamping his little feet and holding his breath that made DG capitulate and let him have the job.

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