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.