Council Member Dan Garodnick discusses how current zoning egulations have stunted commercial growth in East Midtown. (Pictured) Assembly Member Dan Quart, Garodnick, Council Member David Greenfield, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
On Thursday, Council Member Dan Garodnick and a few other elected officials celebrated another step in bringing East Midtown rezoning closer to reality. Earlier in the day, a revised plan for rezoning, a project that’s been in the works since the Bloomberg administration, was approved by the Council’s Zoning & Franchises Sub-Committee. Later, the Land Use Committee would also give the plan its blessing as would the mayor. The full Council is expected to vote on the plan in August.
Takeaways of the plan include mandating that any developer looking to take advantage of building bigger and higher than what is currently allowed have 75 feet of building frontage. Any building that has more than 30,000 square feet must have open space accessible to the public, also known as POPS (privately owns public spaces). Additionally, before a building can even be occupied, the developer will have to first make an assigned infrastructural transit improvement in the district.
As part of its $5.45 billion sale of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, new owner Blackstone has also acquired the property’s air rights. Blackstone has said those will be used elsewhere in the city and has committed not to build over ST/PCV’s open spaces or to redevelop existing structures.
Recently, the New York Post’s Lois Weiss noted that those air or redevelopment rights (roughly one million square feet) include about 250,000 square feet that have been retained through a Stuyvesant Town associated LLC. These include 200,000 square feet for a community facility, 25,000 for residential and 25,000 for commercial, the Post said, adding that the rights could be worth $625 million.
Additionally, Weiss later reported that the aforementioned figures actually fell short of the actual amount of air rights — that, according to Comptroller Scott Stringer, there were actually 10.7 million square feet of transferable air or development rights. This meant that even at a discounted rate, they could fetch an addition $1 million.
I read with interest the reported comments about noise issues (“Residents sound off about noise,” T&V, Oct. 22). I offer three observations coupled with comments.
1. Neighbor noise. Meet your neighbors; slip a note under their door welcoming them and introducing yourself when you see the trail of packing materials indicative of the arrival of a potential friend. First impressions have always been the most powerful, and this is a positive “hi.”
Then if/when there is a noise issue drop a note the day after the karaoke party/clog dance on bare floors/wild animal baying at the moon incident. Only after that contact the ST/PCV office. Trying to solve strictly local concerns with a Public Safety response is guaranteed to generate a “to hell with them” response.
2. The 80/20 floor coverage. I applaud this formula, and personally leap from rug to rug like a mad Frogger player in an effort to keep my neighbors happy. Since it is a condition of the lease I would like to see a Grand Poobah who does inspect and verify this on an annual basis.
3. Ambient noise. My biggest gripe is with the day to day outside noise, generated by the overpowered 4x4s on the sidewalks, the five full weeks of construction involved in the ice rink, the all-day racket of the paper shredding truck, the leaf blowers on the weekend, movie and concert nights on the green.
I’d be happy if management did less for me and let this be a quiet place.
Blackstone’s $5.3 billion purchase of Stuy Town also bought the firm a jumbo 700,000 square feet of air rights that could wind up being “just the tip of the iceberg” in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to preserve and build affordable housing in the city, according to one expert.
News of the air rights in Stuy Town — and new owner Blackstone’s claim over them, along with the 110-building property, was reported in the Wall Street Journal last week.
While the value of the air or development rights wasn’t clear since it depends where they’d end up, commercial real estate attorney Michael Greenberg, also founder and CEO of the Level Group brokerage firm, predicted many more similar arrangements in the future as the city looks for creative ways to get those elusive units of affordable housing.
In Stuyvesant Town, this meant preservation, and if air rights are transferred elsewhere, possibly new affordable housing.
Blackstone and its partner in the Stuy Town deal, Ivanhoe Cambridge, have gotten the city’s support to transfer the Stuy Town air rights since the owner has made a commitment not to build on the property’s open spaces or its existing structures.
“What’s unusual is that it’s rare for the city to allow it — there have been requests for them to allow the transfer to sites that are not contiguous or to other neighborhoods even,” said Greenberg.
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.