Preservationists blast tech hub plan

Site of the future Tech Hub on East 14th Street at Irving Place (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Neighborhood preservationists were disappointed that City Council’s approval for the proposed Tech Hub on East 14th Street at Irving Place last Thursday didn’t include specific rezoning to protect the area south of the new center, while Council Member Carlina Rivera celebrated the unanimous vote for the plan, claiming that the city is working on putting neighborhood protections in place. The City Council’s Committee on Land Use approved the project at the beginning of the month and the full Council approved the measure last Thursday.

Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation executive director Andrew Berman criticized Rivera, who represents the area on East 14th where the new tech center will be built as well as the neighborhood to the south, for voting yes on the plan, noting that she campaigned on the issue and promised she would only vote for it with specific protections for the surrounding neighborhood.

“The City Council’s deal approves the mayor’s Tech Hub with just a fraction of a fraction of the protections the surrounding neighborhood needs and called for, and which Rivera promised to condition her vote upon,” Berman said. “The approval of the Tech Hub will accelerate the transformation of the adjacent Greenwich Village and East Village neighborhoods into an extension of ‘Midtown South’ and ‘Silicon Alley,’ which many developers and real estate interests have already begun to call them. We are seeing 300-foot tall office and condo towers going up in this area and 300-room hotels being built, which are completely out of character for these neighborhoods, with many more to come.”

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Council committees support East Midtown Rezoning plan

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.

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Village residents, CB2 fighting for height limits south of Union Square

The former Bowlmor building at the corner of East 12th Street and University Place is the location of a proposed 23-story residential tower, opposed by community residents. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

The former Bowlmor building at the corner of East 12th Street and University Place is the location of a proposed 23-story residential tower, opposed by community residents. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community Board 2’s land use committee voted to support a contextual rezoning proposal from the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation that would impose height limits on new developments in the area directly south of Union Square at a meeting on January 14.

The attempt to rezone the area was spurred by a proposed development on the site of former bowling alley Bowlmor on University Place at East 12th Street and the rezoning would cover the area of the University Place and Broadway corridors between East 8th and 14th Streets.

The meeting in mid-January, held at Grace Church High School, was packed with about 50 area residents, primarily those living in the area for the proposed rezoning. Those in attendance were concerned about the impact a 23-story, 308-foot tall residential tower would have on the character of the neighborhood.

Developer William Macklowe filed plans for the tower last September and the GVSHP has been fighting the plans since, but considering the lengthy rezoning process, Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation executive director Andrew Berman noted at the meeting that it was unlikely that even if the rezoning is successful, it is unlikely to have an impact on this particular building.

“There are very rare cases that you get rezoning to happen, development stalls and then construction has to stop, but that’s unlikely,” Berman said.

“One thing we can do is make our rezoning move forward as quickly as possible. Maybe by some miracle it will capture this building. I don’t want people to count on that being the case but regardless, we should move ahead with this as quickly as humanly possible.”

Berman said that the boundaries for the proposed rezoning area were chosen for various reasons, primarily due to the surrounding areas already being protected by landmark status and other adjacent areas that already have contextual rezoning. He also noted that on adjacent blocks that weren’t included in the proposal area, there are a substantial number of buildings owned by NYU and while there are architecturally significant buildings that need protecting as well, the process would be different.

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