Year of the ULURP

From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, 2011 was the Year of the Protester. Now, from Greenwich Village to Hudson Square to the Lower East Side, 2012 is shaping up to be the Year of the ULURP.

Several massive plans are in the works, with some already underway. For each, a ULURP (the city’s uniform land-use review procedure) must be conducted. The seven-to-nine-month-long vettings are performed for major projects affecting land use.

First, there is the ULURP for Rudin Management’s plan to redevelop the former St. Vincent’s Hospital site, at 12th St. and Seventh Ave., into a 450-unit, residential condo complex. In October, Community Board 2, in a hard-hitting resolution, rejected the residential upzoning Rudin seeks, adding that Rudin should also provide affordable housing in the plan, as well as “provide actual financial support” toward opening a new district public school.

We feel Borough President Scott Stringer, in his subsequent review of the plan — to which he gave his approval — should have made a stronger push for an affordable housing component. This was a missed opportunity. It now remains to be seen what the City Planning Commission and City Council will do in their phases of the review. Speaker Chris Quinn will have the chance to call on Rudin to make a greater financial commitment for a new school, an opportunity we hope she seizes.

As for the $110 million free-standing emergency department and Center for Comprehensive Care that North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System plans in the former St. Vincent’s O’Toole Building, this isn’t part of the ULURP. But, as we’ve stated before, we support this project as probably the best that we can get for now.

Even more massive is New York University’s plan for its campus “core” area, part of its “N.Y.U. 2031” expansion plan. This proposal calls for adding 2.4 million square feet of space on the university’s two South Village superblocks.

Board 2’s 60-day ULURP review for N.Y.U.’s application starts this month. As a preview, on Wed., Jan. 4, 300 concerned Villagers attended a “Community United Town Hall on N.Y.U. 2031” at which community leaders reviewed the plan and outlined why residents oppose it. Then, on Mon., Jan. 9, C.B. 2’s Zoning Committee held another meeting, and so many people showed up that the venue had to be changed.

Such turnouts are proof that community input is valuable, worthwhile and not to be ignored.

The plan calls for adding at least 1,000 freshman student beds, an N.Y.U. hotel and, within Washington Square Village, two new infill buildings. Also, there’s the issue of N.Y.U.’s pledge to include a public school in the plan. Did N.Y.U. initially offer to build the school’s “core and shell,” but then scale back that proposal to only offer the land? This must be answered.

Then there’s Trinity’s plan to seek a residential rezoning for Hudson Square, the former Printing District. We think Trinity’s proposal, which will come before C.B. 2 in the spring, is basically sound. It would allow limited residential use, keep out big hotels, downzone midblocks, attract retail use and add street life to a district that currently becomes desolate at night. Adding to this project’s attractiveness, Trinity has pledged to build the “core and shell” for a new public school at Duarte Square.

On the Lower East Side, the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area will also be moving forward. After finally reaching consensus on development guidelines, the community must keep up the momentum on plans for SPURA.

It’s up to the public, our community boards and elected officials and City Planning to ensure we get these ULURP’s right — because this is our only chance. Nothing less than the future of our treasured neighborhoods, whether above or below Canal Street, is at stake; and the influence of community input in these instances must never be underestimated.

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