More park space needed in Hudson Square

The City Planning Commission approved a major rezoning for an 18-block area of Hudson Square at the end of last month. Propelling the rezoning is Trinity Real Estate, which feels legalizing residential use in the currently manufacturing-zoned former “Printing District” will create a better, more balanced neighborhood.

Trinity projects the plan — creating a 25 percent residential enclave — would add 6,000 to 8,000 new residents within the next 10 years.

As we’ve previously stated, we support a residential rezoning for Hudson Square. It will create more of a 24/7 neighborhood in an area now desolate at night and on weekends. It will attract much-needed retail amenities, particularly, a supermarket, which the neighborhood’s current residents — who constitute only 4 percent of the area’s occupancy — desperately want.

Also, critically, the rezoning caps building heights in a district currently with no height limits at all — which resulted in the 450-foot-tall Trump Soho condo-hotel.

However, as we’ve said from the start, we think the heights Trinity seeks are too high. Its recommended height of 320 feet on wide avenues is more fitting for Midtown zoning.

Borough President Scott Stringer, in his part of the ULURP (uniform land use review procedure) got Trinity to lower this height to 290 feet, the level City Planning just approved.

However, that’s still taller than Community Board 2’s recommendations — 250 feet with affordable housing included, and 210 feet without. We agree with C.B. 2. The board also urged that the rezoning address the issue of open space. Specifically, a new population of 8,000 residents, under city standards, requires 12 acres of open space. The proposed rezoning district currently meets standards for passive — but not active — recreational space, the latter of which is 1.71 acres per 1,000 residents.

In a district where there really isn’t anywhere to “go horizontal” for open space, the community board hit upon the idea of “going vertical,” recommending that Trinity create a 50,000-square-foot community recreation center on three floors of the extra-tall (originally designed at 430 feet) residential tower it plans at Duarte Square, at Canal St. and Sixth Ave. One acre is 43,000 square feet, so this rec center would help partially address the open space imbalance.

There is a desperate need for more recreation and school space in the broad Lower Manhattan area, and this plan has the potential to provide enormous help.

Trinity, admirably, already has committed to including space for a 444-seat public elementary school in this building’s base, but it needs to go a step further now toward helping solve the area’s open space problem.

In the end, what City Planning voted to approve was that — once building permits have been issued for 1,000 new units of housing — Trinity will pay $5.6 million to be used for the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center, at Clarkson St. and Seventh Ave. South or, at the Parks Department’s discretion, for other recreation centers in the vicinity. Dapolito, however, isn’t in the actual rezoning area, though it is in the so-called affected “study area.” Needless to say, David Gruber, C.B. 2 chairperson, said he was “not happy” about this development.

Gruber assures that Trinity could still construct a tower at Duarte Square with a 9 F.A.R. (floor area ratio) if both a school and rec center are included — just that Trinity would have to rejigger the building’s massing a bit. And, frankly, as terrific as the venerable Clarkson St. rec center is, it’s heavily used already. Some might argue that Pier 40, with its large sports field, is nearby. Yet that facility is extremely heavily used by local youth and adult leagues and schools.

In short, we need more active recreation facilities in this neck of the woods as it is today, right now. And, after all, wouldn’t that only be in keeping with Mayor Bloomberg’s health initiatives?

The City Council now has a month to vote on the rezoning, before which there will be a required public hearing. The open space issue must be addressed.

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