Some residents oppose more housing
in north Hudson Sq.

By Albert Amateau

The City Planning Commission heard conflicting opinions last week on whether to allow residential development in the north and south ends of the Hudson Sq. manufacturing district.

The rezoning of the manufacturing areas, where developers in recent years have been seeking and often winning residential variances from the Board of Standards and Appeals, was proposed by City Planning after a year of study.

Community Board 2 in March voted to recommend allowing residential development in the south end of the district bounded by Spring, Washington Canal and Hudson Sts. But the board voted against allowing new residential buildings in the north end of the district bounded by Morton and Barrow Sts. on the north, Hudson St. on the east, Clarkson and Leroy Sts. on the south and West St. on the West.

In the north, the proposal calls for a mixed-use district, which would allow both residential and industrial new construction, but it is being opposed by some residents who fear that more housing will raise property values and drive out manufacturing uses.

In the south, the proposed zoning reduces the allowable density and height of new buildings and allows existing industrial and commercial uses to continue. But new manufacturing buildings would not be allowed in the south under the proposed zoning.

At the May 7 City Planning Commission hearing, most residents in the north end spoke in favor of the board position opposing the northern rezoning. Some speakers urged City Planning to separate the proposal into two issues, one north and the other south.

Amanda Burden, head of City Planning, said the commission would consider all suggestions made at the hearing and would revisit both the north and south ends of the district before deciding on the new zoning. The City Planning Commission must vote on the matter by June 30. The City Council may then choose to review the matter; if it declines, the zoning goes into effect unless vetoed by the mayor, although that would be unlikely considering the mayor appoints most of the Planning Commissioners.

Ellen Peterson Lewis told the commission that although the north end zoning calls for both industrial and residential development, the result would inevitably encourage conversion of manufacturing building to higher value residential use.

Zack Winestine, a member of the Greenwich Village Community Task Force, agreed and said the proposed zoning would disrupt “the delicate balance of the mix of existing uses and involve the loss of jobs.”

However, Lisa LaFrieda, a partner in Pat LaFrieda Meats on Leroy and West St. and a Community Board 2 member, urged the commission to approve the zoning since she doesn’t think residents really like living near industrial buildings. “You should disregard the statement of people who say they like the mix of residential and light manufacturing,” she said. “They’re the people who complain that we create too much noise with garbage pickups, that we produce odors, that we are in violation of one thing or another.”

LaFrieda, however, said she intends to continue her wholesale meat business in the Hudson Sq. north end but she insisted that industrial property owners should have the option to convert their premises to apartments.

Gary Parker, an aide to Assemblymember Deborah Glick, said the rezoning of the north end of the district was ill timed. He agreed that the zoning proposal should be split in two and urged the commission to wait until the impact of the Hudson River Park’s redevelopment of Pier 40 is assessed and how the impeding Mitchell-Lama buyout of the West Village Houses will affect the neighborhood.

Katy Bordonaro, president of the West Village Houses Tenants and a member of the Greenwich Village Community Task Force, was concerned that allowing residential development in the north manufacturing district would increase property values and put pressure on affordable housing such as the West Village complex. West Village tenants hope to keep the complex affordable after the landlord leaves the subsidized Mitchell-Lama program.

Maria Passannante Derr, an attorney and a new member of Community Board 2, spoke in favor of the north zoning proposal, noting that industrial firms have been leaving Hudson Sq. over the past couple of decades. She said the new zoning would stimulate and stabilize the neighborhood.

State Senator Tom Duane and City Councilmember Christine Quinn also support the community board and opposed rezoning the north end of Hudson Sq. Duane and Quinn are calling for a modification of the south end proposal to allow new manufacturing as well as residential development.

Commissioners Joseph Rose and Irwin Cantor both felt that refusing to rezone the north end to allow residential development would encourage applications for variances – in effect, would perpetuate spot zoning by means of the Board of Standards and Appeals.

Community board members, however, said they have a greater chance to control development by opposing variances before the B.S.A. However, the community board lost its bid before the B.S.A. last year to stop the J. D. Carlisle Co. from developing the residential complex currently under construction at the former Yellow Freight yard on the square block between Washington and West Sts from Morton to Leroy Sts.

In the south, the community board and members of the Greenwich Village task force members are urging a modification in the zoning proposal to allow new manufacturing development as well as new residential buildings.

Richard Barrett, an artist in residence in a mixed-use condominium at 533 Canal St. and a founder of the Canal West Coalition, supported the southern rezoning, but recommended that the proposed new zoning classification be R7X not C6-2A, as R7X has a lower floor-to-area ratio, and, as an overlay, maintains manufacturing uses as of right. He noted that his building has commercial companies on the floors above artists’ live-work space. If the condo wanted to convert to a strictly residential certificate of occupancy, commercial uses would only be allowed on the ground floor.

David Reck, a C.B.2 board member and president of the Friends of Hudson Square, congratulated the planning commission on the process that led to the proposal and said, “Not only do I support this, but it’s overdue... Let’s get it done!” When asked after the meeting about the chances for passage, Reck said, “The south proposal is likely to make it all the way down the road but the north proposal is going to die.” He said the big issue in the south zone is determining the F.A.R., which directly impacts on height and bulk, and that the 6.02 F.A.R. specified in the rezoning application was the right number. “I know that there are those who have asked City Planning for an F.A.R. of seven or above, but if it goes as low as five, we’re back to variances and the B.S.A.”

In the southern end, many current residential uses pre-date the manufacturing zoning of the past 30 years. Moreover, the B.S.A. has granted three large residential variances in recent years, the latest being Place Vendome’s 11-story apartment tower designed by Philip Johnson on Spring and Washington Sts.


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