Council committee backs half of Hudson Sq. plan

By Albert Amateau

The Department of City Planning was only half successful in convincing the City Council zoning subcommittee on Mon. July 21 to approve a proposal to allow residential development in the Hudson Sq. manufacturing district.

The subcommittee voted in favor of residential uses in the southern end of the district and against allowing new residences in the north end, a course recommended by City Councilmember Christine Quinn, Community Board 2 and Village civic organizations.

The Council land use committee was expected to follow suit on Tues. July 22, according to Quinn.

City Planning had proposed the rezoning of the south and north ends of the manufacturing district as a single amendment to the zoning code. The department must now issue a formal ruling on whether separating the two rezoning areas falls within the scope of the original proposal. The full Council must then approve the measure before it becomes part of the zoning code.

In response to a question by Quinn, Richard Barth, executive director of City Planning said on Monday that the separation does indeed comply with the scope of the proposal, making it likely that the subcommittee action could result in new zoning as early as next month.

“The rezoning of the northern section is opposed by almost everyone,” Quinn said later. “The Council action will ensure that if City Planning wants to rezone the north end, it will have to go through a new land use review.”

The proposed zoning for the northern portion, bounded by Barrow and Morton Sts. on the north, Hudson St. on the east, Clarkson St. the south and West St. on the west, called for a mixed-use district allowing residential conversions and new development while permitting existing and new manufacturing uses.

In the south end, bounded by Spring and Canal Sts. and by Washington and Hudson Sts., the new zoning would allow residential development and existing manufacturing uses but new manufacturing would be prohibited.

“The changes in the south are the only ones I’m comfortable with,” said Quinn. “Allowing residential uses at both ends would put a squeeze on manufacturing in the middle,” Quinn said.

However, Lisa LaFrieda, a Community Board 2 member and partner in Pat LaFrieda Meats, a meat wholesale firm on Leroy St. within the north area, said she was in favor of the rezoning. La Frieda said that neighbors who claim they want to keep manufacturing uses in the district are being disingenuous.

“They don’t like us much,” La Frieda said. “A business neighbor wants to move because the neighbors complain about noise and truck traffic from their loading dock. And they can’t find a buyer because nobody want to be in the same position.” La Frieda, however, insisted she does not intend to move her business or develop the property. “We don’t want to keep fighting variances,” she added, referring to variances granted by Board of Standards and Appeals in the district.

The B.S.A. granted a variance more than a year ago for a 155-ft. tall project now under construction between Morton and Leroy Sts. from West to Washington Sts., which covers more than 345,000 sq. ft. and will include 147 apartments plus accessory parking for 68 cars, general parking for 72 cars and ground floor retail space.

Opponents of the north end rezoning said the reality of the real estate market would impel property-owners to convert existing industrial buildings to more profitable residential uses. The city estimates that there are about 3,000 jobs in 150 manufacturing firms in the entire Hudson Sq. neighborhood, and opponents said many of them would be lost in the north section with the proposed zoning change.

Katy Bordonaro, president of the West Village Houses, a moderate income Mitchell-Lama housing complex that lies just outside the northern end of the district, said that rising real estate values resulting from residential conversions would spill over into the West Village Houses area and eventually displace moderate income residents.

Zack Winestine, a West Village activist, noted that the city has granted subsidies to keep manufacturing firms at 110 Leroy St., within the proposed northern area. “The rezoning proposal would have the opposite effect,” he reasoned.

But Jeff Alexander, owner of Kopper’s Chocolates, at 39 Clarkson St., a 70-year-old chocolate maker, also pleaded for the rezoning, implying that it would make it easier for him to find a buyer for his building. “We are now surrounded by residential neighbors who complain about the smells and truck traffic,” he said.

Jonathan Poloik, a partner in the firm that owns 609 Greenwich St. at the corner of Leroy St., also urged rezoning of the north end of the district. He said his building has lost a major industrial tenant and rezoning would allow more flexible land use.


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