Volume 18 • Issue 9 | July 22 - 28, 2005

Committee rejects part of sculptor’s building plan

By Albert Amateau

Community Board 2’s zoning committee last week took on the hotly debated set of variances sought by the sculptor, Arman, from the Board of Standards and Appeals to allow denser development on his wedge-shaped property at Greenwich and Canal Sts.

At the end of the July 14 meeting, the committee voted against one of Arman’s applications, which would allow him to build a mixed use residential/commercial project at 482 Greenwich St. 11 stories high and covering 25,000 sq. feet instead of eight stories high and covering 18,880 sq. ft. currently allowed

However, Arman’s other variance request to allow the proposed project to cover 98 percent of the lot instead of the 80 percent currently allowed won the approval of a majority of the committee.

Neighbors who bitterly oppose every aspect of Arman’s application were miffed that their testimony was cut short because previous agenda items had made the July 14 meeting too long to accommodate all the speakers.

Kate Koster, a neighbor who lives at 481 Greenwich St. across from the Arman property, said that opponents would protest at the July 21 full board meeting and urge Community Board 2 to recommend that B.S.A. reject the entire Arman application.

Two years ago, the City Planning Commission changed the zoning in the southern end of Hudson Square, including Arman’s site, from manufacturing to residential/commercial and increased the allowable floor-to-area ratio from 5 to 6.02.

Floor-to-area ratio refers to the floor area a building may cover in relation to the area of the lot.

The variance sought by Arman and Red Brick Canal L.L.C., a group that has a contract to buy the property, calls for an F.A.R. of 7.98, an increase that neighbors and the zoning committee last week agreed was excessive.

However, David Reck, committee chairperson, said later that a majority of the committee members thought the site’s odd shape justified allowing the owner to cover nearly 100 percent of the lot instead of 80 under existing rules.

Koster two weeks had said that opponents would appeal directly to Amanda Burden, City Planning Commissioner, to support the commission’s 2003 zoning and testify against the variance at the B.S.A. Standards and Appeals, however, has not yet set a hearing date.

Arman’s application also seeks to allow the Canal St. side of the building to rise 111 feet before setting back instead of the current 85-foot setback height. Reck said the committee decided that if its recommendation not to exceed the 6.02 F.A.R. were followed, the project would not rise above the current setback height.

The committee also voted to support another variance to allow a curb cut on the Greenwich St. side of the project for access to a ground floor parking facility in the project.

The property, which Arman, an internationally known sculptor, has owned since 1977, is a paved lot with an existing one-story garage on one corner and a 50-ft. by seven-ft. billboard facing Canal St. It also comes to a 55-degree angle at the corner of Greenwich and Canal Sts.

The B.S.A. may grant variances if applicants prove they cannot make a reasonable return on their investment by building as-of-right, without any variances. But applicants must also show that the variance would not have a significant negative impact on the neighborhood.

Arman contends the odd shape of the lot and the fact that the property is on the historic shoreline of Manhattan would make development very expensive and unlikely to yield a reasonable return under existing zoning.

Many neighbors, however, say the variance would have an extremely negative impact. The added bulk and the increased lot coverage would reduce light and air, neighbors say. They also claim the bulkier building would interrupt the main flow of air down Canal St., which blows away the exhaust from cars idling at the entrance to the Holland Tunnel.



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