Volume 18 • Issue 17 | September 16 - 22, 2005

Gerson stalls Tribeca development

By Ronda Kaysen

City Councilmember Alan Gerson stalled a City Council vote last week on a Tribeca development, leaving the project’s future in doubt and setting the stage for a possible standoff between the mayor’s office and the City Council.

A dispute between developers of the Greenwich St. site and officials from P.S. 234, an elementary school located across the street, about construction noise was not resolved in time for a City Council vote on the project’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, a crucial step in authorizing the development.

Insisting a resolution must be hashed out before the development can move forward, Gerson delayed the vote until the Sept. 22 deadline. If an agreement is not reached, Gerson says he has the votes in the Council to reject the ULURP, a move that would derail the seven-month-long process, unless the mayor steps in and overrules the vote. The City Council would then have the power to veto the mayor’s decision by a 2/3 vote.

Developer Edward Minskoff has long maintained he intends to pile drive — a noisy excavation process — directly outside the school. With 65 of the school’s windows facing onto the construction site, parents and school officials balked at the possibility that their students might be subjected to as much as 12 weeks of mind numbing noise.

“Kids can’t go anywhere. Kids are essentially required to be in a classroom from 8:30 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon and that’s when they’re doing the pile driving,” said Kevin Doherty, president of the P.S. 234 P.T.A.

One proposed solution was to schedule the pile driving between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m., in effect sharing the burden between residents and schoolchildren, an option Gerson characterized as a last choice. “I’m optimistic it will not come to that,” he said.

Doherty’s apartment building, of which he is the president of the co-op board, also faces onto the development. “You need to ensure that when you are doing it [the construction], it’s in a community friendly way,” he said.

Other solutions include building a sound barrier between the school and the site and reducing the number of months of pile driving.

Minskoff Equities did not return calls for comment for this story.

Construction was originally expected to begin this summer but was delayed because Minskoff made changes to the development, a 1.1 million sq. ft. residential complex project bounded by Warren, Murray, Greenwich and West Sts., Gerson told Downtown Express. “We’re not going to harm our kids because of the delay,” he said.

But if an agreement is not hashed out with the developer and Gerson moves to block the project, the decision will come down to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who might not agree with Gerson’s assessment.

The site, dubbed Site 5B, is city-owned land sold to Minskoff as part of a residential development agreement brokered a year ago by Gerson and Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff. As part of the agreement, the developer agreed to build a community-friendly project.

The Economic Development Corporation, the city agency that selected the developers and negotiated the sale, has indicated that it thinks the development honors the spirit of the agreement and does not see any reason why the deal should be delayed.

“We believe we have a terrific project,” Janel Patterson, an E.D.C. spokesperson, said in a statement to Downtown Express. “We hope that no one would put this project at risk at this point in the process.”



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