Volume 18 • Issue 19 | Sep. 30 - Oct 06, 2005

Members of Community Board 1’s Tribeca Committee objected to a city proposal that would allow 160 foot buildings on four West St. blocks.

Tribecans object to plans to allow West St. towers

By Ellen Keohane

Local residents criticized the Dept. of City Planning’s plan to allow taller and bulkier buildings in Tribeca’s northwest corner at a Community Board 1 meeting last week.

The area of northern Tribeca under discussion, which is currently zoned as a manufacturing district, is bordered by Canal St. to the north, Broadway to the east, West St. to the west, and Walker St., Beach St., Ericsson Pl. and Hubert St. to the south.

Board members and residents who attended the Tribeca committee meeting on Sept. 21 said that since the proposed zoning changes would allow the construction of buildings up to 160 ft. tall along West St. it would block light and air as well as sight lines down to the water. “I’m really concerned about what amounts to a wall along the water,” said board member Julie Menin.

Community Board 1 members have previously said the height limit should be 120 feet.

Others at the meeting worried that the rezoning would facilitate increased development, which the neighborhood would not be able to support. Tribeca’s schools are already overcrowded and there aren’t enough parks to support this kind of development, said board member and Tribeca resident Giselle Hantz.

Northern Tribeca is currently zoned for manufacturing, which, aside from a few exceptions, does not allow new residential development. However, current zoning does allow existing buildings that are less than 5,000 square ft. to be converted for residential use. Larger buildings can also be converted, but only through government approval.

Rezoning of northern Tribeca has been long time coming. Southern Tribeca was rezoned in the 1990s, followed by Hudson Square last year. But it wasn’t until this year that C.B. 1 requested that northern Tribeca’s zoning be changed.

C.B. 1 requested the change after the Jack Parker Corporation, a developer, applied to change the zoning of four blocks between West and Washington Sts., and Watts and Hubert Sts. The developer’s rezoning application included a request to build up to 210 ft. along West St.

Parker’s lawyer Ken Lowenstein attended the Sept. 21 meeting. “We have nothing right now to present,” he said when questioned about the Parker site. He did not comment on the presentation or anything said at the meeting.

Edith Hsu-Chen, who presented City Planning’s rezoning plan, said that the meeting was the start of discussions between the community and the city. Citty Planning intends to continue meetings with C.B. 1 throughout the fall. An environmental study of the area should begin by the end of this year, and the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) should start in the late spring or early summer, Hsu-Chen said.

Before coming up with a rezoning plan for northern Tribeca, City Planning analyzed the neighborhood block-by-block, focusing on the existing character of the area, said Hsu-Chen. Most of the buildings in northern Tribeca are six to 12 stories and 80 to 140 ft. tall, with larger buildings near the Holland Tunnel and smaller buildings near Chinatown. The city kept these existing building heights in mind when coming up with the proposed rezoning, she said. Currently there are no specific building height limits on the area under discussion.

The city’s proposal divided northern Tribeca into three sections. The first section, which is near the Holland Tunnel, will be rezoned as a C6-2A mixed-use district, with an overall building height of 120 ft. and 6 F.A.R., or floor-to-area ratio, which is the amount of living space allowed in a building in relation to its lot size.

The second section, which borders Chinatown, will also be rezoned as a C6-2A with an overall building height of 120 ft. and F.A.R. of 5.

The western edge of northern Tribeca, which was the third section outlined in the proposal, will be changed to a C6-3A with an overall building height of 160 ft. and 7.5 F.A.R. The zoning of the western section drew the greatest number of complaints from residents and board members at the meeting.

“The theory [of rezoning] sounds great on paper, but the reality, we have to live with for a long time,” explained Tribeca resident Barbara Siegel.


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