Volume 18 • Issue 27 | November 18 - 24, 2005


Protecting the rezoning

A rezoning battle is brewing in north Tribeca and the longer it continues without being resolved the more likely it will be that inappropriately large towers will be allowed to be built in this part of Downtown that is currently so ripe for development.

Jack Parker Corporation wants to change zoning on four blocks of north Tribeca to allow buildings as tall as 250 feet. Community Board 1 has answered by saying new buildings should be no taller than 120 feet. City Planning has floated a number between the two, the last height it proposed being 160 feet. C.B. 1 isn’t happy with Planning’s offer, and Planning is considering the board’s comments.

There’s nothing indicating that Planning and C.B. 1 won’t reach a compromise over this 40-foot difference. However, there is a concern, namely that the rezoning must start moving faster. If not, then developers, in some cases, will still be free to build huge towers under the old zoning: if developers vest their foundations — get them in the ground — before the new zoning is approved, they will be allowed to build under the old zoning’s more lax restrictions.

A textbook example of this problem can be seen just to the north, where the community, local politicians and City Planning worked long and hard to achieve a new downzoning for the Far West Village that was implemented on Oct. 11.

Local preservationists and neighbors charge that the artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel was racing to get the foundation for a 110-foot-tall tower addition to his three-story W. 11th St. building near the Hudson River laid before the cutoff date, and that his workers were doing construction during unpermitted hours. The Department of Buildings has put a temporary stop-work order on the project while determining whether Schnabel, in fact, tried to illegally skirt the new restrictions.

Plus, one has to wonder if, as he was rushing to get in under the deadline, Schnabel may have taken shortcuts in the construction of his foundation. If he did, it could mean the foundation he tried to build in haste may not be up to legal code and consistent with his filed plans.

We sincerely hope D.O.B. does its due diligence and doesn’t let Schnabel off the hook. Certainly, out of respect for all the effort the community and City Planning did in creating this splendid rezoning, every effort must be made to protect the new Far West Village district’s integrity. If D.O.B. does the right thing and rules that this planned monster tower is illegal under the new zoning, it would be an excellent first step toward insuring that protection.

To keep noncontextual behemoth towers from being built in north Tribeca — and also to safeguard that developers aren’t encouraged to try to rush their foundations into the ground to beat a rezoning — Planning and C.B. 1 should work together to put a new zoning into effect, quickly. Otherwise, a delay could result in “another Schnabel.”


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