Volume 18, Number 37 | Jan. 27 - Feb. 2, 2006

City says Arman project’s hardship claim may be creative

Diagram of the proposed Arman Building at Canal and Greenwich Sts.

By Chad Smith

The city’s Board of Standards and Appeals expressed skepticism on Tuesday about the economic hardship claim submitted for the soon-to-be Arman building at 482 Greenwich St.

Meenakshi Srinivasan, chairperson of the B.S.A., had particular qualms with the quoted cost of construction material. The cost, she said, with a hint of sarcasm, might have been “slightly exaggerated,” and she asked for a resubmission.

The builders need to prove an economic hardship in order to get a variance to surpass their eight-story zoning limit and build 11 floors. The only way to turn a profit, builders argue, is by constructing to those heights.

Architects from Thomas McKay, the firm working with the developer, Red Brick L.L.C., also tried to prove hardship by drawing attention to the irregular shape of the building’s space on the corner of Greenwich and Canal Sts. The architects say that the irregularly shaped triangular space will cost much more to build on.

When asked by the board whether he had considered how the building would affect the community, one of the developer’s architects said that he “knew it wouldn’t have an adverse one, because the five similar buildings that have recently gone up in the area are doing fine.”

The B.S.A. over the last few years has granted several zoning variances to Hudson Square developers, who used them to build tall condos close to the Arman project. The variances prompted the City Planning Commission to change the neighborhood’s zoning two years ago to allow for residential uses and set less strict height limits.

Community members Tuesday said that the Arman space was never suitable for a tall building, anyhow.

“The developer is simply wanting to impose more on this lot than it can handle,” said Richard Barrett, an architect who spoke on behalf of the local residents and building owners against a taller construction.

The only two of the five B.S.A. commissioners to speak on the matter, Srinivasan and James Chin, both were skeptical of the developer’s economic case, questioned the size of the building and the need for terraces.

Tuesday’s developments were just another strain in the already taut relationship between community and builders on Greenwich St. It all started over a year ago, when Red Brick Canal approached the acclaimed sculptor Arman with the hopes of purchasing his land and building a residence that bore his name. Arman, who died in October, bought the property in 1977, and its value has since soared.

The building will be designed in the spirit of the artist’s work, with an Arman sculpture facing the corner on Canal. Although those who knew the artist are not arguing with the aesthetics of the design, Arman “didn’t want the building to be so high,” according to Victoria Faust, who has lived on Canal St. for 30 years. The sculptor was alive when the plan was first submitted and never opposed it publicly.

The battle continues as the board will reconvene to hear the case on March 7.


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