Volume 18 • Issue 38 | February 3 - 9, 2006


Planning a sensible zoning for north Tribeca 

The City Planning Department should begin to take the same type of community leadership role in north Tribeca that it has shown the last three years in adjacent Hudson Square.

Amanda Burden, City Planning’s commissioner, recently wrote a strong letter to the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals opposing a zoning variance for the proposed Arman Building in Hudson Square. Burden and her staff ably consulted with residents and property owners when a Hudson Square zoning change was being debated three years ago and we are happy to learn she is not going to sit back and let developers skirt the new law with buildings that are too large for the neighborhood.

The Jack Parker Corporation has applied to rezone four waterfront Tribeca blocks to allow for tall, bulky buildings a few blocks from the Arman project. Burden has shown passion for preserving and improving Manhattan’s waterfront and we hope to see her help protect river views and Tribeca sun in this last vulnerable stretch of Tribeca waterfront.

Parker, which controls one of the Tribeca sites, no longer wants to build over 200 feet, dropping down to 160 feet. But the firm does want an outsized floor-to-area ratio of 7.5. High F.A.R.’s mean bulky buildings and if anyone wants to find out what a fat, ugly waterfront building looks like, head to the north and take a good look at Morton Square in Hudson Square, a project that was given a B.S.A. variance before the new zoning.

Community Board 1 has been speaking with City Planning about rezoning the broader north Tribeca area, which would be far better than approving this four-block area to benefit a corporation and a few property owners. The board also favors residential zoning, a rational F.A.R. of 5 and height limits closer to 140 feet. This is the type of change the neighborhood needs.

The new zoning will allow developers to build residential buildings and street-level retail “as of right.” Once residential zoning is approved, we expect to see projects developing Tribeca’s last frontier. Several projects are already in the works. Out-of-scale zoning is not needed to make this happen.

City Planning indicated a week ago that they were not likely to require Parker to prepare an environmental impact statement before it certifies the plan, the first step in the approval process. This week, the city was more circumspect on its plans not to order an E.I.S. City Planning merely has to determine the zoning change may have “a significant adverse impact” on the neighborhood before ordering a comprehensive E.I.S. — a threshold we’re confident has been met. Is Commissioner Burden ready to say she is certain these new large buildings will not affect the neighborhood’s environment?

City Planning should order Parker to do the E.I.S. while the agency’s staff should continue their consultation with C.B. 1 and other interested parties to come up with a sensible plan for all of north Tribeca. A successful example of a rezoning with broad community support is just across the street, in Hudson Square.


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