Volume 18 • Issue 45 | March 24 - 30, 2006

The Jack Parker Corporation produced this map which shows the four-block area between Washington and West Sts. the company wants to re-zone as well as some of the boundaries to the North Tribeca Historic District. The shaded areas indicate buildings with a floor to area ratio greater than 6. Parker hopes the city approves its application to make the F.A.R. 7.5 on the four blocks.

C.B. 1 makes it official: No to Parker’s Tribeca plan

By Ronda Kaysen

In a widely anticipated move, Community Board 1 rejected a proposal to rezone a swath of the North Tribeca waterfront on Tuesday night.

The Jack Parker Corporation would like to rezone four blocks of the waterfront for commercial and residential use. The area is currently a manufacturing district. The proposal is now in the midst of a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which includes gathering comments from the local community board, the borough president and securing approval from the City Planning Commission and the City Council.

“The commission, they take those comments very seriously,” said City Planning spokesperson Jennifer Torres. “They definitely weigh everything that the community board says.”

Board 1 has long voiced opposition to the Parker proposal and has its own zoning plan for the low-rise section of the neighborhood. In an unusually long, eight-page resolution, the board laid out its preference for how the neighborhood should be zoned.

“This is just the wrong time to take one little spot out of the area and focus on it,” board member Rick Landman told Downtown Express.

The board has been working on a rezoning proposal for all of North Tribeca for several years. The Parker Corp. has been working on one for the four blocks as well, and theirs was finally certified last month, setting the ULURP in motion.

Parker’s proposal affects a four-block strip bounded by Watts, Washington, Hubert and West Sts. Board members say the proposal would create a wall of 160-ft. tall bulky buildings, cutting the neighborhood off from the waterfront.

“Why should they have towers on the Hudson so we can be in the dark, so they can look at the Hudson?” Carole de Saram, a board member and president of the Tribeca Community Association, told Downtown Express.

The Parker proposal calls for a floor-to-area ratio (F.A.R.) of 7.5. The community board recommends an F.A.R. of 5, which would only allow smaller, less bulky buildings, and calls for rezoning the entire North Tribeca neighborhood, not just the four-block swath.

The Parker Corp. maintains that the neighborhood already has large, bulky buildings. Parker Corp. Vice President William Wallerstein cited one building at 72 Laight St. that has an F.A.R. of 10.

The neighborhood has been mobilizing to fight the proposal, with the Tribeca Community Association gearing up for a lawsuit in the event that the Parker application is approved.

“From time to time there have been various entities who have come in with their own agendas,” said 27-year Tribeca resident Barbara Siegel at the March 21 public meeting. “We need to negotiate from a position of strength.” According to Siegel, the neighborhood has gathered 1,000 signatures of support.

The Parker Corp. insists it is a member of the community and the new development will benefit the neighborhood. “We want to be part of the community,” said Wallerstein. “We share their concerns.”

A bulky development with a 300-unit apartment building and up to 260,000 sq. ft. of usable space will weigh heavily upon the neighborhood, residents say.

“You don’t need me to tell you about the overcrowded schools or the trash that doesn’t get picked up sometimes,” said Hila Rosen, a Tribeca resident since 1979. The only elementary school in the neighborhood, P.S. 234, is at 120 percent capacity this year and will lose its science room next year to make way for a new classroom.

The Parker parcel also sits south of the Holland Tunnel entrance, a block of Canal St. that is often beleaguered by traffic. The Parker Corp. owns only a block of the area it plans to rezone – a block bounded West, Washington, Watts and Desbrosses Sts. It sits directly across the street from Fleming Smith Warehouse, a historic building that also houses board member Albert Capsouto’s restaurant, Capsouto Freres.

Wallerstein agreed with residents that the neighborhood lacks services, but sees his development as playing a different role in that problem. “Eighty-eight percent of the people are not satisfied with the services in the neighborhood,” he said, citing a community board survey. His proposal includes no plans to increase services, but he said adding new residents to the neighborhood would create a critical mass of people that would in turn increase services.

He was not convinced that the community board or the residents who turned out in opposition to the project both at the March 21 meeting and at a March 2 public hearing, represented the sentiment of the entire neighborhood. “The majority of people are undecided, they are not for it [the zoning proposal] or against it.”

Despite his optimism that the community is not entirely against him, Wallerstein doubts he’ll be able to sway his opponents.

Time, however, might change that. “When you come into a community, it’s rare that people come out and say, ‘terrific you’re building a new development,’” said Lloyd Kaplan, a spokesperson for the developer. “The nature of the city is that it evolves, it develops… and then the new building becomes part of the community and the new people that move in there become residents of the community, too.”

Ronda@DowntownExpress.com



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