Volume 20 Issue 10 | July 20 - 26, 2007


Taking a hard look at Hudson Square

Hudson Square does not yet have the name recognition of its larger border neighborhoods — Soho, the Village and Tribeca — but this former printing district is rapidly developing with the stamp of high-profile architects like Winka Dubbeldam and the late Philip Johnson.

Just this year, Donald Trump and partners have begun building an out-of-scale 45-story “condo-hotel,” and the city has unveiled its plan to build a 150-foot parking garage tower for garbage trucks in the neighborhood. Under the garbage plan — pun intended — Hudson Square would absorb most of the garbage traffic from Tribeca up to Midtown. City officials first said they would move these trucks off the Hudson River Park’s Gansevoort Peninsula in the Village to settle a lawsuit forcing the city to obey the law, but then they turned around and proposed a marine garbage transfer station at Gansevoort — in other words, garbage off, garbage on. This all comes three years after the city approved a sensible new zoning plan to allow residential development in Hudson Square, but unfortunately the plan left some of the neighborhood’s zoning unchanged. Clearly the city is planning the neighborhood piecemeal and frequently at cross-purposes.

We are pleased to report this week that a broad array of civic-minded people, groups and developers have stepped into this void and are looking at the neighborhood as a whole and planning improvements. On Tuesday, the neighborhood’s largest property owner, Trinity Church, some of the neighborhood’s smaller developers, community groups, and even some feuding community leaders came together for an all-day brainstorming session to “Envision the Future of the Hudson Square Neighborhood.”

The new coalition has enlisted three architectural firms to come up with rough ideas for the neighborhood in 60 days and the plans will be put on public display. Though blessed with river views and some distinctive buildings, the neighborhood has serious problems including unsafe pedestrian crossings, Holland Tunnel traffic and pollution, imposing superblocks, shallow retail development and a shortage of park space. The architectural and planning group will begin to suggest solutions. Great ideas can have overwhelming power so we are not dismayed that the city is not yet listening to Hudson Square.

Tuesday’s charrette revealed some interesting nuggets. For one, Trinity, which has resisted residential development like the plague, acknowledged that attracting good retail stores is not possible without more residential growth. Trinity has also been talking about sprucing up the Holland Tunnel area with Anthony Shorris, the Port Authority’s executive director.

Perhaps the most important revelation was that residents as well as developers large and small agreed on the need for better retail, parks, and garbage plans. Instead of the garbage tower on the UPS lot, the site could be a valuable residential site that could attract a much-needed supermarket while feeding the city tax rolls. Downtown understands the days of dumping garbage sites on poor and minority neighborhoods thankfully are over, which is why leaders have suggested other alternative locations nearby that need to be studied fully.

The community has come together to elevate the dialogue and to begin a thoughtful planning initiative. We look forward to following this innovative project closely.

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