Volume 20, Number 28 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | November 23 - 30, 2007

‘Green’ condo project looks to expand garage

By Patrick Hedlund

As Battery Park City’s newest high-rise, the Visionaire, strives to achieve record green certification for a residential building, developers here want to double the number of parking spots belowground — with no plans to address the added exhaust.

The developers, Albanese Organization, still received unanimous support from Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee last week in its bid for a 100-spot parking garage under the building at 70 Little West St., as members gushed about the company’s contributions to the neighborhood.

But when questioned about the possible greening of the parking space, Albanese principal Christopher Albanese declared that “very little of it happens in the garage.”

The committee first asked Albanese representatives to compare their garage with the one constructed at fellow B.P.C. green development the Riverhouse, which presented to the committee a few months ago. Committee members said the Riverhouse garage being built on River Terrace provides for ventilation of toxic exhaust and has partnered with car-sharing service Zipcar to mitigate against added pollution.

Christopher Albanese noted the Visionaire garage “will be ventilated properly,” but said his company tried unsuccessfully to arrange a deal with Zipcar.

The Department of City Planning’s environmental impact assessment of the garage, which can include 50 parking spaces as of right, found the doubling of spaces “will have no significant impact on the quality of the environment,” said Vincent Albanese.

The garage’s design also features a 10-car “reservoir,” which allows for a lineup of 10 vehicles before any back up into the street. The entrance will be located on Second Pl. near the corner of Little West St., with direct access from nearby Battery Pl. and Little West St. The 100 spaces will be available to residents first, the Albaneses explained, with any additional spots going to the building’s ground-floor retail employees and then to the public.

U.S. Census data from Lower Manhattan indicate that a 251-unit building like the Visionaire would require 138 parking spaces to fully accommodate residents, Christopher Albanese stated. The Albanese’s 270-unit Solaire development only provides 60 parking spots, which has not been enough for residents there.

With a new K – 8 school set to rise across the street from the Visionaire, the committee also voiced concern over safety and health issues related to the garage. The Albaneses assured that an attendant would always be on hand at the lot, and noted that because of the reservoir’s depth, it would be “very unlikely” that cars would create traffic snarls or pose any risks to students.

“We want to be a good neighbor, obviously,” said Vincent Albanese, who was thanked by the committee for supporting the local parent-teacher associations.

However, one committee member not in attendance wrote a letter criticizing the decision to bring in more vehicles. Committee chairperson Linda Belfer read the letter from Barry Skolnick, which “seriously questioned” the garage’s expansion.

“This is supposed to be a green building, and the addition of more space for automobiles, which will add to pollution in Downtown, is in my opinion the exact opposite of what a green building should be doing,” Skolnick wrote.

The Visionaire is expected to open late next year, the Albaneses said, with a third of the units already sold.

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