Volume 22, Number 12 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | August 7 - 13, 2009
Downtown Express photo by Patrick Hedlund
The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and Trinity Church is working on their sculpture park on Varick St. and expects it to open next month.
Trinity park set for Sept.
A planned public park/sculpture garden for the vacant lot at the intersection of Canal St. and Sixth Ave. in Hudson Square has started taking shape more than a year after property owner Trinity Real Estate announced the project.
The half-acre triangular plot, bordered by Varick St. to the west, will serve as a multi-use public plaza featuring large artworks, seating and a tree nursery, according to project architect Interboro Partners. The Brooklyn-based design team was selected for the project, called Lent Space, by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, which partnered with Trinity to develop an interim plan for site over the next few years while the landlord decides what to do there.
In response to a request that a fence surround the park, the architects will construct a “moveable sculpture fence facing Duarte Square [on the Sixth Ave. side] that can enclose or open the site to different degrees and also serve as a public amenity in the form of park benches and wall panels for exhibitions,” according to Interboro’s Web site.
The park will include a collection of trees and assorted greenery set in planters, which will eventually move to nearby streets for the emerging Hudson Square business improvement district. The space is slated for a late September opening, an L.M.C.C. spokesperson said, with a full program of exhibitions and events to be announced in the coming weeks.
The United States Postal Service is considering closing nearly 700 post office branches across the country due to financial constraints, including 14 in the city and a pair Downtown, but the South Street Seaport’s Peck Slip branch escaped the budget ax.
After initially releasing a list identifying 53 possible closures across the city, the Post Office trimmed that number to just 14 post offices this week, including the Lower East Side’s Pitt Station on Clinton St.
The branch, located between Grand St. and East Broadway, sits next to the Seward Park Co-op, which owns the property and leases it to the U.S.P.S. The other Downtown branch marked for possible closure is the West Village Post Office on 527 Hudson St., between Charles and W. 10th Sts.
Seaport resident Paul Hovitz, who has been fighting the Peck closure, said he was happy about Peck Slip and thanked U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler and Community Board 1 for intervening.
The U.S.P.S. is facing a $7 billion shortfall from fiscal year 2008, including a 4.5 percent drop in total volume nationwide or 9.5 billion pieces of mail.
New York University recently filed plans with the city to build an 11-story religious center in the Village despite previously proposing a building nearly half as tall.
According to a July 23 application with the Department of Buildings, N.Y.U. is seeking to construct a 72,861-square-foot, multiuse faith facility at Washington Square Park and Thompson St. But the original proposal, unveiled in early June, showed a six-story, 61,000-square-foot building with a 4.9 F.A.R. (floor to area ratio). Under the current zoning, N.Y.U. can construct a building of up to 6.5 F.A.R. (nearly 80,000 square feet) as of right, but the university stated in June that it opted instead to build a structure using a 4.9 F.A.R. — about 18,000 square feet and one story lower than what is allowed.
The school stated then that a shorter, squatter building with wider floor plates would better suit the needs of the center, which will house N.Y.U.’s four chaplains — Jewish, Protestant, Catholic and Muslim — together for the first time at the same location.
However, the university’s application with D.O.B. requests a 5.75 F.A.R. featuring five more stories and nearly 12,000 additional square feet than was initially offered.
A university spokesperson explained that the application’s plan was modified because N.Y.U. needed to submit a proposal it knew would be rejected in order to pursue a zoning variance with the Board of Standards and Appeals. The school requires the variance since its intended design doesn’t conform to current setback and open-space requirements.
But since the original six-story plan also doesn’t conform to current requirements, university-development watchdog Andrew Berman wondered why N.Y.U. didn’t simply file an application reflecting that design proposal.
Why are they filing permit applications for this taller, higher-F.A.R. building that they said they don’t want to do?” said Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation. “Is it to hold the threat of the possibility over the public’s head?”
Alicia Hurley, N.Y.U.’s vice president of government affairs and community engagement, said the university remains committed to its goal of constructing the six-story building and that it will be filing plans for both versions with D.O.B.
“The reality is we’re trying to do this right,” Hurely said, “it’s somewhat ridiculous to say the university is trying to pull a fast one.”
Youngwoo wins Pier 57
The Hudson River Park Trust awarded Youngwoo and Associates the development rights for Pier 57 last week, paving the way for the upstart West Village-based developer to realize its innovative design for the W. 15th St. pier.
The expected designation of Youngwoo came after competing bidders The Related Companies and a joint venture between the Durst Organization and C&K Properties showed tepid interest in redeveloping the 375,000-square-foot pier.
“[Youngwoo’s] combination of imaginative architecture and creative uses enjoys strong community support,” read a statement from Diana Taylor, the Trust’s chairperson.
The developer’s plan includes a strong arts emphasis, with dedicated space for galleries, exhibitions, auctions and entertainment, as well as a permanent outdoor venue for the Tribeca Film Festival on the pier’s roof. The design also provides for a 170,000-square-foot, covered, open-air public market programmed and managed by Urban Space Management and housed, in part, in recycled shipping containers.
The Trust’s selection follows on the heels of the developer’s blockbuster purchase of A.I.G.’s twin Financial District high-rises in early June for a reported $140 million in partnership with a Korea-based bank.