Volume 16 • Issue 35 | January 30 - February 05, 2004

Bigger building should mean bigger rec space, C.B. 1 says

By Elizabeth O’Brien

With the city’s land review on the property set to begin in February, Community Board 1 members stressed the need for a public recreation center inside the proposed 5C development on Chambers St.

At their full board meeting on Jan. 21, Community Board 1 members passed a resolution calling for a 40,000-square-foot recreation center to be included in the plans for the lot behind P.S. 234 and bounded by Chambers, Warren and West Sts. The developer, Scott Resnick, has already agreed to include an 18,000-square-foot center in the residential complex that includes a 360-foot, or 35-story, building and an adjoining eight-story extension.

But recreation space of 18,000 square feet was decided upon when the proposed 5C building was about 135 feet, and the center should be expanded to reflect the increased height, community members say.

“They should be giving us more,” said Paul Hovitz, chairperson of the youth and education committee of C.B. 1, in a telephone interview.

The original development for 5C under the Washington Street Urban Renewal Plan was limited to about 135 feet. The plan expired in 2002, clearing the way for a larger building.

The community has monitored plans for site 5C, and the neighboring 5B, for at least 15 years. Some board members questioned the vagueness of the most recent 5C resolution, generated in the youth and education committee, when it came before the full board. Instead of specifying the need for a 40,000-square-foot center, the resolution called for a “sizeable” community center.

As originally written, that resolution sent a “mixed message,” said Bernard D’Orazio, a member of C.B. 1 and president of Save Our Space, a civic organization fighting over-development on the sites. D’Orazio and others said the community should not inadvertently send a message that it would support a building at any height as long as it got its recreation center.

Members agreed to change “sizeable” to “40,000 square foot,” a number that appeared in an October resolution, and the measure passed 37 to 0, with 1 abstention and 1 recusal.

The city hopes to begin its Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP, on 5C on Feb. 9, said Janel Patterson, a spokesperson for the city’s Economic Development Corporation. The city follows the ULURP process, which mandates extensive public review including a formal presentation to the community board.

Community members have long argued that 5C should be developed in the context of 5B, a largely empty site across the street and bounded by Warren, Murray, Greenwich, West and Sts. With 90, 560 square feet, site 5B is nearly three times the size of 5C, at 32,670 square feet, and community members fear the even taller development that has been proposed for the site by developer Edward Minskoff.

But it’s not possible to coordinate the sites now, Patterson said, because “there is no plan for 5B at this point.”

Scott Resnick did not return calls for comment. The developer did trim the height of the tower, from 408 ft. down to 360, in response to community concerns. But local residents say the building will have such an impact on the neighborhood, bringing increased traffic, shadows, and crowding in local schools, that more concessions are necessary.

“We’re dealing with major land-use issues here,” D’Orazio said.



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