Volume 16 • Issue 44 | April 2 - 8, 2004


Resnick’s 5C plan is wrong for this site

The city’s plan to develop the vacant site behind P.S. 234 is based on a false premise. There are many parts of the Lower Manhattan economy that are still reeling because of 9/11, but the Tribeca residential real estate market is not one of them. The neighborhood is as hot if not hotter than it was before the attack and any argument that developers need extra breaks such as the right to build inappropriately tall luxury condos on city land just doesn’t wash.

That’s what the city’s Economic Development Corp. and its designated developer for the lot known as Site 5C, Scott Resnick, are arguing. Prior to 9/11, when the site was still under the restrictions of the Washington Street Urban Renewal Plan, the city and Resnick had agreed to a sale price and were willing to build a 135-foot apartment building with an 18,000-square-foot community recreation center on the site, bounded by Chambers, Warren and West Sts.

Reports in the neighborhood are that Resnick and the city have now agreed to a 30 percent discount from the pre-9/11 price. If true — it is outrageous that discussion of the city-owned property is proceeding without any disclosure of the sale price and terms of the deal — it is incredible that there is any discount when the size of the building has ballooned from 135 to 350 feet, the size of the community center has not changed at all, and Resnick now has the benefit of tax-free Liberty Bonds, a federal post-9/11 program.

We were gratified to hear City Councilmember Alan Gerson pledge that the current proposal would never pass the City Council. Gerson spoke at a Tuesday community meeting in which several hundred residents were unified in their opposition to the Resnick-city plan.

There was division in the meeting between those who thought the priority should be to double the size of the community center and others who thought it should be to reduce the size of the building. Both priorities are vital and must be one part of the package before any consideration should be given to increasing the building’s size one foot more than 135 feet.

Site 5C cannot be planned in a vacuum, nor evaluated as a single project. Across the street is Site 5B, a larger, city-owned lot where developer Edward Minskoff hopes to build a residential tower of almost 400 feet. P.S. 234 is already overcrowded and building 1,000 or so apartments next door is irresponsible in the absence of a concrete plan on where the kids will be schooled.

If the city proceeds with current plans for both sites, it will mean the quality of life in Tribeca and Battery Park City will deteriorate because not only will the buildings cast unacceptable shadows over the P.S. 234 and P.S./I.S. 89 schoolyards, Washington Market Park and the B.P.C. ballfields, but more families will be fighting for a limited amount of school and community space.

The governor and mayor have recognized the need for a K-8 school in Lower Manhattan. There is no site yet, although there are reports a deal may be announced soon.  Lower Manhattan is the fastest growing part of the city and its burgeoning population requires additional services.

As the discussion over 5C continues, the city should release the financial terms of the proposed sale and shadow studies of the building at various heights, not just the already released studies based on a 350-foot building.

What must be offered before there is any consideration of the building project even at 135 feet, is a concrete commitment to build a K-8 school at a specific Downtown location expeditiously, a commitment to drastically reduce the size of the proposed building at Site 5B, and a commitment to build at least 40,000 square feet of recreational space on the two sites.

If all three conditions are met, the community should consider accepting a building taller than 135 feet at Site 5C, but we are skeptical that anything taller than 175 feet would ever fit in on the block. The community board should make this clear in its resolution. If instead the city chooses to ignore the community, the consequences will be lawsuits, delays and perhaps still vacant sites 10 years from now.

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