Volume 16 • Issue 46 | April 9 - 15, 2004

Southbridge residents to meet over development proposal

By Elizabeth O’Brien

Residents of Southbridge Towers have organized a public meeting for Monday, April 12 to discuss the proposed sale of a piece of Southbridge property for an arts complex and possible residential tower.

Victor Papa, a former president of the Southbridge board of directors, helped organize the meeting to discuss the decision facing the co-op board. Papa no longer serves on the board, and he said he opposes the way the board has acted “unilaterally” on a matter “unprecedented” in the moderate-income complex’s 33-year history.

The city reportedly supports a plan to build an arts “incubator” project on Fulton St. near the South Street Seaport, on the site of a two-story building housing a Foot Locker and Burger King. The proposed building could rise as tall as 32 stories, with five stories of arts uses and 27 stories of apartments, according to board member Rhoda Lefkowitz. The city and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. are working on a study to revitalize Fulton St. with a mix of culture, new plazas, residential buildings, better retail to be added to the area near a renovated Broadway-Nassau-Fulton subway hub.

“We’re going to be buried,” Lefkowitz said. She voiced concerns about the combined effects of the proposed tower and the 50-story residential building planned for the N.Y.U. Downtown Hospital site at Beekman St.

A spokesperson for the city Economic Development Corporation did not return a call for comment.

Paul Viggiano, president of the Southbridge Towers board, denied that the board was considering selling Southbridge land.

“We will never sell anything, period,” Viggiano said.

The board might consider leasing the land, he said, depending on the final proposal presented to it. A spokesperson for the project’s architect, David Rockwell, did not return three calls for comment.

Under the Southbridge bylaws, board members do not need to hold a referendum on the selling of co-op property, as they did recently on the decision to study privatization of the complex.

But before the board takes any action, it will bring the issue before the shareholders, Viggiano said.

Papa invited Viggiano to the April 12 meeting.

“Whenever a community of people have doubts about something, the leadership should clarify those doubts,” Papa said.

Income from the sale or lease of the Southbridge land could help the complex pay its insurance premiums, which doubled after Sept. 11, 2001 like those of many Downtown buildings, said Judy Duffy, assistant district manager of Community Board 1.

In May, Southbridge Towers will hold elections for five seats on its 15-member board. If the board makes any decisions before then, it is unlikely they will be overturned by the new board, Viggiano said.

The April 12 meeting will take place at 7:00 p.m. at the Seamen’s Church Institute at 241 Water St., Sixth floor.



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