Volume 16 • Issue 52 | May 21 - 27, 2004

Goldman pledges $1 million and rec center plan may expand

By Elizabeth O’Brien

At Site 5C in Tribeca, reports are that the proposed center will likely be about 28,000 square feet and P.S. 234 would get an additional 10,000-square-foot annex, but the apartment tower is likely to be taller than C.B. 1’s preference of 250 feet.

Plans for the proposed residential tower on Site 5C at Chambers and West Sts. took further shape this week, as the recreation center slated for the development got a $1 million infusion from Goldman Sachs, and the community discussed the possibility of a separate educational annex on the site.

Goldman, which plans to construct an 800-foot-tall company headquarters two blocks south of the residential tower, announced its $1 million gift at the May 18 full-board meeting of Community Board 1. While cheering Goldman’s commitment to Lower Manhattan, board members had expressed concerns about the traffic and other complications that the building is expected to add to the neighborhood.

The board welcomed the prospect of $1 million to help build a community center, which had long been included in the design of the residential complex bounded by Chambers, Warren and West Sts.

“I am pleased to see, considering the size and proportion of this huge edifice, the company’s support of the community it will live in and seriously impact,” said Paul Hovitz, chairperson of C.B. 1’s youth and education committee, the day after the meeting.

The Battery Park City Authority requires that every building constructed under its auspices include ample community space. The Goldman Sachs headquarters will house a conference room that will be available for community meetings, but security concerns will prevent the firm from allowing broad public access to its building.

The $1 million therefore represented an alternative way the company could contribute to the community. Goldman Sachs will also fund an as-yet-undisclosed amount to the construction of a public library in northern Battery Park City, on the corner of Murray St. and River Terrace. The library has been part of the long-term plans for the site, which will also include an apartment building.

Final dimensions for the community center on site 5C remain under negotiation. The developer has proposed 18,000 square feet, while the community has pushed for 40,000 square feet. Discussions are currently underway among the community board, the developer and the city, which owns the land and plans to sell it to developer Scott Resnick, to resolve the size of the community center and the height of the overall complex, planned for 35 stories.

“We’re still not there yet, but I think we’re making some progress,” Madelyn Wils, chairperson of C.B.1, said of the negotiations.

The final community center will likely be somewhere around 28,000 square feet, board members familiar with the negotiations have said. The board favors a building of no taller than 25 stories, which would be about 250 feet, and sources familiar with the negotiations said a few weeks ago that a compromise of about 300 feet was in the works.

In addition to the community center, a 10,000-square-foot educational annex will likely be constructed on the 5C site. On May 4, city officials met with C.B. 1 representatives to discuss the possibility of dividing P.S. 234 and putting grades pre-kindergarten through 2 into the annex, which will be built right next door to the top-ranked elementary school.

The school is currently at least 75 students over capacity. Class sizes are expected to grow each year, with the 456 units planned for 5C and other residential construction in the hot Downtown real estate market anticipated to attract more families to the area.

But community members and the school’s principal, Sandy Bridges, balked at the idea of splitting up P.S. 234 as a solution to the overcrowding problem. Plans have shifted toward the creation of an early childhood center in the annex, with pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes from P.S. 234 and possibly other neighborhood elementary schools, Hovitz said.
Bridges said that could work as a temporary solution, but she cautioned the Department of Education must not view the 5C space as a permanent addition to the school and increase its capacity accordingly. In its resolution on the annex, C.B. 1 added a provision that the additional space must not affect the school’s population.

City officials did not confirm that a pre-K and kindergarten center had emerged as a favored use of the educational annex proposed for 5C.

“We contemplate some place for schools, but no final decision has been made,” Margie Feinberg, a Department of Education spokesperson, said on Tuesday.

In the meantime, the community continues looking to the future. In its resolution on the Goldman Sachs headquarters, C.B. 1 members included a provision that the company continue its dialogue with the community as plans progress for the headquarters, slated for completion in 2008 or 2009.

“And should they find another $1 million,” Hovitz said, “we wouldn’t turn it down.”


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