Volume 17 • Issue 3 | June 11 - 17, 2004



Canal St. developer wins neighbor and C.B.1 approval

By David H. Ellis

The developer of a planned condominium complex on an abandoned Canal St. lot earned Community Board 1’s recommendation during the June 3rd Tribeca Committee meeting in his attempt to win a variance from the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals.

After several months of consulting with neighbors over the site at 500 Canal St. at the corner of Greenwich St., architect Shael Shapiro, owner Fabian Friedland and land use attorney Jay Segal presented a series of concessions to board members and an audience of approximately two dozen Tribeca residents last week in the hopes of winning the approval of both groups.

“We have understood the concerns of the people in the area and we have agreed to modify that proposal which we think will meet the satisfaction of most of the people in the area,” said Segal.

These modifications, which resulted from a handful of meetings with potential neighbors, included scaling back the building height from 111 to 98 feet, and a reduction in the setback from 85 to 75 feet. As outlined in the original plan, which was presented in October, the building would still offer a retail space on the ground floor and 19 to 21 units covering about 48,000 square feet and would maintain the original amount of living space. By building a new residential structure on the site, which is currently zoned for commercial buildings with a floor-to-area ratio, or F.A.R., of five, the developers are required to obtain a special permit or variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals.

The new building, which would have a F.A.R. of six, would be located on a parcel of land that is currently occupied by overgrown weeds, faded newspaper pages and a complex of two and three-story abandoned buildings that previously housed a custom ceramic tile company and car audio installation store. Due to the awkward shape of the plot and the building’s location directly above the Holland Tunnel, committee members believed that it met the B.S.A. economic hardship and unique site requirements.

“The committee found it valid that he has a hardship, one because of the configuration of the land, its proximity to Holland Tunnel and that the foundations required extra work,” said Albert Capsouto, chairperson of the C. B. 1 Tribeca Committee. “He was not unreasonable asking for the F.A.R.”

After speaking with residents, the building’s developers also agreed to forgo a cooling tower on the roof, to include landscaped areas measuring 500 and 700 square feet along Canal St. and to make a construction manager available by cell phone for neighbors to voice complaints. The plan would also prohibit nightclubs and bars from occupying the first floor. Although no merchant has committed to the 4,000 square foot space at this point, Friedland indicated the space could be divided, but the ideal tenant would be a gourmet food market such as Citarella.

Residents such as Ktziah Spanier, who lives at 466 Washington St. with her husband Sid and serves as the co-op president, were pleased that Friedland took an unorthodox route of consulting with the potential neighbors about the impact of the building’s construction.

“What Fabian has done for the community is absolutely wonderful,” said Spanier. “It’s been wonderful because people come and they build these buildings and they go back to their house in the suburbs and they leave us with a hole.”

As another part of the 18-month project, the developers agreed to form a design committee which would include two or three members of the community who would offer input regarding design materials and design treatment of the building.

“It’s a very rare occurrence where the developer solicits and reaches out to the neighbors, but he’s a neighbor himself,” said Capsouto regarding Friedland’s development. “If this sets an example for developers, I think it’s a good thing. It would probably only help them to get in touch with the community before they invest a lot of time and effort in a project.”



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