Cutting and pasting a West Side plan that makes sense
City councilmembers did two good things Wednesday when they approved the new zoning for the Hudson Yards. They increased the amount of affordable housing to be built on the far West Side and they severed the link between redevelopment and the contentious, proposed West Side stadium that would be future home to the football Jets and potentially the 2012 Olympics.
The zoning encourages the creation of 3,500 affordable apartments. This represents an increase from 16 percent of the estimated 13,600 apartments that would be created to about 25 percent of the total. Although developers would not be required to build affordable units, incentives in the plan would encourage them to do so. With programs for creating affordable housing becoming increasingly scarce, insuring the opportunity to build so many new units is truly laudable.
The other major change is it breaks all connections between the West Sides redevelopment and the stadium. Critics of the stadium plan charge that the West Side proposal, as well as the Javits Convention Center expansion, are being used to piggyback the stadium project, the building of which they say is the Bloomberg administrations true goal. However, the Council committees action insures that revenues generated from the Hudson Yards redevelopment wont be funneled to the stadium project whats more, an extended No. 7 subway line wont even be permitted to have an exit to the stadium.
The publicly subsidized stadium, which is opposed by many local residents, is also dependent on the revenue from building 24 million square feet of office space. Despite the continued denials from Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Dep. Mayor Dan Doctoroff, this office space poses a direct threat to the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan. Seven World Trade Center is being rebuilt and 10 million square feet of office space is planned across the street at the W.T.C. site. Even with the federal tax-free Liberty Bonds passed to rebuild Downtown, the neighborhoods economic future remains in doubt without demand to fill these offices. The city has no business encouraging large-scale commercial development elsewhere until the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan is assured.
The Council zoning vote allows for the West Side offices, but by removing the stadium from the equation, it can slow the rush to build the commercial buildings. We hope there is someday a demand for 24 million square feet of space it will signal a robust economy but the city should have the patience to wait for the market to catch up, rather than pushing development to close a few of the gaping holes in the stadium financing scheme.
Bloomberg and Doctoroff say the Olympic bid will be solidified if we start stadium construction this spring. The reality is almost no Olympic analyst thinks New York has much chance. Just imagine starting stadium construction in June and losing the bid in July.
The Council vote follows the work of local Democrats in the State Assembly, notably Speaker Sheldon Silver, to insure that funding for the Javits expansion isnt fungible to the stadium project. With the stadium fight now returning to Albany, we encourage Silver, who represents Lower Manhattan and has been one of its most effective champions post-9/11, to continue to withhold approval.