Volume 17 • Issue 37 | February 11 - 17, 2005

Freedom Tower will overshadow Tribeca project, developer says

By Ronda Kaysen

The shadow created by a 134-ft. tall residential development at Site 5B, across the street from P.S. 234, will be a trifle compared to the shadow created by two other nearby developments — the 1,776-ft. tall Freedom Tower at the new World Trade Center and the 800-ft. tall Goldman Sachs & Co. headquarters in Battery Park City — according to community officials and representatives for Site 5B.

Developer Edward Minskoff unveiled plans in December to tack on an additional 64 feet to the building on the Warren St. side of his 1 million-sq. ft. Tribeca development that flanks West, Greenwich, Murray and Warren Sts. Community members and school officials have voiced concern that the shadow from a taller building might block light to the 52-ft. school and nearby Washington Market Park. But with the Freedom Tower and Goldman Sachs headquarters added to the equation, the community’s shadow woes may have little to do with the Minskoff development.

“It’s just really amazing that the Freedom Tower is so massive, that it will have such a tremendous impact on light and shadows in our community,” Robin Forst, deputy chief of staff for City Councilmember Alan Gerson, said. Gerson signed a September agreement with Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff for the development of the site. A Warren St. height increase is dependant upon Community Board 1 approval.

At a Feb. 3 C.B. 1 Tribeca Committee meeting, Ben McGrath, C.F.O. of Minskoff Equities Inc., showed committee members the results of a shadow study on the area. Comparing the shadow impact from the development in the September agreement with the newer version, McGrath showed that the revised proposal would have less of an impact on the neighborhood in the morning hours than the original, in part because of two setbacks on the Warren St. building, one at 46 feet and the other at 111 feet.

The setbacks were less obvious at earlier presentations of the design, causing some confusion, Chris Cooper of Skidmore Owings & Merrill said after the meeting. S.O.M., which designed the Freedom Tower and 7 World Trade Center, is designing the Minskoff project.

The new version also decreases the height of the tower at the corner of Murray and Greenwich St. from 200 ft to 101 ft. and decreases the street wall along Greenwich St. from 135 ft to 101 ft., further reducing the shadow on the school.

“I was pleasantly surprised. I thought there would be a greater impact from the height of the Warren St. wall,” Forst said of McGrath’s study.

In the morning hours on Sept. 21 or March 21, two days with equal sunlight, the revised proposal will cast less of a shadow than the development parameters signed by Gerson and endorsed by C.B.1 chairperson Madelyn Wils. There is only one hour of the day—at 1:45 p.m.—when the revised proposal will cast a greater shadow. But the Freedom Tower would obliterate any real effect. “In the afternoon, the Freedom Tower is blocking out the school, so there’s no impact from our building,” McGrath said. At 2:45 p.m. on the same two days, the proposed Goldman Sachs building would cast the school in shadow.

Even without the two massive developments, Washington Market Park has another structure to reckon with: developer Scott Resnick’s three residential buildings at Site 5C, directly opposite the school. “5C will have more of an impact on Washington Market Park than 5B will, just because of the angle of the sun,” said Judy Duffy, C.B. 1’s assistant district manager, in a telephone interview.

At the meeting, representatives from Minskoff’s office made their first public attempts to win approval from the board. If the board approves the height increase, a portion of the additional proceeds from the sale—at least $1.5 million, said Maureen Connelly, a spokesperson for Minskoff—would go to the slated community center at Site 5C, another site in the agreement.

The committee was generally supportive of the revised design, although it did not vote on the issue. Various members did, however, take issue with the design elements.

“We know from 7 W.T.C. and the Time Warner Center what Skidmore can do in a contemporary language,” said Bruce Ehrmann, chairperson of the board’s Landmarks Committee. S.O.M. designed the new Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle and the first and second 7 W.T.C. The two glass and steel projects bear little resemblance to the masonry and cast iron Tribeca district. “I’m especially worried about Warren St. It looks like a mediocre, Midtown street opposed to our Downtown.”

Wils, C.B. 1 chairperson, suggested holding a separate design meeting to discuss the architectural details of the development. “This is Tribeca, if you mention the Time Warner Center and 7 World Trade Center, you haven’t gotten this neighborhood,” she told the architect.

Ehrmann also raised concerns about a Whole Foods Market that currently graces the S.O.M. renderings. The Tribeca Trib reported earlier this month that a deal with the upscale grocer was dependent upon a 134-ft. height increase to the Warren St. building.

At the meeting, McGrath clarified his position. “We have gone way down the road with Whole Foods,” he said. The grocer has its eyes on Downtown and although the Site 5B property is enticing, it is not the only site the company is considering, McGrath said. “If we can’t deliver [the space] to them by a certain date, they’re pulling out.”

When asked if there was a link between the height increase and a deal with Whole Foods, he said, “I can’t speak for my boss.”


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