Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Quiet before the Storm

Yet another development site is being proposed in Hudson Square. The King Street parcel at 179 Varick Street is the next known site for a 16 story hotel proposed for Hudson Square. While activists and community organizations have been pounding the tables at the offices of elected officials, City Planning has been looking over the rainbow. In fact, there seems to be no concern whatsoever at that agency as parcels are devoured and Hotel/Condos and Hotels rush to the planning boards to turn the west side of lower Manhattan into a set for the remake of that famous cult horror movie Motel Hell - now Hotel Hell. Hudson Square is about to become the location for "Short stays" replete with billboards and fast exits through the Holland Tunnel.

Such a bad precedent -the equivalent to the destruction of a community in transition would never be tolerated in SoHo or Tribeca, certainly not Greenwich Village or even NoHo. And, the fact that Christine Quinn, Speaker of the City Council and representative for this area, is taking no obvious action to stop the accelerated development in Hudson Square - is indicative of the money and power behind this anschluss:

Trump (Spring Street), Marc Epstein (515 Greenwich), Wingate (179 Varick), and the just completed 17-story hotel on Watts and Avenue of the Americas.

So, in the midst of this sell-out, while Amanda Burden and City Planning order their second round of watercress sandwiches, Chris Quinn fiddles with her next fundraiser for Mayor and Bloomberg checks his compass for directions to Pennsylvania Avenue - Hudson Square is being lost.

No other burgeoning community has had to suffer at the hands of this influx of BIG money for the simple reason that the zoning classification has been purposely left vague. This is a money decision, make no mistake about it.

Andrew Berman of GVSHP basically has laid this issue on the steps of City Planning and made the issue one that cannot be mistaken. His letter to Amanda Burden, which he has written in response to her very weak logic, deserves to be read and appreciated.

Other letters have also been written as this travesty is allowed to unfold. The pressure to adopt contextual zoning for this area is now critical. It is no longer a manufacturing zone and only hotels and hotel/condos are being built in this no-mans-land of development without limits. The natives are definitely getting restless.

The update on Gansevoort is that no action has been taken in Albany. A reliable source predicts that the recycling center will be killed.

According to this source, there were many who didn't want to piss-off the Mayor on this issue for partisan reasons, and that it will be formally abandoned in the Special Session that starts on July 16th. If true, it's good news for Downtown - and should spur some hard decisions on the use of Pier 76.

The details of the D.S.N.Y imbroglio which have Friends of Hudson Square, squaring off against the City in its attempt to build a parking garage and fuel storage facility in the Greenwich and Spring streets location - have been getting more interesting.

One of the logical sites for this facility is "Block 675" located at 29th street and 11th avenue. In fact, that location was slated by D.S.N.Y for a garage after having completing condemnation proceedings two years ago. However, rumors have been swirling about that a certain developer will shortly be applying for a variance to develop the site for a residential tower and would accept a tow pound but not a garage under the planned building, according to public statements by Ann Weisbrod of the Hudson Yards Development Corporation.

The rumored developer is Georgetown Associates, related to the still powerful Joe Rose who was formerly Chair of City Planning. And, he purportedly still has tremendous influence over this agency's decisions.

According to one activist, in reporting on this situation at Block 675, he said,
"All of the approvals have been in place (including condemnation) since January 19, 2005 for the City to build a park over two DSNY garages and a NYPD tow-pound. There is an urgent need to mitigate 24 million sf of development across the street (30th-33rd Streets Eastern and Western MTA railyards) with some public open space requirements. At one point another developer purportedly offered to build a 70 story residential building and throw in the DSNY garages for free in the basement. Bottom line is that we are told that it is more cost-effective, more efficient for DSNY and would take less time to build this facility privately (avoiding the Wicks law)."

Things just keep getting curiouser and curiouser.

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