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N.Y.U. 2031, Now Hotel-Free, Clears Another Hurdle

IMG_0086Sarah Darville The City Planning Commission.

New York University reined in its expansion plans further today by eliminating a controversial hotel and accommodations for retail, paving the way for an easy approval from the City Planning Commission.

“The N.Y.U. proposal for the superblocks will provide important new and needed space to one of the city’s most important institutions of higher learning,” said commission chair Amanda Burden, referring to the two blocks south of Washington Square Park that will be the sites of construction.

The green light from the commission did not come as a surprise — Ms. Burden had praised the plan just last week. Only one of the 13 members of the commission voted against the proposal. Read more…

Debate Continues: How Best to Stave Off Chains, Bars?

EconomicDevelopmentSbcmteeNatalie Rinn

Could new zoning help bring mom-and-pop businesses to the East Village and Lower East Side, and keep them there? Community Board 3’s Economic Development Subcommittee met last night to continue a discussion about retail diversity.

Mary DeStefano, the Urban Planning Fellow from Hunter College who has been working with the board, again raised the possibility of Special Purpose Districts, 20 of which have been created in Manhattan by the City Planning Commission in order to meet the specific needs of their neighborhoods. In Community Board 3, such a district would likely put a cap on chain stores and curb operating hours. Ms. DeStefano clarified that S.P.D.’s are “not banning anything, just seeking a way to preserve it, and it’s just giving the community some level of control.” Read more…

Height Limits on Buildings Approved

DSC_0268Tania Barnes The facade of St. Ann’s church still stands in front of NYU’s 26-story dorm on East 12th Street.

What began with an objection to what critics called outsized development on Third and Fourth Avenues in the East Village culminated today with a unanimous vote by City Council to approve new zoning legislation that will cap development in the area at 120 feet, or roughly 12 stories.

Neighborhood preservation groups, working with Community Board 3 and local elected officials, have been pushing for years to change the height restrictions in the area from practically unlimited to something they believe is more in keeping with the neighborhood’s character. Supporters say the new legislation will also give developers in the area more incentives to put up residential buildings (including affordable housing), rather than more dorms and hotels.
Read more…

Proposal Would Limit Building Heights

DSC_0260Tania Barnes Under the proposed legislation, this 26-story NYU dorm on East 12th Street would be too tall by half.

In the latest turf battle, it looks like the preservationists are winning.

City Council is set to vote today – and expected to approve — a measure that will cap building heights at 120 feet or roughly 12 stories on the eight blocks between Third and Fourth Avenues and 13th and Ninth Streets. That’s a pretty major shift: under current regulations, the area has practically no height restrictions. (For a case in point, look no further than the NYU dorm on East 12th Street, at 26 stories.)

Originally, the Department of City Planning considered the area, with its wide avenues, better able to accommodate tall buildings, and therefore chose to leave it out of the rezoning plans that affected the rest of the East Village in 2008. That rezoning capped buildings at 75 feet along the streets, 85 feet along avenues, and 120 feet along Houston Street.

But in September, city planning officials changed their tune, agreeing to support building caps for Third and Fourth Avenues. It’s not altogether clear what prompted the change of heart. A spokeswoman for the Department of City Planning would not elaborate on the motives for the reversal. But the support of Councilwoman Rosie Mendez and the continuous campaigns of groups like the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation have undoubtedly played a role.

For preservationists, the failure to include this region in the 2008 rezoning was always an omission and so they don’t necessarily view the pending legislation as a win. Rather, they see it as merely getting the area up to the zoning standards that apply elsewhere. In an interview with The Local, Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation called the new legislation “a compromise of a compromise.” The preservation group, he said, had hoped the building cap would be set at 85 feet, 35 feet less than what was ultimately agreed upon.

The new zoning laws will also theoretically raise the allowable height of residential buildings in the area by increasing what’s called their floor-to-area ratio. Still, Berman says the preservation group is happy with the change: “The advantage of that is if there’s going to be new development, it will be more residential. Right now, new development is all dorms and hotels.”

What do you think about the proposal to limit building heights in the East Village?