By Andrew Berman
It’s extremely concerning that the troubling and problematic process of selling air rights from the Hudson River Park to massively increase development inland is moving ahead, while alternatives for funding the park endorsed by community groups, and long-standing neighborhood requests for expanded landmark and zoning protections, are still being ignored by the City.
We are sympathetic to the desire to raise funds for the park and to create affordable housing. But this plan would increase the development potential on this enormous three-block site by more than 70% and over 800,000 square feet.
And there has been no explanation as to why alternatives such as taxing new development adjacent to the park for a special fund for park construction— as has been done elsewhere in New York City and which would not require an increase in allowable development—has not been pursued.
Nor has there been any explanation as to why widely-supported requests for zoning protections to prevent out-of-scale overdevelopment in the nearby historic South Village and University Place /Broadway corridors—the latter of which would also help produce affordable housing—have been ignored by the City. These two neighborhood rezoning plans put forward by GVSHP have strong support from the Community Board and local elected officials. The proposed massive development on the St. John’s site would have a huge impact upon the surrounding neighborhood, with nothing offered in return to protect those residential areas from further inappropriate development.
It is also confounding that a transfer of air rights from Pier 40 is even being contemplated when we still do not have answers to basic questions about how many air rights the State legislation enabling transfers may allow to be used inland, nor has there been any serious discussion of placing appropriate limits on the use of those air rights or establishing reasonable criteria for when and how they can or cannot be used.
The affected inland communities have been asking for these steps to be taken for over two years. Sadly, while there has been tremendous progress on formulating this incredibly profitable deal for a developer, there has been little or no progress on addressing these community concerns.
Andrew Berman is the Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation www.gvshp.org