By Brian J. Pape, AIA
Attending Community Board 2’s (CB2’s) full board meeting on July 20th gave me an earful of local news.
Following up on previous West Village Houses (WVH) articles for our readers, the debate over the parking requirement for WVH at their 738 Greenwich Street Parking Garage at Perry Street was a major topic at the meeting. What could have been a simple discussion turned into a can of worms, about cars, zoning law, tax abatements, NYC Housing and Preservation Development, street parking, affordability, and potential plans for WVH residents!
WVH requested a Zoning Authorization to eliminate the mandatory provision of off-street parking spaces for WVH residents. Only nine residents of WVH currently rent space at the 240-space resident-owned garage.
Much has changed since the era of Jane Jacobs’ efforts to build affordable housing in the Village in the 1960s. At that time, New York was still debating a car-centric cross-town expressway connecting New Jersey and Brooklyn, and busses crossed through Washington Square Park! One of the ideas Jane Jacobs championed was the creation of 62 community planning boards, as the most effective self-governance means of decentralizing big city government.
Although the City’s Zoning Law permits the City Planning Commission (CPC) to reduce off-street parking requirements once required for all of Manhattan, the New York City Council reduced it for the West Side of Manhattan years ago, due to changing demographics and lower car ownership. But WVH was a special case. CB2 was able to deny the reduction based on their Land Use Committee findings, citing their requirement for a long-term plan to keep WVH affordable for as many as possible, and a lack of evidence of the negative impact of reduced parking (despite documentation of numerous alternatives and new garages built into luxury buildings).
The CB2 Committee thinks that WVH should spend about an additional $400,000 on attorneys to negotiate a resale cap on at least 40 units, hopefully to get the tax abatement extended for another 20 years (the last tax abatement was for 12 years), or have WVH develop another plan to extend the affordability for WVH residents. Only 40 previous residents at WVH have not taken advantage of buying their apartments sinc that option was initially offered in 2006. (There are 420 units in WVH.)
So, instead of a simple request to allow WVH flexibility to plan their future, they are now asked to come up with a long-term plan to prove that they are worthy to live in the West Village! A lesson in saying too much before a committee of many! WestView News will track future developments on this topic.