Council modifies controversial Tribeca rezoning

Height and size of buildings reduced along West and Washington Streets in last-minute compromise. On August 16, 2006, the City Council approved modifications to the controversial four-block rezoning in North Tribeca initiated by private developer the Jack Parker Corporation to facilitate construction of a 260,000-square-foot residential tower on one block. The proposal called for the four manufacturing zoned blocks bounded by Washington, West, Watts and Hubert Streets to be given a commercial zoning – C6-2A and C6-3A – that would allow large residential buildings as-of-right with a 6.02 and a 7.52 floor area ratio. It proposed to increase the West Street height limit to 160 feet and 150 feet along the street wall, permit 20,000-square-foot retail spaces on West Street and modify the bulk regulations. The Planning Commission approved the proposal in July with one change; it left the street wall height along West Street at its original 102 feet. 3 CityLand 106 (Aug. 15, 2006).

Substantial opposition from residents and every elected official representing North Tribeca remained when the application reached the Council. Council Member Alan Gerson appeared at the August 14th hearing before the Zoning & Franchises Subcommittee, stating that he had “never seen such a screwed up, unfair, inconsistent process as this particular application.” Gerson explained that City Planning was in the midst of evaluating the entire North Tribeca area for a new, comprehensive rezoning. Gerson added that the Council would set a “terrible precedent that will come back to haunt us” if it allowed a private developer to precede a rezoning with a packaged plan tailored to its own needs.

But Gerson stated that his biggest concern rested with the project’s failure to complete a full environmental study. Gerson raised Holland Tunnel traffic, the lack of community facilities, and the existing small scale of the area as significant issues that lacked any systematic study. Other elected officials echoed Gerson’s concerns, arguing that without an environmental study the Council decision would be uninformed, particularly about the impact of added density on the gridlocked traffic at the Holland Tunnel approaches. Tribeca residents emphasized that a petition with over 1,000 signatures showed the community’s vehement opposition to the proposal.

The Subcommittee delayed the vote that day, explaining that Gerson hoped to reach a compromise with the developer. After a second delay, Gerson presented the negotiated compromise at the Subcommittee’s meeting on August 16th, explaining that the parties reached the final deal a few hours before the meeting and calling the process “arduous and complicated.” The new proposal reduced the floor area ratio along Washington Street from 6.0 to 5.5 and the height to 110 feet. On West Street, the compromise capped the height at 140 feet down from 160, set the street wall height at 65 feet, and reduced the size of permitted buildings from a 6.5 FAR to a 6.25. Retail space would be limited to 10,000 sq.ft., down from 20,000 sq.ft. in the original proposal.

Gerson advocated for approval of the new proposal. Council Member Tony Avella, Chair of the Subcommittee, explained that the rezoning would cap FAR at 5.5 in the C6-2A district and the remaining limits on development in that area had been voluntarily agreed to by the Jack Parker Corporation. The Subcommittee, Land Use Committee and the full Council approved the modifications on August 16, 2006, sending the proposal back to the Planning Commission for review.

Council: Tribeca N. Rezoning/Text Amendment (C 040545 ZSM – special permit, garage); (N 040544 ZRM – text amendment); (C 040543 ZMM – map amendment) (July 12, 2006) (Kenneth Lowenstein, Bryan Cave LLP, William Wallerstein, for Jack Parker). CITYADMIN


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