Eleven-story HPD project approved for West Side

Courtesy of SLCE Architects

Affordable housing project along West 52nd Street will include 96 apartments. On April 6, 2011, the City Council approved the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s proposal to allow the Clinton Housing Association and Monadnock Construction to build a 96-unit affordable housing project at 533 West 52nd Street between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues in Manhattan. The eleven-story project, known as Clinton Commons, will provide a mix of studio and one- and two-bedroom apartments available for purchase by families earning between 80 and 165 percent of the area median income.

The project site is occupied by a one-story welding supply store, an industrial supply storage lot, and vacant one- and two-story buildings. A City-owned ten-story loft building at 549 West 52nd Street is adjacent to the site and houses artist studios, including the Women’s Interart Center and the Ensemble StudioTheatre. HPD requested that the site be designated as an Urban Development Action Area and asked the City to rezone the street’s mid-block portion, including the adjacent loft building, from M1-5 to R8A.

At the City Planning Commission’s January 26 hearing, tenants from 549 West 52nd Street argued that rezoning the entire mid-block portion to R8A would restrict future arts-related uses in their building and asked that the proposal be revised. Members of the Studio for Visual Research supported the affordable housing project, but were concerned that the rezoning would make it easier for the City to convert 549 West 52nd Street into a residential building. Commissioner Anna Levin responded that if HPD wanted to dispose of and convert the building to a residential use it would need additional regulatory approvals.

Margot Lewitin, president of the Women’s Interart Center, testified that her organization was involved in litigation regarding the City’s termination of an agreement to sell 549 West 52nd Street to the Interart Center, which planned to redevelop the site into a cultural center. Lewitin explained that if their lawsuit were successful, the Interart Center would be unable to build the project under R8A zoning. Joe Restuccia, co-chair of Manhattan Community Board 4’shousing committee and the executive director of the Clinton Housing Development Corporation (CHDC), which manages 549 West 52ndStreet, testified in support of the project.

Restuccia stated that HPD had represented to him that it had no desire to convert the loft building from its current use. Commissioner Nathan Leventhal, however, expressed concern about what would happen if HPD’s policy changed under a different administration.

After the hearing, HPD agreed to revise the proposal so that 549West 52nd Street retained its M1-5 designation. The Commission unanimously approved the revised plan, finding that the development of underutilized City-owned property would benefit the community. The Commission noted that if HPD decided to redevelop 549 West 52nd Street in the future, it could seek a residential rezoning and other appropriate land use approvals.

No one testified in opposition at the City Council’s Planning, Dispositions & Concessions Subcommittee hearing. Council Member Charles Barron, however, expressed concern that the project did not target low-income households. CB 4’s Joe Restuccia claimed that a large number of low-income units had been constructed in the area and that the community needed additional middle-income housing.

The Subcommittee approved the proposal by a 4-1 vote, with Barron opposing. The Land Use Committee and full Council approved the proposal, with only Barron voting no.

ULURP Process
Lead Agency: HPD, Neg. Dec.
Comm. Bd.: MN 4, App’d, 39-0-0
Boro. Pres.: App’d
CPC: App’d, 12-0-0
Council: App’d, 46-1-0

Council: Clinton Commons (C 110125ZMM – rezoning); (C 110126 HAM– UDAAP) (April 6, 2011).

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