Far West Village rezoning approved

Council down-zoned lots with pending development. The Council rezoned 14 blocks of Greenwich Village west of Washington Street, replacing manufacturing and commercial zoning in the area with contextual zoning districts. The proposal came from the Planning Department after Far West Village residents complained of the growing number of large development proposals that followed construction of the Richard Meier-designed, 205-foot luxury residential towers along West Street.

In the proposal, the Planning Department designed contextual commercial zones to allow commercial and residential uses, but limited the size and density of new development to match the neighborhood’s existing character. The rezoning will cluster medium-density residential buildings on portions of West and Washington Streets and greatly restrict the density along the Far West Village’s narrow residential streets like Charles Street.

During the rezoning’s planning and approval process, several proposals for new developments got underway, including the proposed demolition and replacement of the Superior Ink factory site at 70 Bethune Street with a new luxury apartment tower; the demolition of the factory at 389 West 12th Street, formerly owned by Diane von Furstenberg; and a large project proposed for the Whitehall Storage site at 303 West 10th Street.

Several residents, testifying at the October 6, 2005 Council hearing, requested that the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises act to reduce the permitted size of future development on the Whitehall Storage and Superior Ink factory sites Some requested that the Council stop the proposed demolition of the Superior Ink building, a proposal which is currently before BSA A few Charles Street property owners argued that the proposal was unduly restrictive and unfair since their properties were proximate to the large Meier towers and the Whitehall Storage site development.

The next day, the Subcommittee approved the plan without modification, rezoning the Whitehall Storage site to a commercial zoning that maintained the site’s large permitted residential floor area (FAR of 6_02) and permitting residential uses as-of-right with a floor area ratio of 5.02 on the Superior Ink factory site. The Land Use Committee and the full Council approved the rezoning without change.

ULURP Process: The Planning Commission, as lead agency, issued a negative declaration on July 11, 2005. Community Board 2 approved the rezoning, but requested that the plan for the Superior Ink and Whitehall Storage sites be reconsidered. Borough President C. Virginia Fields approved the proposal.

At the September 14, 2005 Planning Commission hearing, State Senator Thomas K. Duane urged the Commission to act swiftly, expressing concern that property owners will rush to obtain vested development rights. Gary Tirnarkin, an architect and developer who owns 393 West 12th Street, opposed the rezoning, arguing it would increase rent and housing costs. Edward Baquero, owner of 385 West 12th Street, asked to be omitted from the rezoning, arguing that his proposed Christian de Portzamparc-designed building would benefit the neighborhood, but was infeasible to construct with the proposed reduction in permitted floor area.

The Commission voted unanimously to approve the plan at a special meeting on September 26, 2005. The Commission found the proposed floor area limit on the Whitehall Storage and Superior Ink sites appropriate and approved both without change. Chair Amanda M . Burden commented that the Commission set a precedent for its coordinated work with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which is considering two new historic districts within the rezoned area.

Council: Far West Village Zoning Map Amendment (October 1 1 , 2005); CPC: Far West Village Zoning Map Amendment (C 060006 ZMM – map amendment) (September 26,2005). CrTYADMIN

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