Harlem block rezoned

Partitioned Metropolitan Opera warehouse on West 129th Street in Manhattan. Photo: CityLand.

Stringer opposed, arguing that the proposal conflicted with the City’s broader efforts to rezone the West Harlem area. The City Council approved West 129th Street Realty LLC’s plan to rezone one block in West Harlem from R7-2 and M1-1 to R7A. The block is bounded by West 130th and West 129th Streets, and Convent and Amsterdam Avenues. The block’s eastern and western portions along Convent and Amsterdam Avenues are developed with four- and five-story apartment buildings and were previously zoned R7-2. The mid-block portion is developed with a one-story warehouse and a two-story parking garage and was zoned M1-1. The developer owns a 20,000 sq.ft. portion of the warehouse site, which is slated for redevelopment.

In 2005, the developer purchased the eastern two-thirds of the former storage warehouse used by the Metropolitan Opera at 497 West 129th Street, which it then partitioned. The site’s M1-1 zoning prohibited residential uses, and the developer requested the rezoning to facilitate the development of two residential buildings, one eight stories and the second nine. The two buildings will be connected by an interior courtyard, with the eight-story building fronting West 129th Street, and the nine-story building fronting West 130th Street. The project will create approximately 90 rental units and 65 accessory parking spaces. The Metropolitan Opera will continue to use its portion of the warehouse for storage.

At the City Planning Commission’s hearing on September 23, 2009, Anthony Borelli, Director of Land Use for Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer, spoke in opposition. He said Stringer opposed the plan because it would conflict with the goals of the Department of City Planning’s broader 90- block West Harlem rezoning study, and Manhattan Community Board 9’s 197-a plan, which seek to encourage economic development through commercial and manufacturing uses and increase housing opportunities. Borelli pointed out that the subject block was the last M-zoned district in West Harlem and the proposed residential development would not create enough affordable housing.

The Commission approved the proposal with only Commissioner Karen Phillips voting no. The Commission pointed out that the West Harlem Rezoning plan would not be ready for public review until 2010, and found that the developer’s plan would be consistent with the “study’s key goal of expanding housing opportunities” in West Harlem.

At the Council’s Zoning & Franchises Subcommittee hearing, attorney Gary Tarnoff, representing the developer, responded to concerns about the proposal’s effect on the broader West Harlem study. He said that the developer would market five percent of the project’s units as affordable housing without relying on HPD funds, and that it would explore other HPD programs for additional affordable housing opportunities so long as it would not delay construction.

The vote was laid over, and when the Subcommittee reconvened, it unanimously approved the rezoning. The Land Use Committee followed suit, and the full Council approved the plan on December 9, 2009.

ULURP Process
Lead Agency: CPC,Neg.Dec.
Comm.Bd.: MN 9,Den’d, 22-5-4
CPC: App’d, 10-1-1
Council: App’d, 46-0-6

Council: West 129th Street Zoning Change (C 080039 ZMM) (Dec. 9, 2009).

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