Council limits certain uses to Two Trees’ site block. On May 20, 2009, the City Council approved Two Trees Management Company’s plan to build a 1.3 million sq.ft., S-shaped tower at 770 Eleventh Avenue in the Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan. The Enrique Norten-designed tower would rise in steps from approximately seven stories at Eleventh Avenue and West 54th Street to 32 stories at the project’s eastern edge. 6 CityLand 25 (March 15, 2009). Along with 900 residential units, including approximately 180 permanently affordable units, the tower would contain a 350,000 sq.ft. Mercedes Benz dealership, a 36,000 sq.ft. facility for the NYPD Mounted Unit, a 20,000 sq.ft. health club, accessory monthly parking for 175 cars, and parking space for 600–700 bicycles.
Before Council heard the matter, the City Planning Commission modified the proposal. As part of its original application, Two Trees proposed a zoning text amendment that provided an as-of-right FAR of 7.0, bonusable up to an FAR of 9.0 through inclusionary housing regulations. The Commission amended the text to allow an as-of-right FAR of 6.75 that would be bonusable to 8.55, provided that the development contained at least 1.0 FAR of commercial floor area. The change made the text consistent with standard inclusionary housing bonus regulations, which allow for 1.25 square feet of bonus floor area for every square foot of affordable housing provided.
At Council’s April 20th public hearing before its Subcommittee on Zoning & Franchises, Jed Walentas, a principal of Two Trees, explained that his company had worked closely with elected officials and Manhattan Community Board 4 to devise a plan that all parties could agree on. He stated that Two Trees was close to a deal with the NYPD regarding the relocation of the Mounted Unit, and that in the event the deal fell through, the space would be reserved for a community-endorsed user. Walentas also testified that the development would be LEED-certified, as requested by the community, and that Two Trees would contribute $50,000 annually toward the maintenance of Clinton Park. As for the 5,500 sq.ft. on West 54th Street originally allocated for a market, Walentas noted that Two Trees had agreed to provide this space, at $10 a square foot, for a use acceptable to the community.
Anna Levin, representing CB 4, stated that it had not received a complete package of commitments from Two Trees that addressed all 15 conditions in CB 4’s recommendation. Levin expressed dismay that Two Trees’ concessions applied only to the development as proposed; CB 4 wanted the concessions to remain intact, regardless of what Two Trees ultimately built. Levin explained that Two Trees had sought a zoning change that was, in its opinion, substantially larger than what was appropriate. Without concessions like affordable housing or space for NYPD stables, CB 4 would not have given its conditional approval, nor would it approve any similar development without the agreed upon concessions. Levin also expressed concern that the text amendment would apply throughout the urban renewal area. The text, as reviewed by CB 4 prior to Council’s meeting, would allow automobile showrooms with repair and delivery preparation ability beyond the development’s block.
At the request of Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Avella laid the vote over for further deliberation on those two issues. When the Subcommittee reconvened on April 30th, it recommended an amendment to limit repair and delivery preparation uses to the development’s block. All Subcommittee members recommended approval of the modified plan. The Land Use Committee and the full Council followed suit.
Council: The Clinton Park (C 080008 ZMM – rezoning); (N 080009 ZRM – text amend.); (C 080010 ZSM – spec. perm.); (C 080011 ZSM – spec. perm.) (May 20, 2009).