New Housing for the Special Clinton District

Diagram of rezoning area in the Special Clinton District in Manhattan. Image credit: CPC.

Diagram of rezoning area in the Special Clinton District in Manhattan. Image credit: CPC.

Council-approved developments in Special Clinton District will achieve 39 percent affordability across a range of Area Median Incomes. On June 26, 2014, the City Council unanimously voted 48-0 to approve applications which would facilitate the development of two new mixed-use buildings, the rehabilitation of another building, and creation of three new community gardens in the Special Clinton District in Manhattan. The joint applications were proposed by the Clinton Housing Development Company, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Taconic Investment Partners and Ritterman Capital. The project area is generally bounded by West 51st Street and West 53rd Street between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues.

The Clinton Housing Development Company proposed a new building with 103 permanently affordable units, ranging from studios to three bedrooms, for individuals and families earning up to 80, 100, 130, and 165 percent of the Area Median Income. Taconic Investment Partners and Ritterman Capital in a joint venture proposed a 405-unit new building with 81 units permanently affordable for individuals and families earning 40 and 50 percent of the AMI. The second new building is a 405-unit property with 20 percent affordable units being developed by also by Taconic and Ritterman. Clinton Housing Development Company also proposed to renovate and convert the City-owned Captain Post Building, a former manufacturing building, into 22 units of affordable housing for households earning between 80 and 100 percent of AMI.

During the June 17, 2014 Council Land Use Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises public hearing, HPD Director of Manhattan Planning Thebia Walters stated that the goals of the project are to “provide for a range of income bands and housing that exhibits good design in terms of privacy, light, air, and open space.” Joe Restuccia, Executive Director of the Clinton Housing Development Corporation, said, “Our biggest issue in our community is that we have many people who are at the low end or at the high end, but not in the middle.” The three developments will include a total of 530 residential units and up to 208 units of affordable housing created through the use of City financing, the Inclusionary Housing Program, and a partnership with an adjacent property owner. The project proposed 38 percent affordability in total, which caters to low-, moderate-, and middle-income households.  On June 19, 2014, the City Council Land Use Subcommittee and the full Land Use Committee voted to approve the project unanimously.

The project is located within the former Clinton Urban Renewal Area, which expired in 2009 and is generally bounded by West 56th Street to the north, West 50th Street to the south, Tenth Avenue to the east, and Eleventh Avenue to the west. The goals of Clinton Urban Renewal Area included redevelopment of the area in a comprehensive manner, removing blight and restoring the residential character of the area with appropriate support facilities. The project area is among the last undeveloped parcels in the former Clinton Urban Renewal Area.

The application included zoning map amendments, which on the northern block is a rezoning of an existing M1-5 district to an R9 district with a commercial C2-5 overlay and a portion of a small R8-A district to a R9 district with a C2-5 overlay. On the southern block, the applicants proposed a rezoning of an existing portion of an R8 district to an R8-A district. The zoning map amendments will permit the development of the resident uses, increased the permitted density of the site, and provide for the special height and set back regulations.

The application also included zoning text amendments, which would allow the project sites to utilize the Inclusionary Housing Program and expand the range of inclusionary housing for low-, moderate-, and middle- income households. An additional text amendment would allow commercial and manufacturing uses otherwise not permitted in R9 or C2-5 zoning districts, including production studios, commercial art galleries, lumber stores with no limitation on floor area, theaters, automotive service, and scenery construction. This provision would allow for the relocation of two Clinton Urban Renewal Area tenants: Cybert Tire, which has been in business at this location since 1916, and LeNoble Lumber, which has been in business at this location since 1965.

The text amendments would also preserve the rights of the existing tenants located at 545 West 52nd Street by explicitly permitting and expanding existing arts-related uses within the special district. The artselated uses include theaters, rehearsal space, officers, scenery, construction, film production studios, and art galleries as well as the uses by Cybert Tire and LeNoble Lumber. LeNoble Lumber, however, will not return with the current lumber business, and instead will establish an affordable supermarket at its location.

Housing Preservation and Development proposed an Urban Development Action Area designation, an approval of a UDAA project, and a large scale general development special permit. This will allow for the transfer of unused development rights from the western portion of the proposed large scale, the R8-A portion, to be used on the CHDC and Taconic Ritterman’s portion of the site. Additionally, the special permit will allow for height and setback. The waivers include base waivers and front setback waivers to allow for the shape of the streetscape. The height waivers would allow for a taller building in the middle of the block pulling the density away from DeWitt Clinton Park and from Eleventh Avenue. The rear setback waivers would allow for more workable and better floor plans for the buildings in the upper levels of the buildings.

Council Member Corey Johnson stated: “This project contributes to the exemplary diversity of the community and represents a model of public and private partnership to revitalize an underutilized area in an inclusive manner. It does through a diversity of uses that complements trends in the neighborhood. Not only does the provision of the affordable units at various bands represent the priorities of the local community, council, and administration, but should serve as a model to other projects on how to insure a diverse and healthy mixed income community above the standard 20 percent affordable projects without overwhelming community opposition and with out of context height and bulk.”

The approved actions will also support the development of three new community gardens and will contain 7,000 square feet of new public open space. Taconic Ritterman will contribute $200,000 to the Clinton Housing Land Trust for improvements to DeWitt Clinton Park. Council Member Corey Johnson stated that this contribution “will set the park on a path towards modernization and also help set the bar for private commitments to local parks from developers in our community.”

City Council: Clinton URA (C 140185 HAM–Urban Development Action Areas); (C 140183 ZSM–Zoning Special Permits); (N 140172 ZRM–Zoning Text Amendment); (C 140171 ZMM–Zoning Map Amendment)(June 26, 2014).

By: Jennifer Baek (Jennifer is a CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2013).

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