Proposed Development Neighboring Silk Building Now Before City Council [Update: Council Land Use Committee Approves Unanimously]


LPC approved rendering of the proposed development at 688 Broadway in the NoHo Historic District. Image Credit: BKSK Architects

LPC approved rendering of the proposed development at 688 Broadway in the NoHo Historic District. Image Credit: BKSK Architects

New NoHo mixed-use development faced continued opposition from neighboring Silk Building residents during Council public hearing.On March 18, 2014, the City Council Land Use Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises held a public a hearing for a special permit application by Downtown Re Holdings LLC to build a mixed-use development located at 688 Broadway in the NoHo Historic District. The twelve-story, fourteen-unit building with non-eating and drinking ground floor retail is proposed to be built on the site of an 8,998 sq. ft. parking lot that is currently occupied by a flea market. The special permit will allow ground floor retail and residential uses, which are not permitted by the existing manufacturing zoning, as well as a waiver of setback requirements. The City Planning Commission unanimously voted 11-0 on February 19, 2014 to approve the application. (See CityLand coverage here). The Landmarks Preservation Commission issued a Certificate of Appropriatenesson November 28, 2012.

David Schwartz of Downtown Re Holdings LLC, Mitch Korbey of Herrick Feinstein LLP, and George Schieferdecker of BKSK Architects testified in support of the application. Mitch Korbey testified that the property “could be built on as-of-right- as a hotel or institutional/office use, requiring no Special Permits and no dialogue,” which “would have similar (or worse) impact.” David Schwartz testified that although Downtown Re Holdings could build an as-of-right building on the lot, they “have made a lot of concessions to the Silk Building” and “have had ongoing negotiations with them for many months now.” To address the concerns of the Silk Building residents, Downtown Re Holdings have proposed: up to $100,000 to place skylights in three units of the Silk Building to replace some of the lost lot line windows; redesign of the plan so as not to underpin the Silk Building; and up to $250,000 and a small portion of the developer’s property for the installation of a new HVAC system. Korbey stated that the initial design of the proposed development “was sensitive to this lot line window issue,” and that “the requested setback waiver allows the Building’s bulk to be pushed up to the streetline, freeing up a line of the Silk Building’s lot line windows at the Building’s rear.”

Council Member Margaret Chin thanked the developers and residents for continuously meeting, noting that “the important issue here is mitigation of negative impacts.” Council Member Chin asked the developers about their plans  to ensure the safety of the neighbors, specifically citing issues of underpinning and construction mitigation. David Schwartz responded that the developers have eliminated the underpinning issue by redesigning plans for the cellar and sub-cellar of the proposed building. George Schieferdecker noted that they will follow the “standard procedures” for all construction in New York City, and “try to keep levels of dust down” and ensure that the “noise of construction is kept within certain business hours.”

The residents of the neighboring Silk Building opposed Downtown Re Holdings’ application, stating that the development would result in a loss of light and air for 16 units in the building. Danny White, resident of the Silk Building, testified that a number of his neighbors on the south side of the building “will be severely impacted by the loss of lot line windows.” White stated that some of the affected rooms only have their window and air conditioning from the lot line windows, and that “the loss of these windows will render these rooms without natural light and ventilation, essentially turning them into hot storage rooms unfit for living or work.” White stated that “it did not seem fair or reasonable to deny the existing owners of the Silk Building condominiums the basic rights of access to light and air, or for them to suffer the loss of their property value.”

The residents of the Silk Building further noted that although the developers have offered to contribute to the installation of the HVAC system for the affected units, the residents would still have to get approval from Landmarks and that there was no guarantee that the HVAC system addition would be approved.

Following testimony, Zoning and Franchises Chair, Council Member Mark Weprin closed the hearing.

Update (4/3/2014): On April 1, 2014, the Subcommittee voted 9-0 to approve the special permit application by Downtown Re Holdings LLC. Council Member Margaret Chin expressed her support for the application and commended Downtown RE Holdings for working with their neighbors. Council Member Chin stated, “Neighbors working together to understand each other’s concerns have resulted in an agreement that will ensure the long term quality of life of the residents of the Silk Building.” To address the concerns of negative impacts of the 688 Broadway development on the neighboring Silk Building, Downtown Re Holdings has eliminated plans for underpinning and agreed to contribute to the creation of a new HVAC system, skylights to provide fresh air and natural light, and internal lighting for lot line apartments that will lose light and air all together. The full Land Use Committee voted to approve this application on April 3, 2014.


City Council: 688 Broadway (C 140066 ZSM – Special Permit) (C 140056 ZSM Special Permit) (March 18, 2014).

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



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