70 years ago in The Villager

By Elizabeth O’Brien

Volume 73, Number 24 | October 15 – 21, 2003

Noho residents shaken, stirred by Bond variance

Noho residents who fear that a proposed 14-story residential tower on Bond St. will dwarf their historic low-rise neighborhood turned out in force last week to protest the development at a city hearing.

In order to increase the floor-to-area ratio of their lot, developers of the property, 32-40 Bond St., must obtain a variance from the city Board of Standards and Appeals. More than two years ago, the hotelier Ian Schrager planned to build a 12-story hotel on the property, which would not have required special permission from the city. But the city’s hotels experienced a sharp downturn in business after the terror attack of Sept. 11, 2001, and like many other hoteliers Schrager shifted his focus to residential construction.

Many residents believe the proposed development will mar the distinctive character of their neighborhood, home to lofts and light manufacturing in buildings no taller than nine stories. The proposed development is on Bond St. between Lafayette St. and the Bowery.

“Most of the block is quite a beautiful gem, all 19th-century buildings,” said Susan Smith Rosenthal, an artist and 30-year resident of Bond St. “A 14-story high rise will really destroy this forever.”

Rosenthal joined other concerned residents on Oct. 8 to speak at a Board of Standards and Appeals hearing. They protested the developers’ request for an increase of the floor-to-area ratio on their 15,000 sq.-ft. lot from the zoned limit of 5 to 7.6. This increase would allow developers to build a taller and bulkier structure.

“They’re asking for too much,” said David Reck, chairperson of the zoning committee of Community Board 2.

Ian Schrager was traveling and not available for comment, his spokesperson said. Schrager’s partner, Richard

Born, spoke to The New York Observer last week about the proposed development.

“Clearly, there’s an issue of density,” Born told The Observer. “But I need a certain critical mass to make the project profitable.”

The resolution passed by Board 2’s Zoning Committee asked for certain concessions from the developer if the property is built. These include a provision that all 65 units be no smaller than 1,200 sq. ft., that eating and drinking facilities not be allowed in the development, that an arts-related project be incorporated in each application and that the existing floor-area-ratio of 5 be maintained, among several other conditions.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick, whose district includes the proposed development, said she worried its addition would mean the neighborhood would become more like the Upper East Side and lose its distinctive character due to over-development.

“It’s inexplicable to me why the city, which sees Downtown as so successful a link of local communities, is seeking to turn it into something completely antithetical to its nature.”

B.S.A. officials did not return a call for comment. There will be at least one more public forum on the variance application, to be held Nov. 12.

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