Board votes to limit size of Tribeca buildings

Community Board 1 approved a plan for northern Tribeca Tuesday night that favors low-density buildings over affordable housing.

The Dept. of City Planning has been working with the community board for years to rezone northern Tribeca from a manufacturing district into a commercial one, making residential development as-of-right. Up until recently, the city and community were dueling over many of the details of the plan, but earlier this summer the city agreed to many of the community’s demands.

One final decision, the city left entirely up to the community board: whether the northwestern corner of Tribeca — a block bounded by Canal, West, Watts and Washington Sts. — would have inclusionary zoning, meaning developers could add height and bulk if they provided 20 percent affordable housing either on-site or nearby.

The community board voted Tuesday to not include that block in an inclusionary housing zone, which means that buildings will be limited to a 5.5 floor-to-area ratio and a height of 110 feet. Inclusionary housing would have given developers the opportunity to build up to 120 feet tall with an F.A.R. of 7.2, which many Tribecans thought was too bulky.

The community board agreed with the city to put an inclusionary housing zone around the Holland Tunnel entrance, where buildings are already taller and bulkier, but the city expects little affordable housing to be built there because there are almost no developable sites. In contrast, the city saw the Canal and West block as an opportunity to create about 50 affordable housing apartments. But the Dept. of City Planning promised to accept the community board’s decision.

Julie Menin, chairperson of C.B. 1, said City Planning’s deference to the community board was “historic.” Before the board unanimously passed a resolution supporting the rezoning plan, Menin added a sentence saying that the board recognized the importance of affordable housing.

“I would hate for it to be read in any other way beside that,” Menin said.

— Julie Shapiro