Parker firm, residents upset with City Planning approval

By Ronda Kaysen

The City Planning Commission approved an application on Wednesday to rezone a swath of North Tribeca, making way for what could be a major overhaul of the neighborhood’s waterfront.

The Jack Parker Corp. would like to rezone four blocks of the neighborhood bounded by West, Washington, Watts and Hubert Sts. so it can build a residential high rise on one of the blocks, which it owns. At Wednesday’s hearing the Commission voted overwhelmingly to approve a modified version of the application, despite resounding criticism from local residents.

“There is widespread consensus that a rezoning of North Tribeca is necessary to reflect the current reality of one of Manhattan’s most successful residential neighborhoods,” said Commission Chairperson Amanda Burden in a prepared statement. The application will now be sent to the City Council for a vote.

Only one of the nine commissioners present, Angela Cavaluzzi, voted against the application. Borough President Scott Stringer, who opposed the application when it came before his office, reappointed Cavaluzzi to the commission.

Jack Parker proposed rezoning the manufacturing district for residential and commercial use with a floor to area ratio (F.A.R.) of 7.5 along the waterfront and a height limit of 160 feet. The commission lowered the F.A.R. to 6.5 along West St., lowered the base height from 150 feet to 102 feet and rejected a provision that would have allowed the developer to transfer bulk from one part of the rezoned area to another. The end result, if approved by City Council, will be towers less bulky than what Jack Parker requested.

“We’re very disappointed by the drop in density. It poses a very serious challenge to develop a residential building,” said Jack Parker vice president William Wallerstein.

The revised application cuts into Parker’s profit margin, said Wallerstein, who implied the firm might sell the parcel his company owns, which is bounded by West, Washington, Watts and Desbrosses Sts.

“We obviously purchased the property to develop it. Our business is not to rezone and sell it to somebody else,” he said. “But obviously everything is driven by economics and the economic picture has changed dramatically over the last four years.”

Wallerstein isn’t the only one disappointed with the commission’s decision. Local residents think the proposal is still too dense for the neighborhood and will cut the area off from the waterfront.

“We still feel that the F.A.R. needs to be even lower,” said Community Board 1 chairperson Julie Menin. “We remain very steadfast in our concern that even a 6.5 [F.A.R.] along West St. is still too much because it will block the light and air and will also create a wall along the water.”

C.B. 1, an advisory board, rejected the application and, instead, would like to see the entire neighborhood rezoned for residential use with an F.A.R. of 5.

The proposal is not out of the woods yet. It must still be approved by the City Council and City Councilmember Alan Gerson has indicated that he would not support the application in its current form. “I made it very clear that an F.A.R. in excess of 5 should be rejected, unless the developer and the community are able to come to terms on a range of other accommodations or concessions, but I don’t see this happening,” he told Downtown Express.

Typically, the City Council votes in line with the local councilmember on land use issues. “The council has been very supportive of Lower Manhattan and I hope that will continue to be the case,” Gerson said, adding that rezoning a narrow portion of a neighborhood without taking an entire area into consideration amounts to poor urban planning. “The Council would not want this to take place elsewhere in the city as they would not want this to take place here,” he said.

Wallerstein was unaware of Gerson’s intentions to block the vote, but voiced concern about his recent statements. “Obviously that’s very troubling, if he would say that,” he said.

Theoretically, the mayor could veto a City Council vote, but it would be highly unlikely in this case since the mayor does not intervene in private land use applications going through a public process. Doing so in this case would be unprecedented, spokesperson in the mayor’s office told Downtown Express.


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