Stalemate on Tribeca tower project continues

By Elizabeth O”Brien

Madelyn Wils accused the city of trying to circumvent part of the municipal land use review process for the 5C lot on Chambers St., but city officials denied skipping a required step.

At issue is the controversial plan to build at 35-story residential tower on the city-owned site 5C lot at Chambers and West Sts. Before the city can ever sell its land to a developer, it must undertake the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP.

Wils, chairperson of Community Board 1, expressed frustration at a July 27 C.B. 1 meeting that the ULURP process for 5C did not include a review by the Manhattan borough board, a body comprised of the Manhattan borough president, Manhattan City Councilmembers, and Manhattan community board chairpersons.

“To obviate this and allow this to happen is a tragedy,” Wils said.

Spokespersons for three city agencies overseeing the ULURP process for 5C confirmed that a borough board review did not happen. But all three said that such a step was never required for the dispensation of the 5C lot.

Councilmember Alan Gerson, whose district includes the property, said the city took advantage of a “legal loophole” in omitting the borough board review.

Wils said the community would have welcomed the additional scrutiny that a borough board review would have brought. But the Manhattan Borough President, C. Virginia Fields, has already approved the project, said Janel Patterson, a spokesperson for the city Economic Development Corporation, making it unlikely that the borough board would have rejected the project outright even if it had had an opportunity to weigh in.

The city owns the 5C lot, which is currently under the jurisdiction of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. When the involved parties close on the property, the land will be transferred to the Economic Development Corporation and then immediately over to the developer. This is a routine “paper” transfer, city spokespersons said, and has no bearing on the land review process.

The next step in the ULURP process for the 5C lot is a vote by the City Council. Gerson said on Thursday that the Council was prepared to exercise its veto power over the project if the city and the developer did not agree to reduce the height and bulk of the building and increase its community space. The vote is not yet scheduled.

Negotiations on the project are ongoing, Gerson said, adding, “The ball is in the administration’s court now.”


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