Union Square tech center gets final approval from City Council

The Union Square Tech Training Center, proposed for 124 E. 14th St., was approved by the City Council Wednesday.
The Union Square Tech Training Center, proposed for 124 E. 14th St., was approved by the City Council Wednesday. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Union Square Tech Training Center was unanimously approved by the City Council on Wednesday, despite concerns from local residents that the development of the 21-story building will lead to the construction of more high-rises in the area.

The building, which is planned for the site of a now-shuttered P.C. Richard and Son at 124 E. 14th St. between Third and Fourth avenues, will house a digital skills training center run by the nonprofit Civic Hall, office spaces for startups and established tech companies, an event space and retail stores.

Civic Hall was recently given $100,000 from Microsoft to go toward the training center, which aims to create an avenue to good-paying jobs for people who don’t have access to the education needed to work in the technology industry.

The Tech Training Center was proposed by the de Blasio administration as part of the mayor’s “New York Works” initiative and is expected to create more than 600 jobs, according to the city’s Economic Development Corporation. It has gotten support from the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and the Real Estate Board of New York, among other groups.

City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, whose district includes the tech hub, said after Wednesday’s 45-0 vote that she was satisfied with the final plan that was approved.

“I am voting yes today for a tech hub that will bring true community benefits, tech education, and workforce development services that will finally give women, people of color, and low-income New Yorkers access to an industry that has unfairly kept them out for far too long,” she said in an emailed statement.

The plan faced criticism from the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation, which fears nearby Greenwich Village and the East Village will be transformed into hyper-commercialized hubs. The group called for the City Council to only approve the tech center proposal if it included zoning regulations that would restrict the heights of future developments in the neighborhoods — a request that was not heeded by the council on Wednesday.

Andrew Berman, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said the final proposal that was approved included only a “fraction of a fraction” of the protections his organization had demanded.

“The approval of the tech hub will accelerate the transformation of the adjacent Greenwich Village and East Village neighborhoods into an extension of ‘Midtown South’ and ‘Silicon Alley,’ which many developers and real estate interests have already begun to call them,” Berman said in an emailed statement.

Rivera, however, argued the protections included in the approved plan — including key landmarkings, a protective commercial zoning measure in neighborhoods south of 14th Street and resource commitments from city agencies — will help preserve the neighborhood’s affordable and historical housing stock.

“I believe these protections for the neighborhood are the first in a string of victories that will allow us to develop sensible zoning for livable streets, establish landmarking of precious historical sites, and ensure the small businesses we cherish prosper,” Rivera added.

More from around NYC