While Village people focus their attention on New York University’s expansion plans and doings at the former St. Vincent’s Hospital, the future of the Hudson Square neighborhood just west of Soho is in the midst of major rezoning. The real estate arm of Trinity Church aims to transform at least 21 blocks of post-industrial Manhattan into a live/work/play zone. But critics say the Trinity plan misses a key element: open space.
Though the neighborhood sits just two blocks from Hudson River Park, it’s effectively cut off from it by a UPS distribution center, St. John’s Center’s production studios, and a controversial sanitation garage. With the riverfront park so close and yet so far, various stakeholders are now advancing ideas to eke out more green space wherever they can.
Most of the proposals call for changes to the Trinity plan, which favors taller buildings near their already proposed SHoP Architects–designed towers at 6th Avenue and Canal Street. The Trinity plan would also revamp Duarte Square, a triangle park that fronts the project. The only other accessible green space in the district is Soho Square.
For the past few months the Hudson Square Connection (HSC) has been brainstorming on streetscape, identity, and infrastructure with a powerhouse collection of firms including Mathews Nielsen, Rogers Marvel, Billings Jackson Design, Arup, and Open. So far HSC has identified the inordinately wide sidewalks as one opportunity for green space and are pushing for more access to Hudson River Park at Spring Street.
Other ideas focus on swapping displaced air rights for green space, an idea triggered by the popular High Line, such as one for a park overlooking the Holland Tunnel.
Recently a study by WXY Architecture was presented to the community board that would allow air rights for buildings to be sold and distributed throughout the neighborhood so as to encourage interconnected green spaces. Instead of placing privately owned public spaces (POPS) next to the new buildings, the plan encourages building owners to assemble plazas together, in this case a series of midblock parks between Hudson and Varick to be called the Hudson Square Gap. As there are only three major real estate players in the area—Trinity, Edison, and Extell—the plan would seem doable as long as Trinity and Edison adapt the plans they already have for the block.
The proposed Hudson Square Gap runs from Henry to Spring Street, where Edison wants to build a midblock tower effectively plugging the proposed gap. That tower would have its own POPS designed by Starr Whitehouse facing Dominick Street, a design dependent on the Port Authority allowing it to encompass an adjoining parking lot that sits above the Holland Tunnel’s entrance and cannot be built upon.
But all roads lead to Trinity, who owns six million square feet and holds the ULURP application. Their plan carries the most weight unless City Planning can be encouraged to think otherwise.