Maybe In My Back Yard

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COOKFOX Architects

The planned redevelopment of the St. John’s Terminal site in Hudson Square, a Manhattan neighborhood known for its fervent opposition to new construction, could be the key to ensuring much-needed infrastructure improvements to nearby Pier 40 and Hudson River Park.

In an agreement outlined by the de Blasio administration this past October, the Hudson River Park Trust—a partnership between New York State and City that operates Pier 40—plans to sell 200,000 square feet of its unused air rights to the owner of St. John’s Terminal to allow for the construction of taller buildings. The estimated $100 million sale would provide funding to repair the decaying 15-acre pier, which is sinking into the Hudson River.

Although the salvation of Pier 40, home to a popular sports and recreational complex, is generally viewed as a victory, the pending deal has been criticized by community members for its lack of transparency.

“We want to examine how much the developer will be paying for these air rights, ” said David Gruber, chairman of the Air Rights Transfer Working Group of Community Board 2. Mr. Gruber, a real estate broker, is skeptical as to how the $100 million was calculated. “There is a sense that they’re getting an under-market deal,” he said. He hopes that the Hudson River Park Trust will get a greater amount.

Because rezoning will be required for the successful transfer of Pier 40’s unused development rights, the COOKFOX-designed proposal is now undergoing an extensive Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Throughout this process, public committees ranging from the community board to City Council evaluate the project’s land use and assess potential environmental impact.

If the ULURP application is approved, a five tower, mixed-use development could replace the existing St. John’s Terminal, a bulky warehouse spanning three blocks of West Houston Street from Charlton to Clarkson Streets.

According to Mark Ruzitsky, senior associate at COOKFOX, the terminal currently acts as a barrier to the waterfront and to Pier 40. “The first impulse is to really remove some of that barrier and create more access to the park, really opening it up,” he said.

The project could provide up to 1,586 much-needed residential units —a third of which would be designated as affordable and senior housing.

There are also plans to include 14,200 square feet of publicly accessible open space in the form of a High Line-style park, a proposal that Mr. Ruzitsky said is in line with the firm’s emphasis on biophilia “We’re looking to take obsolete infrastructure and create a diverse community,” said Mr. Ruzitsky. “It’s part of the way we look at projects—connecting people with nature.”

In the months to come, the community will be able to voice concerns about a number of factors, from the size of the proposed buildings to mandates for affordable housing. The public review process aims to be complete by October 2016.

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