Tuesday night, the residents of the Seward Park Co-op on Manhattan’s Lower East Side went to vote on whether to sell the four-building complex’s air rights to developers Ascend Group/Optimum Group. If the measure had passed, Seward Park would have received $54 million ($39 million after taxes) and four months of maintenance for its residents; in return, Ascend would have used this upzoning to build a pair of 22- and 33-story residential buildings to the co-op’s south. According to community members present that night, the referendum, which required approval by two-thirds of the residents, failed to pass on Tuesday. The final vote was 690 for, 537 against. Residents had become increasingly divided over the potential sale, and many issued public op-eds both for and against the sale as the buildup to the vote grew more intense. If the vote had passed, Seward Park would have been able to pay down $20 million in mounting mortgage costs, replace its 24 ailing elevators, and repair the complex’s crumbling brick facades. Opponents argued that the money isn’t worth the irreparable harm that Ascend will be doing to the neighborhood. From the massings released, the towers, if built with Seward Park’s air rights, would potentially block views from southern-facing co-op units. “No”-aligned residents are also concerned about the impact that building market-rate housing would have on raising the cost of living in the neighborhood. Ascend is looking to build on either side of the landmarked Bialystoker nursing home on East Broadway, which would become a lobby for the towers. With the air rights, a 242-foot-tall tower would rise on Bialystoker’s west side, and a 343-foot-tower would join it the eastern lot and cantilever over the ramp to Seward Park’s underground garage. In this scheme, the development would total approximately 270,000 square feet and contain 210 units across the three buildings. Of course, Ascend will build on the lots even as residents chose to vote no. The developers will still renovate Bialystoker according to their as-of-right scheme and would put up a 239-foot-tall, 20-story tower on the western lot and a 186-foot-tall, 17-story building on the eastern section. This plan would see the creation of a 115,000-square-foot, 140-unit development. According to the developer’s website, “Should the shareholders decide not to sell the air rights, two things will follow. First, Ascend/Optimum will build on both its lots using its existing development rights. Demolition has already begun to prepare for this scenario. Second, the Coop will have lost its only opportunity to sell some of its air rights. Ascend/Optimum is the only property owner adjacent to the Seward Park Coop that can purchase these air rights.”
Posts tagged with "air rights":
The owners of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City are positioning themselves to sell air rights associated with the landmark to permit construction of a high-rise building in the Midtown East rezoning district, where JPMorgan Chase is planning a 70-story tower to replace its current headquarters, the former Union Carbide building at 270 Park Avenue. Representatives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York are scheduled to present a “restoration and maintenance plan” to New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) on March 13 to show how proceeds from the sale of air rights would be used to improve spaces in and around the church property at 625 Fifth Avenue, which has been designated a city landmark. According to an agenda item listing the meeting, the commission will review a program “for the continuing maintenance of the complex in connection with future development right transfers” pursuant to applicable provisions of the Midtown East zoning resolution. A second midtown landmark, Grand Central Terminal, also may be transferring air rights for the JPMorgan Chase project, according to Crain’s New York. Two investment firms and a developer control a majority stake in up to 1.35 million square feet of transferrable air rights above the terminal, according to the publication, but the preservation commission has not scheduled any public meetings to review any transfers from there. The meeting involving St. Patrick’s is scheduled to take place less than a month after JPMorgan Chase and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the bank is planning to tear down its 52-story headquarters and build a much larger replacement. A representative for the Archdiocese declined to provide specifics about the air rights plan, but others with the city say it would, if approved, enable the transfer of development rights to the Park Avenue site controlled by JPMorgan Chase. The JPMorgan Chase project is the first major building to be announced for the East Midtown district since the city adopted new guidelines that address where owners of city landmarks can transfer development rights to construct larger buildings. Under previous guidelines, the development rights had to be transferred to sites close to the landmark that has them. Under the new guidelines, enacted in August 2017, the air rights can be transferred anywhere within the larger Midtown East rezoning district, giving owners of landmark properties more options for transferring air rights. The transfer is expected largely to benefit the cathedral, which underwent a $177 million restoration from 2013 to 2016, with Murphy Burnham & Buttrick as the architect. Besides the Gothic Revival cathedral designed by James Renwick Jr. and completed in 1880, the property includes the cardinal’s residence and a rectory designed by Renwick, a French Gothic style Lady Chapel designed by Charles Matthews and built in 1906, and the church grounds. According to preservationists, the cathedral property cannot be demolished without city approval, but it has transferrable air rights that could be used to build an estimated 1.1 million square feet of development elsewhere. The Archdiocese has made no secret about its desire to take advantage of the sale of air rights to benefit its property. The rezoning plan requires sellers of air rights to pay a share of the proceeds to the city to help improve sidewalks, plazas and streets. According to The New York Times, JPMorganChase is expected to buy up to one million square feet of air rights from other property owners, and its air rights purchase is expected to generate more than $40 million for public improvements. A 2017 analysis by The Real Deal indicated that the archdiocese and St. Patrick’s would receive $270.6 million if it sold all of its air rights, and the city would receive $67.6 million. Under the city’s Midtown East rezoning rules, development and approval of a continuing maintenance agreement is required before development rights can be transferred. The plan can involve both interiors and exteriors of the designated landmark. Although extensive restoration work has been completed at St. Patrick’s, the archdiocese still wants to upgrade building systems, including fire protection and roof drainage., and that is what the conservation plan is expected to address. The JP Morgan Chase project is controversial because it calls for the demolition of an office tower designed by Skidmore Owings and Merrill and opened in 1961. The tower was designed by Gordon Bunshaft and Natalie Griffin De Blois, one of the few women to design a midcentury office tower, but is not protected by landmark status. It would be the tallest building in the world demolished voluntarily. This month’s announcement of the JPMorgan Chase project drew criticism from architecture experts who say the SOM tower should be preserved. The scope of the March 13 Landmarks Preservation Commission does not specifically address the demolition proposal or the irony that a conservation plan that would help preserve the cathedral could be used to demolish the SOM tower. Preservationists have advocated that the preservation commission consider giving the Union Carbide building landmark designation, but no public meetings have been scheduled at this point to discuss such a designation.
Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) CEO Madelyn Wils has indicated that the Trust’s board of directors would like to use some of the 400,000 square feet of Pier 40’s development rights to repair the pier and generate revenue, according to a DNAinfo article. HRPT is the organization that controls Pier 40, a park complex of athletic fields, a commercial parking garage, and the administrative offices for the Trust. The pier is one of the properties that comprises the Hudson River Park, a series of parks along the waterfront of the Hudson River in New York City. Pier 40 is required to be financially self-sufficient. The Trust intends to sell 200,000 square feet of the pier's 400,000 square feet of air rights to developers Westbrook Partners and Atlas Capital Group to redevelop St. John's Terminal, located across the street from the pier. This $100 million deal must still complete the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), after which the Trust will hold a vote on the sale of the air rights. The deal is likely to be approved since it "was announced with the blessing of local Councilman Corey Johnson, and the chair of the City Planning Commission, Carl Weisbrod," the article states. DNAinfo was able to compile records of meetings and correspondence that also seemed to indicate support from the city. If the deal is approved, West Village residents fear the potential for several other large-scale projects in the area, but they have been assured that the $100 million of the deal will be used to repair and restore the Pier 40 across the West Side Highway, particularly its rotting piles. According to the DNAinfo article, Wils expressed that the HRPT board believes "office space could be the best use for the development rights [also known as air rights] remaining after 200,000 square feet are sold to the owners of the St. John's Terminal." This action would generate revenue and “help the Trust’s finances."
Buildings will soon rise to new heights alongManhattan's Hudson River Park. Governor Cuomo just signed legislation to allow the cash-strapped park to sell 1.6 million square feet in air rights to developers. The bill will enable developers to build new projects one block from the five-mile waterfront park, which can now include commercial tenants, schools, performing art organizations and venues, and TV film and media studios. For the last few years, the commercial tenants at Pier 40 have failed to generate enough money for the park, leading the Hudson River Park Trust to look for new revenue sources. The crumbling 15-acre pier—made up of ball fields, offices, and sports facilities—requires around $118 million in renovations. This plan has been controversial and incited protects from historic and environmental groups. With the city still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, the Sierra Club and New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) have encouraged the governor to reject the new bill, which they said would put new developments at risk. “Governor Cuomo has rightly called for plans to ensure that the State of New York is better prepared for and more resilient to future severe storms. It would be foolhardy to encourage development in such a storm-vulnerable location,” said Laura Haight, NYPIRG’s senior environmental associate, in a statement.
Manhattan's 57th Street continues its ascent as New York City's new gold coast with a skinny skyscraper unveiled by SHoP Architects and JDS Development today. SHoP most recently celebrated the groundbreaking of another skyscraper for JDS along the East River, but has now been tapped to build a lean, luxury high-rise on West 57th Street that could climb to a whopping 1,350 feet tall. If built, the condo tower would stand 100 feet taller than the Empire State Building. The Wall Street Journal reported that while developers JDS Development and Property Markets Group will not comment on whether financing has been secured, they have already presented plans to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Stepping back from the street as it rises, the quarter-mile-high skyscraper will emulate steps and be clad in bronze-and-white terra-cotta stripes. SHoP partner, Vishaan Chakrabarti, told the WSJ the materials would create an effect that "sparkles during the day and has a soft glow at night." The developers were able to add height to the building by purchasing air rights from other properties in the vicinity. Elsewhere on 57th Street, BIG is building a pyramidal "court-scraper," Raphael Viñoly has designed the 1,380-foot-tall 432 Park Tower, Christian de Portzamparc's One57 tower is nearing completion, Cetra Ruddy has designed an ultra-skinny 51 story tower, and SOM's Roger Duffy is planning a prismatic, 57-story tower. Chicago's skyscraper experts, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, have also been tapped to design a skyscraper near 57th and Broadway, but no design has been released. The developers said they hope to break ground by 2014.
A double whammy came last week for Boston developer Don Chiofaro's Boston Arch project, which we first wrote about last month. On Thursday, The Boston Business Journal ran a story suggesting Chiofaro was stuffing the BRA's mailbox with letters supportive of his KPF-designed project, while the following day it reported that the aquarium the project was meant to improve feared for the worst. The letters are part of the redevelopment authorities public comment period, and among them was one from the president of the Boston Aquarium who wrote that, according to the Journal, "the project threatens the long-term viability of the Aquarium." As we noted in our June report, officials at Massport were concerned about undue impacts on Logan flight paths, something Chiofaro told us was being addressed. But maybe note, as the Journal turned up the following comment in a Massport letter:
“Massport strongly supports the continued economic development of the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” the letter stated. “However, as owner and operator of one of the Commonwealth’s most critical transportation infrastructure assets, Massport cannot condone and urges you to help prevent any degradation of the airspace surrounding Boston-Logan by tall structures proposed as part of this project.”Chiofaro did not comment for the story, but what he had been doing was far more intriguing:
In total, there were 381 letters and postcards submitted in support of the Harbor Garage project, compared with the 252 letters opposed to the project. [...] Of the 266 postcards in favor of the 1.5 million square foot mixed-use project, 144 were signed by people who do not live in Boston, according to the BRA.Then again, most of those letter opposing the project came from residents of the neighboring Harbor Towers apartment buildings, who obviously have a stake in the project not going forward. Looks like it's up to the BRA on this one, though if that is any indication, Chiofaro may just be out of luck.