The battle over LG Electronic's proposed office complex in New Jersey is getting increasingly political. Now New York City government officials are chiming in and expressing their opposition to the company's plans to build a 143-foot-high HOK-designed headquarters atop the leafy Palisades along the Hudson River facing Manhattan. Yesterday, Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. sent a letter addressed to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie asking him to step in and stop the proposed plans for the office complex and urge a redesign of the building. The letter stated: "For hundreds of years, the residents of your state and ours have enjoyed unspoiled, pristine views of the Palisades, and this proposal threatens to change that forever. The proposal put forward by LG Electronics threatens to alter this view, and negatively impact the enjoyment of the Palisades as a visual and a recreational resource. The Palisades are a natural treasure. The park is a designated National Natural Landmark and development should respect that context. While the Palisades are physically located in New Jersey, they are of such importance to the people and the cultural institutions of New York City that our own development rules have ensured that their view is not obstructed." The letter states that the Bronx Community Board #8 and Manhattan Community Board #12, along with four former New Jersey governors—including Brendan Byrne, Thomas Kean, James Florio and Christine Todd Whitman—have all conveyed some level of concern about the new headquarters. To make matters worse for LG, the Environmental Protection Agency has "withdrawn its partnership with LG to develop the tower." This comes after negotiations with a court-supervised mediator failed this Spring.
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Consensus among the city's political players is growing in favor of the relocation of Madison Square Garden from its home atop Penn Station. Yesterday, City Council held a public hearing to discuss the future of the Garden and the overcrowded train terminal. Filmmaker Spike Lee, surrounded by an entourage of former Knicks players, testified on behalf of the Garden. According to the Wall Street Journal, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn expressed her support of a ten-year term limit for the arena in a letter addressed to the Garden's President and CEO, Hank Ratner, on Wednesday. The owners of the arena have requested a permit in perpetuity, however, several government officials and advocacy groups—including Borough President Scott Stringer, the Municipal Art Society (MAS), and the Regional Plan Association—have called for limiting the permit to 10 years. This comes after the City Planning Commission voted unanimously for a 15-year permit extension.
At a New York City Planning Commission review session this week, the staff at New York City Department of City Planning recommended a 15-year limit on the permit extension for Madison Square Garden (MSG), which would be an “aggressive but realistic” time frame to reach an agreement on the future of the arena. This gives MSG a few more years to come up with a plan for relocation or extensive improvements than the proposed 10-year renewal recommended by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Look for an extended story on the fate of Madison Square Garden in the next print issue of AN. (Photo: Wally Gobetz / Flickr)
Madison Square Garden has been on the move since its inception in 1879 as a 10,000-square-foot boxing, bike racing, and ice hockey venue in an old railroad depot at Madison Avenue and 26th Street. The facility later moved into an ornate Moorish-style building designed by famed Stanford White, architect of the Penn Station, which the arena notoriously replaced at its fourth and current home on 33rd Street in Midtown (after a brief stop on 50th Street). Now, if community boards, civic and planning groups, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer get their way, the venue will be sent packing once again. With MSG's special use permit to operate at its current site—originally issued in 1963 with a 50-year term—up for review, opposition is now mounting to relocate the arena, increase the capacity of one of the city's biggest transportation hubs, and restore some sense of "civic dignity" to the site of New York's most famous demolished train station. Last month, Community Boards 4 and 5 unanimously voted to deny the arena's owners request for a permanent extension of the permit, which would have guaranteed the arena's site for eternity. Seconding that decision, New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman, who has supported moving the arena for over a year, penned a scathing screed on why the arena must go:
The last thing New York needs is to enshrine the aging and oppressive Garden, which may be the world’s most famous arena but is also one of the ugliest and, for millions of commuters using the station trapped beneath it, a daily blight.On March 21, the Municipal Art Society and the Regional Planning Association joined forces to push for reconsidering MSG's current site. According to a joint statement, the groups want "to overhaul Penn Station and reconsider the location of Madison Square Garden atop our busiest and most vital transportation hub." The two groups issued a statement:
Penn Station’s problems aren’t only aesthetic. The station is so space-constrained that it struggles to accommodate passenger traffic from the rail systems that currently use it or absorb future passenger growth and new services such as high-speed rail. While large cities around the world—and New York’s own Grand Central Terminal—have built and transformed rail stations into appealing destinations for residents and visitors, Penn Station has never been a magnet for west Midtown.Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer issued his own opinion this week on the matter, proposing a limited ten-year extension to MSG's special use permit, noting that the arena "stifles" Penn Station's ability to grow, which could bring negative long-term consequences to the city and region. Stringer noted in his press release that Penn Station already operates at well over 100 percent of its capacity, handling more than 640,000 people daily, triple the 200,000 capacity the station carried 50 years ago. With expansion on Manhattan's West Side and proposed tunnels to New Jersey, estimates show that use will increase some 40 percent over the next two decades. “It is time to build a more spacious, attractive and efficient station that will further encourage transit use, reduce driving into the city, and spur economic growth throughout our city and our region,” Stringer said in a statement. “While we need to ensure the Garden always has a vibrant and accessible home in Manhattan, moving the arena is an important first step to improving Penn Station.” Among the challenges to updating Penn Station are the support beams for the arena, which land between tracks leading into the station. According to the New York Times, the station also fails to meet current fire codes and other safety regulations MSG's current site, Stringer continued in his press release, will ensure that Penn Station "remains a confusing, subterranean, three-level maze with indiscernible entrances, low ceilings, and exit points that are severely limited. It is simply unacceptable to continue to subject existing and future users to the current Penn Station. Failing to account for Penn Station’s current and future needs could have devastating effects and enervate New York’s ability to compete with world cities.” His proposal called for a comprehensive study of the Moynihan-Penn Station area to create a master plan that could guide growth. During the ten-year extension, an alternative site for MSG could be found. While there has been no official proposal for a relocation site, several observers have issued their own recommendations. In another New York Times piece, Kimmelman suggested another site on the West Side such as the giant Morgan General Mail Facility that covers two entire blocks. Kimmelman conceded, however, "The point isn’t deciding which possible site is best right now. It’s knowing there are paths worth pursuing, and focusing the next decade on exploring them." The Dolan family, owners of MSG, will appear before the New York City Planning Commission and eventually the full City Council this summer to make their case for renewing the permit and keeping the arena at its current site. A public hearing at the Planning Commission is scheduled for April 10 and the RPA will be hosting a forum on the arena on April 19.
Seems the bad news is about to get worse for Jamestown Properties. The developer's plans to add 330,000 square feet to New York's Chelsea Market met with resistance from the Community Board 4 and Borough President Scott Stringer, both of whom gave conditional nays to the proposal designed by Studios Architecture. Now with City Planning's public hearing set for this Wednesday, Commissioner Amanda Burden has clearly indicated that she is not pleased with the an addition proposed to hover over the High Line along Tenth Avenue. "I remain concerned about the massing and how it effects the High Line experience," Burden said a pre-hearing review session today. The two additions to the market include 90,000 square feet addition on Ninth Avenue and a 240,000 square foot addition along Tenth Avenue. As much of the building's mid-block remains excluded from Jamestown's plan, it seems likely that area will come in to play. "They do have a whole block," the commissioner said. Though not exactly in line with BP Stringer's suggestion to move all of the massing to Ninth Avenue, it does mean that High Line view planes fundamental to the Special West Chelsea District remain a concern for the commissioners. Jamestown has already indicated that it is willing to decrease the height of the Ninth Avenue addition from 150 feet high to 130 feet. The addition along Tenth Avenue dropped from 230 feet to 184 feet. Exposed steel trusses at Tenth were redesigned to be clad in a "contextual" terracotta and a wide cantilevered gap has been cosmetically anchored back to the original building with corner posts, despite the fact that the engineering for the cantilever remain in place. Now with the suggestion of moving the building back toward the middle of the block, we'll see what other design tricks the architects at Studios can pull off as the restraints tighten.
In what many are calling an opening shot in the 2013 mayoral race, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has recommended a conditional disapproval of the Chelsea Market expansion proposal. The recommendation is in cahoots with Community Board 4 which voted to only allow the project if it provides off-site affordable housing and a 20 percent reduction in height along Tenth Avenue. As City Council Speaker Christine Quinn represents Chelsea, The New York Times coverage of the expansion been through the prism of the upcoming race, which will likely see Quinn face off with Stringer, among others. And with Google just across the street from the proposed development, big tech sector businesses will be studying the speaker's move as closely as her local constituency.
As AN reported back in February, things are looking up for the Parks Department's Lighthouse Link project that will revamp the riverfront from the George Washington Bridge to the Dyckman Marina, named for the Little Red Lighthouse beneath the bridge. The project will be capped with riverside restaurant at Dyckman called La Marina with spectacular views overlooking the New Jersey Palisades. The all-season pavilion designed by architect Andrew Franz appears close to completion and the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance (MWA) is still hammering away at a plan that could very well provide public access to the river for launching kayaks and the mooring for historic tall ships. Roland Lewis, president of MWA, used a theater term to describe the access to the water. “It’s like breaking down the fourth wall,” he said. Indeed, as a recent kayak trip through the area revealed a view from the water drastically alters ones perseption of the city. Thursday, a Parks spokesperson confirmed that the restaurant should be open at some point this summer, after the concessionaire, the Manhattan River Group, finalizes permits. DNA.info reports that Parks cut the seating capacity in half from 1000 to 500. No doubt the department took note of neighborhood tensions brewing as the bawdy bar scene to east continues to bring bass-thumping car traffic to a crawl. Work on the Lighthouse Link is set to begin late June or July. But the opening of the marina, which would stretch from the bridge to Dyckman, has yet to be determined. As part of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s Waterfront Action Agenda, the project is supposed to replace a floating dock for public access to the water. Lewis said the MWA has been working with Parks, Council Member Robert Jackson, and Borough President Scott Stringer to secure funding for an Eco Dock. The group was already successful in getting a Community Eco Dock to be located in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Eco Docks are able to accommodate kayaks or canoes with a floating platform and historic tall ships with a gangplank that connect to the pier. The Brooklyn dock cost $700,000 and the Inwood pier is expected to cost $500,000 to $800,000. If it happens, it would be a revelation for many New Yorkers. From the water, a lively riverbank community unfolds, one totally obscured from from the Henry Hudson Parkway and Amtrak train tracks that run nearby. Fishers cast lines beside sunbathers sprawled out on giant rocks. Like "eyes on the street" access to the water could provide "eyes on the banks." The Lighthouse Link will certainly enliven the land, Lewis hopes that the dock and marina will do the same for the water. “It’s a new and very exciting frontier for the city,” he said. “It’ll bring a lot of activity to what was once a forlorn and underutilized area.” For those who can't wait for public access to the water, the Inwood Canoe Club, a private club, holds a paddling program for the public each Sunday from 10AM to Noon through Labor Day.
As was largely expected following comments from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's office leaked to the press last month, officials from NYU announced that the university has agreed to shave off 370,000 square feet from their 2,275,000 square foot expansion plan, The New York Times reported. In a telephone interview with AN, Andrew Berman, of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said that even with those changes the project is still out of scale for the neighborhood. Berman added that he was disappointed that the Borough President (BP) didn't hold public meetings for the ULURP, as was done for the Columbia University expansion in Morningside Heights. "If there was ever a ULURP to hold a public hearing for, it was this," he said. For the past few months, several NYU watchers have been speculating that the university was hedging its bets with a plan that included more space than needed so as to reach the Goldilocks-just-right moment negotiated by the BP's office today. The breakdown doesn't change the overall character of the design. The comparison of plan being the "size of the Empire State Building" still somewhat applies, though less 17 percent (NYU documents put it closer to minus 14%). The changes leave the underground complex on the north block fairly intact. The so-called Kimmelman Plan, which called for the elimination of the Grimshaw/Toshiko Mori Boomerang buildings, was ignored. Instead, the university proposes to take 85,000 square feet off the top, but the 770,000 square feet below grade will remain. On the southern superblock the new plan proposes moving the Zipper Building farther back from Mercer Street, to allow more light for neighbors across the street. But the original plan, refined by Michael Van Valkenburg, would have in any case opened up a dreary alleyway between the Zipper Building and I.M. Pei's Silver Towers, thus creating a more generous approach from Houston Street to the courtyard featuring Picasso's sculpture Portrait of Sylvette. Finally, the proposed 14-story building set to replace the supermarket on the northwest corner will be cut in half. Whether this makes much of a difference in the overall pedestrian influx is doubtful, as that building included a proposed public school that the Department of Education never agreed to use. A controversial hotel is still in the mix, for now. The revised plan will be presented to City Planning today, but the big brouhaha public hearing will take place on April 25 at 10:00 A.M. Territorial ironies aside, the commission has wisely relocated the public meeting to the more spacious environs of the Museum of the American Indian at Bowling Green.
Today's New York Times is packed with urbanism stories, with three articles and two Op-ed pieces that made it to print. First, there's Speaker Christine Quinn's exemption for Related Properties' Hudson Yards project from the Living Wage bill. Then there are rumblings from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's office that he isn't pleased that NYU "seems to be backpedaling" on their 2.2 million square foot proposal. A source says the university may be able to get by on 1.5 million square feet. “When you propose a plan you know will overwhelm the existing community, you lose credibility with architects, planners and land-use experts, and you lose the heart and soul of a community,” the BP told the paper. But wait there's more... There's a stunning rebuke of gated communities by Rich Bengjamin in the Op-ed. This was followed by Jessica Bruder's concern that Burning Man, the overnight city that rises in the Nevada each year, "is building its own kind of caste system" with scalpers charging more than $1000 for tickets. Back in the New York section there is an article about the so-called Sixth-and-a-Half Avenue. Through mid-block crosswalks, speed bumps, and stop signs, the DOT is planning to better connect a series of privately owned public spaces, known as POPS, between Sixth and Seventh Avenue, from 51st to 57th Streets. But the article opens with a swipe at DOT bike lanes: "First came the bike lanes, creeping like overgrown ivy across the city streetscape." The idea for defining passages was first presented to CB5 about a year ago by the Friends of the Privately Owned Public Space (F-POPS). The group proposed naming the passageway Holly Whyte Way, after the great New York urbanist William "Holly" Whyte. Loeb fellow and Streetsblog founder Aaron Naparstek found the Times lede a tad off. "It's a little bit disappointing to see the New York Times metro desk framing yet another public space improvement as a tabloidy 'bikelash' story while completely failing to make any mention of Holly Whyte, the man," he said in an email. Architect and F-POPS president Brian Nesin said seeing connections defined remains the main focus, but "his work helped change the zoning to really improve pubic space in the city and we all benefit from that."
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer pulled together a stellar panel of World Trade movers and shakers to update the community Wednesday night, but the crowd wasn't impressed. Chris Ward, executive director of the the Port Authority, was joined at the podium by LMDC Chair Avi Schick, DOT Lower Manhattan Commissioner Louis Sanchez, Downtown Alliance President Elizabeth Berger, president and CEO of the memorial Joe Daniels, State Senator Dan Squadron and Congressman Jerry Nadler. Silverstein Properties' Malcolm Williams breezed through a PowerPoint update detailing progress of the four towers at the site. Ward's presentation showed the robust ribs of the Calatrava structure from underneath the plaza. But Sanchez's presentation outlining plans for the accommodating tour buses took on the most scrutiny. Sanchez's presentation differed little from the one he presented last week before CB1's World Trade Redevelopment Committee. The difference here was the crowd: restless and peeved. This year alone the site saw 1.3 million visitors and the memorial is not even open yet. Once opened, at least 4 million are expected. Many in the crowd said the that the DOT lacked specifics for the curbside drop off locations intended to accommodate an onslaught of tourists that will arrive in less than 200 days. Sanchez argued that visitor limitations to the memorial would cap tourist buses at about six to eight an hour. The crowd was not convinced. When pressed, he said the DOT would provide exact locations soon, but Stringer wrestled an agreement to meet with the community in six weeks time. In other news, One World Trade is half way up, at 58 stories. Tower Four has reached the 17th floor. Tower Three is now at street level and Tower Two's foundation is complete. But Towers Two and Three will have to wait for market thresholds to be reached before continuing skyward. Elswhere, LMDC has allocated $1 million to pedestrian safety at West Street. Also, the LMDC has received a plethora of requests totaling $200 million for the $17 million they have allocated toward arts organizations.
It has not been a good day for Gary Barnett and his Extell Development. First, the Post's ur-real estate columnist Steve Cuozzo gave Barnett a hard time for delays at his skyline-bursting Carnegie 57. (How come Tony Malkin didn't complain about this one, by the way?) And this evening, Borough President Scott Stringer has announced he is giving the project his ULURP thumbs down. What more does everyone want? Barnett has promised to build a school, to up the affordable housing from 12 percent to 20 percent, and he has hired one hell of an architect. But this is far from enough apparently, given Stringer's strongly worded announcement. There are two schools of thought when it comes to ULURP: community boards and BPs who do not like a project can either approve with modifications or disapprove with modifications. Though there is an open debate as to which sends a stronger message to the City Council, which has ultimate say on land-use projects, Stringer tends to subscribe to the former school, saying "yes, but" far more than he says "no, but." In other words, a "no" from Stringer is a rare thing (see: 15 Penn, Manhattanville, etc.) and should probably give Barnett pause. Here is the rationale, from Stringer's announcement:
Riverside Center development is the largest development site remaining on the Upper West Side. The proposal includes five mixed-use buildings, 1,800 public parking spaces, an elementary/middle school, 135,000 SF of ground-floor retail, and an automobile showroom and service center. Its redevelopment has the potential to improve existing site conditions, create thousands of new jobs, and provide much needed neighborhood amenities. Riverside Center is also the last remaining undeveloped or unplanned piece of the Riverside South development, which failed to achieve broad consensus and resulted in detrimental impacts on the community. [...] While emphasizing that the “development of the [Riverside Center] site is desirable to the Upper West Side community,” the borough president’s recommendations identifies several areas that necessitate improvement and modification. The current proposal lacks good site planning, creates inactive streetscapes, and obscures access to the proposed open space. Additionally, the proposed project has many environmental impacts that require real mitigations. The borough president’s recommendation advocates for the inclusion of public amenities such as a public school of an appropriate size to meet the needs of the community and additional active recreational space.Granted Stringer's recommendations are wholly advisory, but they do point to the rough road ahead, not least because City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden aired her own reservations about the project when it was certified back in May. Local City Councilwoman Gail Brewer has also expressed skepticism and is not especially pro-development by the council's standards. Still, Barnett has repeatedly shown his willingness to compromise on the project. To see it built, he will almost certainly have to continue doing so.
Yesterday, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer gave his approval to 15 Penn Plaza, a nearly 1,200-square-foot tower designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli and proposed for a site across from Penn Station. The approval was conditional, as usually happens when a borough president puts the stamp on a land-use project, but what was surprising, perhaps, is that the size or scale of the building were not addressed. As we reported last month, the proposed project is 42.5 percent larger than current zoning allows, one of the chief reasons the local community board opposed the building 36-1, deeming the project too big. Such outsizing is usually a gripe for borough presidents, as well, but that was not the case here, as Stringer took issue with impacts on the open space, transportation, construction, and sidewalks, all of which are impacted by the projects size, though that itself was never an issue. This one, it appears, is all about mitigation and not reduction. That said, this is Midtown—a common refrain in support of the pre-shrunken MoMA tower, to which Stringer did object more strenuously—so maybe this fits after all.