Posts tagged with "ULURP":

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NYC approves controversial Bedford-Union Armory plan

Today the New York City Council voted to approve a controversial redevelopment plan for Brooklyn's Bedford-Union Armory. The plan, Bedford Courts, proposes revamping the vacant, city-owned armory with a 67,000-square-foot recreation hall, 330 rental apartments and 60 condominiums. The recreational facilities would include multi-purpose courts, a swimming pool, and an indoor turf field.The project still must be approved by the Mayor's Office before it can begin development. The project is designed by Marvel Architects, with Bedford Courts LLC and BFC Partners as the plan developers. CAMBA, a local non-profit, will manage the recreational facility and administer the initial affordable housing program. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) will administer leases and provide project oversight. The New York City Housing Preservation and Development agency (NYCPHD) will serve as an advisor to NYCEDC and Bedford Courts on affordable housing and regulate the affordable housing program after construction, taking over CAMBA's responsibilities. Although 50 percent of the rental units and 20 percent of condos would be made affordable, the plan's opponents have argued it does not include nearly enough affordable housing, given rising rents and the potential for displacement as Crown Heights gentrifies. City Planning Commission member Michelle de la Uz told DNAinfo"Given that this is publicly owned land, the community has come to expect more." When the City Planning Commission greenlit the plan on Monday, de la Uz was the only Commission member to vote against it. Monday's decision was also met with public opposition, with protesters gathered outside and within City Hall. Two demonstrators were arrested at the meeting.
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NY City Council calls for reform to prevent another Rivington House scandal

Today the New York City Council heard testimony from a deputy mayor and members of the public on how to reform the city's opaque land-use rules that govern changes to deed restrictions. Hours of questioning and public testimony at the Committee on Governmental Operations and the Committee on Oversight and Investigations' joint hearing on reforms to the deed modification process teased out a few key threads in the debate: misdeeds behind Rivington House deal, reforms for inter-agency communication, and which, if any, deed modifications should be subject to a standardized public review process. For nearly three hours, council members grilled First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris on what went wrong at Rivington House, where the city's lifting of the site's deed restrictions cleared the way for a private entity to sell the property for $116 million. Council members also spoke on a proposed bill that seeks to subject all deed modifications to a Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP). Intro 1182 sponsor and New York City Council Member Margaret Chin, whose district includes Rivington House (and 28 Liberty), was joined by colleagues Rosie Mendez, Mark Levine, Brad Lander, Ben Kallos, Vincent Gentile, Helen Rosenthal, and Joseph Borelli on a bill that would require the mayor to keep an online, searchable database of properties with deed restrictions that the city exchanged, sold, or otherwise transferred. These deeds must have been created by or on behalf of the city. Furthermore, the bill would require the mayor to give 60 days notice if a deed restriction is modified or removed. At the same time, the borough president, council member, and community board where the property is located would be notified, and a public hearing would be held within 30 days of the removal or modification. A dossier with public documents that contain information on the property, would be available to the public at the community board’s office. For Shorris, the land use and deed issue at Rivington House are separate problems that require separate responses. As the law stands now, each agency has different in-house processes for resolving requests to modify or lift deed restrictions (restrictions can also be altered between private entities). Shorris argued that, under normal circumstances and in most cases, deed restriction modifications are minor modifications and don't make it onto City Hall's radar, but agreed with some council members' position that reforms should make the process more transparent. Would the intensive ULURP be appropriate for every deed-restricted property, though? Noting that there are over 1,000 deed-restricted properties in the city, Shorris claimed it would be difficult to subject each to a ULURP. "The ones that are subject to ULURP now were created by ULURP. Whether a whole ULURP process, which are substantial in time and costly to the applicant, whether that's the right process for every one of these—most of [the modifications] are very modest." There's no consensus yet on how the city will distinguish modest requests from major ones. In its testimony to the council today, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) stated that there are 14 properties in the city with pending deed modifications, with almost half of these coming from LLCs, so the identities—and intentions—of the owners are unknown. The difference between minor and not-so-minor modifications is one that has surfaced in discussions around the proposed deed modification at 28 Liberty, the landmarked modernist building where a developer is trying to modify the deed restriction to build three glass pavilions. The organization's testimony drew parallels between the potential environmental impact of the lifted deed at Rivington House and the proposed modification of the deed at 28 Liberty, which, MAS says, would impact the landmarked building and alter viewsheds across its plaza. MAS supports Intro 1182 overall, but advocates for adding an environmental review component to the bill to aid its goal of a more transparent deed modification process. While supporting Brewer and Chin's desire for deed modifications on city-owned property to a ULURP, MAS would like to see a City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) for modifications or removals to see if the changes would negatively affect the environment. For its part, the city is looking to create a parallel, not a uniform, procedure for each agency. "We need that for DCAS, that's part of the changes we proposed," Shorris said. The mayor’s office and DCAS will continue the conversation in a series of public meetings on the proposed reforms on November 1.
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With the go-ahead from City Planning, this office building may close the book on the transformation of Williamsburg’s waterfront

Office space is in short supply in Brooklyn. A 2004 rezoning of downtown Brooklyn was intended to facilitate the development of 4.5 million square feet of Class A office space. Since then, the local development corporation Downtown Brooklyn Partnership estimates that only 250,000 square feet of office space has been built. The space crunch also spreads north, to Williamsburg. This week, the Department of City Planning is expected to approve developer Toby Moskovits' (of Heritage Equity Partners) application to alter manufacturing-only zoning for a nine-story, 480,000-square-foot office building at 25 Kent Avenue. AN first reported on the Moskovits' office plans last April. The building's design by New York–based HWKN appears similar in both the original and updated renderings. Ziggurat-style terracing reduces the structure's mass. At street level, the brickwork and arched floor-to-ceiling windows reference the warehouse it may replace. Currently, the lot, between North 12th and North 13th streets, lies in a M1-2 zone. In this area, zoning requires a non-manufacturing facility build in a manufacturing zone to devote more than half its space to medical, school, religious, or non-profit facilities. Moskovits would like the building to be offices, only, thought a portion of the project may be reserved for light-manufacturing use. Certifying the application triggers the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), a process that can take months. The ULURP gathers opinions on the project's request from Brooklyn's Community Board 1; the borough president, Eric Adams; City Planning; and the City Council. So far, signs are good: area Councilman Steve Levin is in favor of the project, Crain's reports. If approved, Moskovits' application could have profound influence on others looking to subvert current zoning in manufacturing areas. Due to the current restrictions, developers shy away from building non-manufacturing in manufacturing zones; creating community space is less profitable than creating office space. Go figure.
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Highly anticipated rezoning for East New York to be revealed next week

There are big changes planned for Brooklyn's East New York. On Monday, September 21st, the Department of City Planning will unveil the full East New York Community Plan. The plan is part of Housing New York, Mayor de Blasio's ten year plan to stabilize existing affordable housing supply and build 80,000 new units.  The plan's goal is to increase public investment and catalyze private development in select East Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Ocean Hill, Cypress Hills, and the eponymous East New York. Compared to other community plans, there's one key difference: the East New York Community Plan will be the first to apply mandatory inclusionary zoning. This designation requires the construction of permanent affordable housing. One of the affordable housing provisions approved by Albany in June 2015, mandatory inclusionary zoning requires developers to set aside at least one quarter of their units for low-income individuals, though there are some exceptions to the rule. It typically takes around one year to vet Community Plan proposals. After the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, a mandated public comment period), plans must be approved by each of the city's 59 community boards, all five borough presidents, the City Planning Commission, and the City Council.
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Brooklyn Neighborhood Slams Proposal for Massive Waterfront Development

It is going to be an uphill battle for the developers behind two massive residential projects planned for Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  DNA Info reported that Community Board 1 rejected the proposals to build over a dozen 40-story residential towers on the northern tip of the borough, but they indicated they could be persuaded to change their minds. The bargaining chip is more affordable and senior housing. The board would like the developers behind the two developments, Greenpoint Landing and 77 Commercial Street, to drastically bump up the number of affordable units in their plans, which so far include housing, retail, a public school, and esplanades along the water. This decision is just the first step in the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP).
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New York City Tweaks Midtown East Rezoning Plan to Allow More Residences

Since Mayor Bloomberg's plan to rezone midtown east was first announced, it has stirred debate among local stakeholders, preservationists, and advocacy groups. Now Department of City Planning has offered up a set of new amendments—in the "A Text" section of the proposal—that responds to some of these key concerns expressed by New Yorkers while also serving the primary goal of the rezoning:  To support and boost the growth of midtown's competitive office district. The most notable change is an added residential component. In the initial proposal, the zoning incentives were reserved for office, hotel, and retail, but now DCP will allow up to 20 percent of a new development's floor area to be occupied by residential as-of-right. A developer can bump up the percentage of residential up to 40 percent by undergoing the full Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The same rules still apply to these mixed-use developments—in order to attain extra building height, developers are required to contribute to the District Improvement Fund. The exact rate for the contribution for residential will be set by a different criteria from that of commercial use. Hotels in new developments would also be limited to 20 percent of the floor area as-of-right. Through the ULURP process developers could turn the remainder of the building into a hotel. This rule wouldn't apply to existing hotels, however, which could be rebuilt fully on the site.
Some of New York City's critical historic landmarks—such St. Patrick’s cathedral, St. Bartholomew’s Church Central Synagogue, and Lever House—will also benefit from these amendment changes. The DCP has recommended establishing a Northern Landmark Transfer Area that would extend from 48th and 49th streets to 57th Street, and from Third Avenue to Fifth Avenue. Modeled after the Grand Central Subarea, this new district would allow landmarks to transfer unused air rights to adjacent sites. With this amended proposal, new rooftop restaurants or gardens could crop up around the area. One modification would alter the "stacking rules" to allow for top floors of mixed-use buildings to be activated by commercial use.
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Domino Developer, Architects Discuss Project Details, Context of Brooklyn Waterfront Makeover

Developer Jed Walentas of Two Trees Management Co. stood up in front of a packed house at a community forum in Williamsburg last night to discuss his ambitious new redevelopment plans for the Domino Sugar Factory Refinery. Citing his family’s history in DUMBO, Walentas told the beer-sipping, tattooed crowd that his intention is to “build an extension of the neighborhood” that is “socially contextual.” The new plan incorporates significantly more commercial and office space, which Walentas says won’t financially benefit Two Trees, but speaks to his company’s philosophy and intent to draw from and embrace the historic and cultural fabric of Williamsburg. While the zoning map doesn’t need to change, the plans still need to go through the ULURP process once again. The new vision for the site puts an emphasis on making the Domino Sugar Refinery a “nucleus” for the neighborhood that would house commercial space and artist studios (some subsidized, some not). An additional building on Grand Street would also be dedicated for small neighborhood retail. Walentas said, like DUMBO, he would fill these space will mom-and-pop stores and promised the audience that there will be no big box stores such as Duane Reade or Starbucks. In addition to commercial, two large community spaces will also be part of the overall plan. From the get-go, affordable housing has been a critical issue in the redevelopment of Domino Sugar Site, and the initial plans that were approved—prior to Two Trees acquiring the property—promised 660-affordable housing units. Walentas says he’s committed to keeping the affordable housing units, which will be 60 to 80 percent of the area median income (AMI), and identical to market rate apartments. The exact income levels have yet to be determined. But while Walentas said that the redevelopment will be “contextual,” Vishaan Chakrabarti, partner at SHoP Architects, told the audience that won't be the case with the design. He acknowledged that the new development isn’t in keeping with Williamsburg’s low-scale, but said, “It will be high no matter what,” referring to any future development to be built on the waterfront. “It is not contextual,” said Chakrabarti. “But we can start creating a skyline we can be proud of.” Chakrabarti argued that the height difference between the old and new plans won't be noticeable to people in the neighborhood and provides several benefits such as more open space inside and a lighter and airier feel. Since the building will be turned perpendicular to the water, he says more light will filter in. But Hurricane Sandy has forced developers and architects to reshape their approach to waterfront development. Chakrabarti addressed some of the changes they plan on implementing from setting the park back to putting basements above grade and building sloped sidewalks to allow water to drain. “The park will act as a sponge because it will be made of permeable material,” said Chakrabarti. The conversation grew heated when a few community members expressed doubt over Two Tree’s commitment to affordable housing and questioned whether the infrastructure in the neighborhood could support this influx of people and new commercial and business sector. “Our intent is to be a long term owner,” said Walentas. “Our interests are aligned with the community’s interests.”
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BP Stringer Throws Water on Riverside Center

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.
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Inching Toward ULURP Reform

On Monday, the Charter Revision Commission held its latest meeting, where its members called for a series of five panels to better inform their decision on what, if any, issues to put on the ballot this fall—or next, more on that in a moment. One of the five panels that was called for was on land-use reform, the best indication yet that the commission may well perform the major overhauls the city's developers and planners have been calling for, as we noted in a recent issue. The commissioned announced today that the land-use panel will be held June 24, at the Flushing branch of the Queens Library, and in addition to experts, public input will also be taken. So if this is an issue you care deeply about—be honest, who doesn't love ULURP?—then we'll see you there. As for this fall or next, the biggest debate remains not what but when the commission will conclude its work, as some commissioners and members of the public insist it is moving too quickly to fully engage all the necessary issues.
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Spare Land-Use Change?

Yesterday, the Times ran an interesting story about the potential illegality of Community Benefit Agreements, as determined in a report by the New York City Bar Association. The report argues such agreements should not be fostered by the city, even if there is nothing that can be done to stop a developer from negotiating with local community groups—something the bar believes can lead to corruption—and, failing that, not to allow the agreements to have a bearing on land-use decisions. The Times' article concludes with a note of resignation, though, that CBAs are here to stay, so deal with it. What a capital idea! In fact, the reason this story rang so true with us is that it sounds a lot like one of the issues that came up while working on our piece on the Charter Revision Commission. Herewith is yet more reason to take a serious look at land-use issues and not just term limits.
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A New-vel Skyline

After both impressing and frustrating the Landmarks Preservation Commission last year, Jean Nouvel's Torre de Verre is making its way through the public review process in order to secure a few zoning variance to allow the funky Moma-ttached tower to be built. Curbed reports the tower was panned by the local community board (it's a largely symbolic vote, however), but the most striking thing to us was this new rendering, which shows how the now-1,250-foot tower would look from Central Park. Quelle horror!
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The Curious Case of Adolfo Carrion

As if President Barack Obama hasn't already had enough problems with vetting his Cabinet, it now turns out Adolfo Carrión, the former Bronx borough president and newly minted director of the Office of Urban Policy, may have failed to pay an architect who performed work on his house. An architect whose sizable project the Beep happened to sign off on just months before renovations took place. The Daily News broke the story on Monday and has been following it closely ever since. But it was today in the Times that we got what we'd really been waiting for. No, not news that the Bronx district attorney's office is looking into the allegations, though that is good to hear, too. What we had yet to see so far was a good picture of the house, which, as you can see above, is none too shabby. (Google Street View just wasn't doing it because, as best we can tell, the house is down a long driveway.) To bring you up to speed, on Monday, the News alleged that Carrión had not paid his architect, Hugo Subotovsky, for renovation work dating to 2006. The paper also noted that around the same time, the architect had gotten approval from Carrión during the ULURP process for Boricua Village, a 452-unit, mixed-use development project that includes a new campus for Boricua College, the independent university serving a largely Latino student body. Two days later, Carrión acknowledged that he failed to pay the architect for the work, which entailed adding a porch and balcony to his Victorian house on City Island at a reported cost of about $36,000, including $3,627.50 in architectural fees. Carrión said he had yet to pay the architect because a "final survey" had not yet been filed with the city, despite the work being completed in early 2007. The same story also noted that Carrión had actually signed off on three of Subotovsky's projects:
In a second case, Carrión recommended approval of a housing development on St. Ann's Ave. on May 27, 2008. Two months later, he announced he was sponsoring $3 million in taxpayer funds for the project. Carrión approved a third project, an 8-story, 128-unit housing complex called Shakespeare Place, on Oct. 24, 2007.
The thing is, if you know anything about the ULURP process, there should be nothing unseemly about a borough president signing off on a local architect's work, especially one, who, from the look of his site, practices almost exclusively in said borough. The problem is that Carrión should know better. For an honorable project like the Boricua campus and a hard-working architect to get sucked into a political morass is a shame. And yet, Carrión was out there today defending himself, claiming that he had done nothing wrong and would pay the fees in due course.