Posts tagged with "Zoning":

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Court ruling against Upper West Side tower could take down 20 floors

A striking New York State Supreme Court ruling may force the developers of an Upper West Side condo tower at 200 Amsterdam Avenue to scale back their soaring design by 20 floors. While developments of this kind are often modified in the planning phase in order to comply with zoning regulations, this case has a twist: Construction of the 668-foot building is nearly complete. Last Thursday, Supreme Court Justice W. Franc Perry ordered that the New York City Department of Buildings revoke the building permit for the development at 200 Amsterdam as well as demolish all floors that exceed zoning restrictions. The exact number of floors slated for removal remains unclear, but The New York Times reports that it could be 20 or more, depending on the final interpretation of the zoning laws. That’s quite a trim for a 52-story building. 200 Amsterdam, designed by Elkus Manfredi, occupies the lot where the original Lincoln Square Synagogue stood. In 2013, the synagogue moved to an updated building designed by CetraRuddy right next door, and renderings of the luxury condo high-rise first appeared in 2016. UWS community activists have viewed the project with contempt over the past few years, and many celebrated the ruling as a feat for community organizing. “We are very gratified that after a long fight, the gerrymandered zoning lot at 200 Amsterdam has been declared illegal. This groundbreaking decision averts a dangerous precedent that would have ultimately affected every corner of the city,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS), in a press statement. In a statement to AN, developers SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan defended their vision for 200 Amsterdam and indicated plans to appeal the ruling:
“This ruling is a shocking loss for New York City and its residents. It defies more than 40 years of precedent in the city’s zoning laws. It also ignores the thoughtful decision of the DOB to grant the permit which was upheld by the BSA following exhaustive document review and testimony over a two-year period. Both of those decisions recognized that retroactively applying new interpretations of the city’s zoning to previously approved projects undermines the stability of the regulatory environment needed to support the investment that is critical to New York City’s economy, tax base, housing stock and services.  We will appeal this decision vigorously in court and are confident that we, and the City, will prevail on the merits.”
While the retroactive trimming of a nearly-finished tower is certainly unusual, it is worth noting that New York has seen this situation before—in 1991, a New York developer was forced to tear down the top 12 floors of a 31-story residential tower at 108 East 96th Street five  whole years after it was built. This marked the most severe consequence a New York developer had ever faced for zoning violations; the NYT reporting from 1991 claims that developers of the project repeatedly blamed the violations on an “error in a city map.” The immediate future of 200 Amsterdam remains unclear, but the potential of a partial demolition presents a unique set of challenges, especially with some of the most profitable units located on the upper floors.
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Snøhetta's Upper West Side luxury tower approved despite large mechanical void

Yesterday, the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) approved Extell Development’s contentious residential tower on the Upper West Side, according to Gothamist. After years of back and forth over the height, the Snøhetta-designed 50 West 66th Street is set to rise at 776 feet tall—the tallest building in the neighborhood—and will keep its significant mechanical void space at the core of the tower's chiseled frame. The project was under threat as recently as last month, when preservation organization Landmarks West claimed that Extell was inflating the building’s height with its 192-foot-tall mechanical void in order to charge a higher premium for top-level units. As AN has previously reported, the Billionaire’s Row developer has pulled this move before, side-stepping zoning regulations throughout the city and ignoring caps on maximum floor areas.  Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said the appeal's loss, which occurred in a 2-2 vote tie since one of the BSA members abstained from the process, was major and signals a problem for future similar developments. Opponents have been worried that real estate giants like Extell could use this as a precedent to design large voids in other tower projects in order to boost their overall size. A similar claim was levied against the Rafael Viñoly Architects-designed 249 East 62nd Street when it was first revealed.  Back in early 2019, Extell almost lost the project entirely when it was forced to rethink the tower’s 700-plus-foot height (it was originally pitched at 262 feet). Brewer said construction permits would be revoked, despite approval by the Department of Buildings if Extell failed to change the arrangement and height of its mechanical spaces. The outcry, from both public officials and local residents of the Upper West Side, resulted in a study by the Department of City Planning that detailed how, in New York City, mechanical floors had been excluded from the zoning floor area calculation. In late May, the New York City Council voted to prevent developers from further exploiting this loophole by limiting the height of mechanical voids to 25 feet.  Because 50 West 66th Street was passed before the amendment was made to the zoning law, Gothamist noted the luxury tower will now hold a mechanical void space that totals 176 feet in height—a 16-foot reduction to appease Brewer’s request, but it will now be split into three sections: two 64-foot-tall mechanical areas and a 48-foot-tall void.  Sean Khorsandi, executive director of Landmarks West, told Gothamist that the appeal rejection wasn't as shocking as the way the vote played out. “I think it’s ridiculous that even in the case of a tie, the community loses.” Critics of the project now have the opportunity to file a court appeal as a last-ditch effort to stop it from moving forward. AN has reached out to Snøhetta for comment.
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Battle over Snøhetta's Upper West Side tower continues

The debate over imposing height restrictions for the Snøhetta-designed tower at 50 West 66th Street on Manhattan’s Upper West Side continues. The preservation group Landmark West is arguing that Extell, the building developer known for its Billionaire’s Row towers along 57th Street, is continuing to illegally use mechanical void space to circumvent height restrictions according to Gothamist. Such voids are meant to hold mechanical equipment and have been, until recently, exempt from maximum floor area caps according to zoning regulations, giving developers leeway to inflate building heights and charge a premium for boosted units.  The life of the now-775-foot tall tower began in 2015 when the project was announced at just 262 feet, but the building had swelled to its current height by the time the first renderings were released in 2017. As previously reported in January, Extell was given a 15-day window to scale the design back after pushback from local politicians and community groups. The current design has a total of 176-feet blocked out for mechanical equipment, which was reduced from the original 192-foot void. A recent amendment to the zoning law, however, which counts any mechanical space over 25-feet toward the maximum floor area, will not affect 50 West 66th Street because it was passed after plans were already approved. Activists and politicians alike are now accusing Extell of keeping the majority of the building’s 176 feet of mechanical floors empty of any equipment. Landmark West claims that only 22 percent of the void space will actually be filled with equipment, meaning that the mechanical rooms are predominantly included to boost the building’s overall height. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal have both opposed 50 West 66th Street, which could potentially become the tallest building on the Upper West Side.  “These ‘mechanical floors’ are not being occupied by their purported use. They are more than half filler space that will go unused,” said Brewer in a statement to the Board of Standards and Appeals yesterday. “To permit this development to move forward as proposed sets a dangerous message to other developers who will surely seek similarly unjustified mechanical deductions for their buildings.”
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Snøhetta's Upper West Side skyscraper may have its permits revoked

New York City’s Department of Buildings (DOB) has fired a shot across the bow of developer Extell Development over 50 West 66th Street, a Snøhetta-designed 775-foot-tall tower first revealed at the end of 2017. The 127-unit residential tower, which was first announced as a 262-foot-tall building in 2015, has used a contentious zoning tactic to boost the building’s height, and accordingly, the prices it can command. The middle of the tower includes a 160-foot-tall mechanical void that does not completely count towards the maximum floor area ratio (FAR) defined by the zoning code. While the Department of City Planning had claimed that it would close the loophole in the zoning code responsible for these so-called "towers on stilts" by the end of 2018, that deadline has come and gone. The city now expects to finalize their fix by the summer of 2019. Although the DOB had already greenlit construction at 50 West 66th Street, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer announced today that Extell has 15 days to go back the drawing board and remove the unnecessary height. If Extell doesn't, its construction permit would be revoked. “This is a victory not only for the Upper West Side, but for communities all over the city that find themselves outgunned by developers who try to bend or break zoning rules for massive private profit,” wrote Brewer in a statement. A number of Upper West Side residents and City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal have been outspoken opponents of the project, which, if built, would become the tallest building in the neighborhood. It remains to be seen if Brewer’s decision will carry a precedent for similar projects that have gained extra height by stacking their mechanical rooms—a tactic also employed by the piston-like Rafael Viñoly Architects-designed tower at 249 East 62nd Street.
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San Francisco paves the way for more density after passing Central SoMa Plan

After eight years of negotiations, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved the Central SoMa Plan on December 4, paving the way for a massive density increase, transportation improvements, and infrastructure investments in the heart of the city. The final plan for Central SoMa (South of Market), an area bounded by 6th Street to the west and 2nd Street to the east and Townsend Street to the south and Market Street to the North, ended up at over 1,600 pages (available here). The resultant “eco-district” is aiming to be socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable by 2040, in part by ensuring a diversity of businesses call the neighborhood home. Among the many changes, heights of 400-feet-tall are now on the table for certain developments. The plan allows for an additional 8,800 units of housing—33 percent of which must be affordable—as well as office space for up to 32,000 new jobs. $600 million will be allocated towards transportation infrastructure improvements, including mass transit options, sidewalks, and bike lanes. $64 million will go towards neighborhood schools to accommodate the influx of new residents, and an additional $185 million will go towards improving the area’s existing parks and public spaces, as well as the construction of new civic spaces. $100 million will go towards social programs and the upkeep of the neighborhood’s historic buildings. An unspecified amount of funding will be set aside for stormwater management and projects that will improve air quality, and the plan requires that Central SoMa transitions to non-greenhouse gas-based energy sources. Green roofs and walls will also be required. Hotels, retail, and entertainment options will be incentivized, and the plan looks to include light manufacturing in an Urban Mixed Use zone, which will create a buffer between the residential district and the Eastern Neighborhoods. Such an ambitious zoning update naturally met resistance. Before the December 4 vote, four lawsuits against the project had to first be dismissed by the Board of Supervisors. Community groups took the city to task over fears of gentrification and concerns over increased air pollution owing to the forecasted increases in traffic. A third group, the developer One Vassar LLC, filed a motion because they felt the plan wouldn’t increase housing enough in proportion to the amount of expected office space. Now that the Central SoMa plan has essentially been approved, height limits in the area will gradually rise over the next 22 years, first to 85 feet from the current 30, then to 130 feet, and finally 400 feet.
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Morris Adjmi gives classic New York terra-cotta cladding a modern twist

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Morris Adjmi Architects has just completed its wedge-shaped 363 Lafayette mixed-use development in New York City. The project is located in the heart of the NoHo Historic District, a context known for its mid-rise store-and-loft buildings clad in detailed cast iron and stone.
  • Facade Manufacturer Boston Valley Terracotta, Belden/Tristate Brick, Vitro Glass, Tristar Glass
  • Architects              Morris Adjmi Architects
  • Facade Installer PG New York (terra-cotta), IHR1 (brick), TriStar Glass
  • Facade Consultants Frank Seta & Associates
  • Location New York
  • Date of Completion Fall 2018
  • System Terracotta rainscreen on a frame wall system flanked by brick piers
  • Products Win-vent series 850 frames, Solarban z60 glass, custom-made rainscreen produced by Boston Valley Terra Cotta, and installed with TerraClad clip system
363 Lafayette’s site is prominent, with three visible elevations to the north, south, and west. The ground floor of the building is dedicated to commercial space and extends from Great Jones to Bond Street. Due to zoning and site constraints, the massing of the west facade is set back, with eight floors of office space rising midway through the elevation. The development’s facade is defined by horizontal and vertical bands of white brick, produced by Belden/Tristate Brick, which frame a charcoal-colored terra-cotta curtain wall. For the color scheme and materiality of 363 Lafayette, Morris Adjmi reinterpreted the area’s historically narrow terracotta mullions, window surrounds, and brick piers, into a much wider layout. Designed by the firm and crafted by Buffalo’s Boston Valley Terra Cotta (BVTC), the geometric pattern of the terra-cotta reliefs was conceived by the design team as an abstraction of neighboring Classical and Richardsonian Romanesque detailing. The custom-made terra-cotta rainscreen was installed on BVTC’s TerraClad clip system that attaches to a perimeter concrete beam and a medium-gauge framing wall. A series of gaskets and isolators allow the system to adjust to thermal expansion while reducing wind-induced vibration. Elongated rectangular windows, fabricated by TriStar with Win-Vent frames and Vitro Glass, are placed between chamfered terra-cotta mullions. Why does the building twist? Lafayette Street used to proceed north from Great Jones Street until the end of the 19th century when the street was excavated from the IRT subway. The excavation of the street led to the creation of odd-shaped sites, such as 363 Lafayette. According to the design team, “the building’s twist serves to reflect the cut of the street and to architecturally engage the setback with the lower portion of the building.”
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An air rights vote divides a Lower East Side community

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.”
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Manhattan's Garment District is next on the rezoning block, with some bright spots for manufacturers

Hot off of a contentious rezoning of East Harlem and in the middle of spinning up the Inwood rezoning, the de Blasio administration has once again turned its attention to the Garment District in Midtown. While a previous attempt to transition the neighborhood away from manufacturing failed last year, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that a revised plan will be presented any day now. New York City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has reportedly worked out a plan, with input from advocates and manufacturers in the area, that would ease some of the area’s restrictive manufacturing requirements and open the neighborhood up to commercial development. A major sticking point of the prior plan, and part of the reason that neighborhood manufacturers opposed the initial rezoning, was that the city had floated the idea of relocating most of the manufacturers to Brooklyn's Sunset Park. From the details that have been made public so far, it looks like the city will lift certain zoning restrictions along the neighborhood’s side streets rather than the whole district, which is located between West 35th and West 40th streets and Broadway and West 9th Avenue. The city will spend up to $20 million to acquire a building that will solely house manufacturing, and developers will be given tax incentives for allocating at least 25,000 square feet for clothing manufacturing in any new buildings. It’s likely that the restrictions on building new hotels from the older plan will be included in the final revision. Under the 1987 zoning code that the new plan addresses, developers converting buildings in the district were required to maintain a 50-50 split between manufacturing space and offices. The new plan is likely a win for manufacturers looking to stay in Manhattan. Despite the district’s central location, many of the small clothing and cloth shops that lined the neighborhood’s streets have left due to unaffordable rent and overseas competition. The WSJ notes that of the 9 million square feet of space within the 1987 zoning regulation’s boundaries, only 700,000 to 900,000 square feet is being used for manufacturing today. Much of New York’s manufacturing base has already shifted to Brooklyn, with a sizable chunk moving to the Navy Yard because of the ability to vertically integrate their production; the latest rezoning plan is a direct effort to address this.  In a press release, the EDC put forth a commitment to preserve at least 300,000 square feet of manufacturing space in the neighborhood, noting that 25 percent of all garment manufacturing in the city is still done in the area. "The Garment Center's unique ecosystem of skilled workers and specialty suppliers clustered in one place is the foundation that the wider New York fashion world is built on. What we've negotiated here is a real plan to preserve it for years to come," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer in the release. "This is much more than just a tax benefit program, although the IDA benefits are central.  It’s an IDA program combined with a real commitment of resources to purchase permanent space. This package will help keep the fashion industry anchored here in New York."
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Chicago sets aside $6 million in developer funding to help South Side businesses

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund is on track to provide over six million dollars from private developers to help grow businesses on the city’s South and West Sides during the program’s third round of funding. Unveiled in February 2016 as part of a new density bonus program, developers who seek approval for zoning bonuses are encouraged to pay into a fund that supports investment in designated underserved neighborhoods’ commercial corridor projects. In order to increase the size of downtown construction projects via a higher floor area ratio (FAR), which reflects the total square footage of a building divided by the area of the lot, developers must pay into the Neighborhood Opportunity Bonus. These projects also automatically receive Planned Development status, ensuring public review and cohesive planning. A recent permit application submitted by the Howard Hughes Corporation to begin foundation work at 110 North Wacker Drive will contribute $19.6 million to the fund, with the work under the permit valued at $40 million. Eighty percent of the Neighborhood Opportunity Bonus money is banked and made available to grantees to finance projects that support new or expanding business ventures in “qualified investment areas.” With U.S. Census data as a baseline, the Chicago Department of Planning and Development has designated commercial corridors in neighborhoods as far north as Belmont Cragin and as far south as the East Side. The one-time grants, which the business owner does not need to pay back, kick-start and support a variety of activities, including new retail, grocery stores, and cultural establishments, and help maintain existing ones. The other 20 percent is parceled out via the Local Impact Fund and the Adopt-A-Landmark Fund. The Local Impact Fund supports improvements within one mile of the development site, including public transit facilities, streetscapes, and open spaces. The Adopt-A-Landmark Fund supports the rehabilitation of designated Chicago Landmarks, or buildings contributing to a Landmark District. For business owners and entrepreneurs, the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund may be used by the grantee to acquire, rehabilitate, or demolish older and vintage buildings, or build new, with the cost of planning and design also eligible for funding. Other more administrative expenses are covered under the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, including environmental remediation, financing fees, and the costs of business incubation, mentoring, and training. The program has funded diverse projects from barber shops to organizations that provide legal immigration services.
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This digital 3-D model of Boston reveals the shadows cast by new construction

On May 8, Boston’s Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) released a digital 3-D model of the city. Built with GIS and CAD, the map encompasses approximately 129,000 buildings, each roughly outlined to indicate overall massing and height. According to the Boston Globe, the map was partially inspired by debates surrounding shadows cast on the Boston Commons by new skyscrapers, such as the nearly 700-foot-tall Winthrop Square Tower. The 3-D model uses Boston’s monthly average amount of daylight to effectively represent each building’s impact on citywide light exposure. Areas with dense concentrations of skyscrapers, primarily Downtown Boston, are depicted as casting shadow overs large swaths of the city. On the map, the function of each building within the city is graphically represented through the use of a color scheme sequenced to Boston’s zoning regulatory framework. Industrial districts, such as Marine Industrial Park, are clearly discernible from residential quarters such as adjacent City Point. Beyond the representation of each individual building’s function, the model outlines the city’s zoning districts, sub districts and special planning areas. As a coastal city, the BPDA has to accommodate for inevitable rises in sea level. To this end, the model also maps out Boston’s FEMA National Flood Hazard Areas, as well as areas that would be significantly impacted by a 100-year flood of 40 inches or more. Additionally, the model shows Boston’s entire public transport network, university system, and areas subject to urban renewal policies. While the 3-D model only includes existing buildings and those under construction, the BPDA is hoping to incorporate planned developments into the model to allow for their visualization within a larger urban context.
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How to save Manhattan's Garment District

The garment industry—and its district in west Midtown, New York—continues to be underappreciated within a city that has transitioned to one that consumes material goods rather than producing them. As recently as 2009, alternative zoning was proposed in an attempt to consolidate all the manufacturers into one building in the Garment District (see our 2009 article “Shrink to Fit”). This spring, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which supports manufacturers, proposed to eliminate the special zoning laws that promote the preservation of industrial space in the district. This current zoning overlay requires a one-to-one replacement of manufacturing space when (in general) a landlord converts space to commercial use, but it has been loosely enforced. While the proposal maintains the existing industrial zoning, it is not favored by the manufacturing community, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, community boards, or groups such as the Garment District Alliance, Design Trust for Public Space, and the Municipal Art Society, among others. Together, these parties, who have requested additional time to review the proposal, have formed a steering committee in advance of the formal land-use review process (ULURP), slated to commence in August 2017.

The new proposal would also place limits on construction of new hotels in the area, which are considered “industrial use,” but has pressured industrial owners to sell. The city promises $15 million in technical assistance and costs for relocation into city-owned spaces in the Brooklyn Army Terminal ($100 million capital investment) or a future city-operated garment center building in Sunset Park ($136 million capital investment) to be completed in 2020. However, the synergy of the interdependent ecosystem of designers, contract manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors still has an irreplaceable value, even as it erodes.

Two alternate propositions:

Instead of removing the preservation requirements of the District’s zoning, I am proposing two scenarios to sustain the Garment District’s dense cluster of what I call “Vertical Urban Factories.” One approach could be to embrace the District’s organic mix of garment industries and residential, office, and retail space in a unique hybrid building type. Industrial preservation requirements could instead be tightened through “mandatory inclusionary manufacturing,” similar to the mayor’s plan for requirements for housing in newly rezoned areas.

Most mixed-use industrial districts (or “MX” districts) are proven to tip toward residential and commercial development because of the higher rents they command, and building owners profit from the industrial conversion to more lucrative uses. The Garment District is no different; it is an industrial zone, with other nonindustrial uses allowed. But since fashion is a lighter industry, like other niche design-driven industries, it is actually clean and quiet and can be easily integrated with office and residential uses in the same buildings. What if the higher-value residential tenants could consciously support the lower-rent garment tenants (or other light manufacturing spaces) through cross-subsidies? The result would be a diverse mix of making, selling, playing, and living; creating a 24/7 work-live community. The ground floor could remain retail space relating to the supplies that comprise the products—buttons, zippers, sequins, fabrics—while the lower and middle floors, where the showrooms are often located, would be required to be maintained as factories. The upper floors could contain the higher-value showrooms, and commercial and residential units. In reverse, new hotels could be required to house garment manufacturing, and guests could have a unique experience of watching manufacturing from their hotel rooms!

Another approach is to make the garment workers visible, injecting energy into the area with new physical transparency, exposing the industrial mysteries of workers making patterns, cutting, sewing, and pleating fabrics, in what I call the “consumption of production.” The emergence of industry-as-spectacle combines retail with making, so that the consumer also can see into the process from beginning to end, in our experience economy. This would be part of a longtime tradition of urban merchants and their workshops, or even the phenomenon of open kitchens in restaurants, and follows new interests in authenticity. In this new context, it combines another hybrid of retail-factory spaces for urban chocolatiers, coffee roasters, and bakers bringing street life to cities. In doing so, we can redefine and bolster the dynamism and diversity of our innovative and productive city.

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Politicians to sue if New York City approves three new riverside towers

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilperson Margaret Chin are pushing the Department of City Planning (DCP) to conduct additional reviews of three waterfront towers in the Two Bridges neighborhood. The pair said they will pursue legal action against the city if it doesn't stop the developments. Developers have set their sights on the Chinatown-adjacent area in recent years with a series of high-rise residential buildings. The 77-, 69-, and 62-story towers would sit less than a block away from the FDR Drive, near the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges from which Two Bridges gets its names. JDS Development Group, the same firm behind the troubled supertall on Central Park, is backing the 77-story, SHoP-designed skyscraper at 247 Cherry Street, which will rise next to an under-construction 80-story tower, Extell’s One Manhattan Square, designed by Adamson Associates Architects. Two Bridges Associates is planning a double tower (69 stories each) with a shared platform at 260 South Street, and Starrett Development wants to build its 62-story structure at 259 Clinton Street. Last year, Brewer and Chin, whose district includes the proposed towers, asked DCP to assess the development via a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), a seven-month review that goes through the community board all the way up to the mayor for public comment, revision, and further assessment before the development is approved or denied. Here, though, current zoning allows the towers to be built as-of-right, so no scrutiny through ULURP was legally necessary. The developers of the tower trio are only required to do environmental review for their project, though they did hold voluntary community reviews (which were interrupted by protests). In response to community concerns, DCP is considering the projects together, instead of individually. "While the modifications sought for the Two Bridges sites do not trigger ULURP—in other words no new density or waivers are needed—a thorough environmental review which offers multiple opportunities for the public and elected officials to participate is being conducted," said DCP spokesperson Rachaele Raynoff, in an email to DNAinfo. "Moreover we are ensuring a coordinated review by the project applicants that looks at the cumulative effects of these three developments at the same time—an extraordinary but important measure that is not ordinarily required. This coordinated review will help produce the best possible outcome for this neighborhood. Much as we appreciate the desire of the community to do so, there are no grounds under which a ULURP could legally be required in this instance." Though there are many neighborhood groups across the city saying "no" to tall buildings, the political geography of downtown Manhattan lends the Two Bridges controversy a special edge. Restrictive zoning and landmarking shields wealthier and whiter neighborhoods downtown from skyscrapers, but those protections are missing in the Lower East Side or Chinatown, a condition that jeopardizes affordability and encourages what some see as out-of-scale development. Though activists are working to mitigate displacement, since 2002, Chinatown has lost more than 25 percent of its rent-regulated apartments. Now, neighbors are worried the developments will stress already over-burdened infrastructure, block natural light, and engender displacement in the low-income neighborhood by causing property values to spike. At One Manhattan Square, for example, prices for two-bedrooms start at almost $2.1 million.