Replace Javits Site With Park and Housing, Locals Say

By Mathew Katz on January 6, 2012 7:35am 

The Governor proposed razing the Javits Center during his State of the State address.
The Governor proposed razing the Javits Center during his State of the State address.
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javitscenter.com

HELL’S KITCHEN — Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to raze the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center was met by widespread approval from a Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood group that has already drafted a plan to replace the building with park space and residential land.

Shortly after Wednesday's announcement during Cuomo’s State of the State speech, the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association sent around a modified version of a plan for the site, drafted in 2007.

The proposal would replace the entire center with a park-filled, mixed-use residential neighborhood on the Javits space, re-opening West 35th to West 39th Street. It also proposes to redevelop half of nearby Pier 76 as community park.

The plan roughly lines up with what Cuomo proposed Wednesday, including building a new mixed-use neighborhood in the model of Battery Park City, with residential units, hotels and parks. He believes the state could attract $2 billion in private money to develop the 18-acre site.

The convention center would move to a 3.8 million square foot complex at the Aqueduct Race Track in Queens.

The neighborhood group's goal for the existing Javits site is to increase neighborhood access to Hudson River Park, alleviate traffic going to the West Side Highway and provide more affordable housing for the area.

“We look forward to working with the governor and his agencies to develop this 18-acre site with genuinely affordable housing and an expanded Hudson River Park," said Kathleen Treat, head of the Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood Association.

With the Javits gone, neighbors would like to see Hudson River Park expanded from a sliver on the shore of the Hudson to having a second section east of the West Side Highway.

“I hate to say it, but [Hudson River Park’s] really inadequate around here and everyone knows it,” said Meta Brunzema, the chair of the HKNA’s planning committee. "The Javits Center is really an obstacle to it really becoming a great park."

In his speech, the governor also mentioned the possibility of keeping some convention space in Manhattan, though neighbors don't want to see it on the current Javits site. Advocates pointed towards space in the nearby James A. Farley post office for small ballrooms and meeting areas.

The Javits site itself has been the site of drama over the years. In 2003, neighbors led a successful fight against a state proposal to expand the center to West 42nd Street, and local neighborhood organizations are weary of the governor charging forward with the project without consulting them.

"Unlike previous administrations, the governor really ought [to] involve the community, the civic and environmental groups and the public in this," Brunzema said. "This should be the beginning of a civic debate in which all the best ideas should come forth."

Community Board 4 Chair Corey Johnson said the board welcomes a well-thought-out plan to develop the site, and likes the idea of basing it on Battery Park.

“We expect the [Community Board] will be heavily involved in any planning,” Johnson said. “In the past the state has not been the best out reaching out and working with Community Boards. But that's the past. We look forward to going forward.”

Treat summed up her concerns, including the need for a large amount of affordable housing, a bit more bluntly.

"We don’t want to get screwed over like we did with Hudson Yards," she said.

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