Riverside Center's Affordable Housing Plan Gets Nod from Community Board

By Emily Frost on August 15, 2012 5:47pm 

UPPER WEST SIDE — The first of five buildings in a massive 2,500-unit residential development stretching from West 59th to 61st streets between Riverside Boulevard and the West Side Highway will have a mix of affordable and market rate housing, according to Carlyle Realty Partners' plans approved by three committees of Community Board 7 this week. The full board will vote on the resolution in September.

Construction at Riverside Center is expected to start on the first tower, known as Building 2, at the corner of Riverside Drive and West 61st Street, in November, pending city approval. 

Twenty percent of the building's 616 units are slated to be affordable, ranging between $529 for a studio and $1,009 for a three-bedroom apartment. Qualifying families must earn between 40 and 50 percent of the annual median income in the city, which is between $23,000 and $43,000, depending on household size. 

Though the developer was only required to make the units affordable to people making 80 percent of the annual median income for the city, it had made units even more affordable, pricing them for renters with 40 to 50 percent of the annual median income, said Drew Sptiler, of Dermot Realty Management Co., which is pairing with the Carlyle Realty Partners on the first tower.

Carlyle Realty Partners and co-developer Extell Development Company expect to net $30 million in revenue from the tower, according to their proposal to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD)

Extell agreed to create a total of 200 affordable units onsite and CB7 expects to see the remainder spread among the next four buildings to be constructed. However, its proposed 127 affordable units meet the city's Inclusionary Housing regulations by representing 20 percent of the building's units. 

City Councilwoman Gale Brewer was concerned the developer's earlier commitment, which also included a promise of 300 affordable units developed elsewhere on the West Side.

"We may have to have a fight with another developer," Brewer said at Monday's community board meeting. "I don’t want us to forget those 500 units we fought for." 

The majority of the committees present, including Housing, Land Use and Youth, and Education & Libraries, was happy with the plan presented, though some members, including Mel Wymore and Helen Rosenthal, urged the developer to create even more affordable housing. 

The first four floors of the building will hold a 100,000-square-foot school, the first new school on the Upper West Side in decades, with either a K-8 school or separate elementary and middle schools.

The developer will build the shell of the school, which is scheduled to open in 2015.

Community members and the board voiced concern over the zoning of the school. They wanted access to be extended beyond the Riverside South community.

Spitler reassured them the zoning would be decided by the Community Education Council and the Department of Education, with plenty of opportunity for the community to weigh in.  

Board members were frustrated that the renderings of the development they'd spent hours scrutinizing were not the same. The developers have exchanged the original architect Christian de Portzamparc for New York-based SLCE Architects.

Board member Michelle Parker pointed out that the goal was not to quibble over design features but to assess the affordable housing proposal. 

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