By Serena Solomon
MIDTOWN — Community groups in Hell's Kitchen and Chelsea are looking to have their voices heard as the City Council considers rezoning the far West Side to make way for development over the MTA's rail yards.
Community Board 4, the Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood Association and the Friends of the High Line are expected to give testimony at Monday's public hearing on rezoning the Hudson Yards — the largest undeveloped space in Manhattan — held by the Council's subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises.
A proposal, mired in delays, by city mega-developer Related Cos. would include residential, commercial, retail and public space, plus a school.
"There is no guaranteed affordable housing slated for that enormous development," said Kathleen Treat, from the Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood Association, referring to the project as "Hong Kong on the Hudson."
Related, which did not return calls for comment, has said it will only include 20 percent affordable housing in the project if it's able to receive tax-exempt financing.
"We have historically wanted 27 percent affordable housing instead of 20 percent," said Bob Benfatto, district manager for CB4. "But they have not budged on that."
Benfatto and Treat are also concerned about the infrastructure required for the thousands of people who would eventually move into the new development. Besides the school, Treat also wants to see a small hospital, library and sports fields.
"The more they build theses high-rise developments the more our infrastructure is insufficient," Treat said.
The Hudson Yards, owned by the MTA, is on a 13-acre site located between 30th and 33rd streets from Eleventh to Twelfth Avenues. Currently an open-air train maintenance and storage yard, the site will continue to operate, but with new development to be built on a platform over it. The development would include residential, commercial and retail space with a school and five acres of public space, however it has suffered false starts and is now stalled by a stagnant economy.
Friends of the High Line, the group that helped build the elevated park that runs from the Meatpacking District to the area, want the committee to protect the park. It currently ends at 20th Street, but there are plans to extend it 14 blocks north into the Western Rail Yards.
"The current rezoning agreement represents a change in the way the city is thinking about the High Line," said Katie Lorah, deputy directer of communications at the organization. She said the proposed rezoning secures the future of the park and, hopefully, its extension.
Despite the discussion before the subcommitee, many involved realize that this does not mean the development will start anytime soon.
"It's extraordinarily expensive," Treat said. "I don't think I will see this development in my life time, anyway."