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West Side Railyards Rezoning Vote Expected Today

By Serena Solomon | December 14, 2009 8:06am | Updated on December 14, 2009 7:57am
The Western Rail Yard is Manhattan's largest undeveloped space.
The Western Rail Yard is Manhattan's largest undeveloped space.
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Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

By Serena Solomon

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

CITY HALL — The multi-billion plan to develop the far West Side over the MTA's Western Railyard could move forward on Monday as a City Council subcommittee is scheduled to vote on necessary rezoning.

The vote has been delayed twice before as negotiations between the developer, the Related Companies, and the Council continued behind closed doors.

At issue is the number of affordable housing units in the plan. Politicians and community leaders charge that Related would create an exclusive neighborhood for the rich unless the council forces it to put units aside for moderate income residents.

The final elements of the city's deal with Related would not be publicly known until the Council subcommittee votes.

"Some of the pieces of the zoning agreement that are pending a vote are still undergoing negotiations," said Anthony Hogrebe, a spokesman for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

If the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee votes and passes the rezoning plan on Monday, it will go before the full City Council for a final vote.

The project, which would carve out a new neighborhood in an industrial section of Manhattan, covers a 13-acre swath between West 30th and West 33rd streets between Eleventh and Twelfth avenues. The property stretches over MTA railyards used for train maintenance and storage. Related Cos. has said they will build on a platform over the yards.

Related also plans a swath of retail, commercial and open spaces, plus a school.

Councilman Tony Avella (D-Queens), the subcommittee chairman, told DNAinfo he plans to vote "no" on the current rezoning agreement unless it is changed to include more affordable housing.

To qualify for tax-exempt financing, Related has said it plans to set aside 20 percent of rental units as affordable housing. But that slice is just 8 percent of the total housing on the site, when planned luxury condos and co-ops are factored in. Related has proposed creating more affordable housing off-site in Hell's Kitchen.

The developer's proposal drew heated protest from community groups at the final public hearing at City Hall on Nov. 23. Among those pushing for changes are Chelsea's Community Board 4 and the West Side Neighborhood Alliance.

"We understand that negotiations are ongoing at City Hall," said Jackie Del Valle, from Housing Conservation Coordinators, an umbrella organization for the Alliance.