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Extell's Riverside Center Proposal Goes to a Vote at City Planning Commission

By Leslie Albrecht | October 26, 2010 7:21pm

By Leslie Albrecht

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UPPER WEST SIDE — A five-tower development that some say could ruin the quality of life on the Upper West Side goes before the city Planning Commission on Wednesday for approval.

The Planning Commission vote is the last step in the public review process for the Extell Development Company's Riverside Center before the City Council gives a final yay or nay on the project roughly two months from now.

The 13-member Planning Commission will weigh in on more than a dozen special permits Extell needs if it wants to build a massive complex of residential high-rises and retail outlets slated for eight acres of space between West 59th and West 61st streets and West End Avenue and Riverside Boulevard.

The commission can either approve each permit as is, disapprove, or ask for changes. For example, when considering the permit needed for the underground parking garage, the commission could ask Extell to provide fewer parking spaces.

Some neighborhood groups are fearful of the effect the Riverside Center will have on the area.

Community Board 7, for instance, has expressed concern that the five residential towers will bring too many new children to an already over-crowded school district. They want Extell to commit to building a 150,000-square-foot, six-section K-8 school on the site.

Extell has said building such a school could add $35 million to $40 million to the cost of the project. Extell's president, Gary Barnett, says adding such costs will make the project too expensive to build.

Others criticize the project because they say it has too many parking spaces, which they say will bring too much traffic to the area and would add to air pollution.

Extell wants to have 1,800 parking spaces in an underground garage. CB7 recommended 1,000 spaces, while Borough President Scott Stringer recommended 1,100 spaces, according to Streetsblog.

At a public hearing before the Planning Commission last month, some neighbors of the proposed Riverside Center spoke up in favor of the project, saying the new retail would bring much-needed convenience to the out-of-the-way neighborhood.

The public won't be invited to speak at tomorrow's meeting.

The Planning Commission is scheduled to vote at its 10 a.m. meeting at 22 Reade Street.