By Tara Kyle
HELL'S KITCHEN — New zoning could bring more apartments to Manhattan's west side, but planners are making space for neighboring strip clubs.
About 80 neighborhood residents attended a hearing Thursday night to learn more about the West Clinton Rezoning, which would cover 18 blocks between 43rd and 55th Streets.
One of the goals of the proposed rezoning, city planner Erika Selke explained Thursday, is to open up new residential opportunities on the East side of Eleventh Avenue — putting some apartments within 500 feet of venues like Larry Flynt's Hustler Club and the Penthouse Executive Club, which are scattered along the blocks adjacent to the Hudson River.
That's something the city ordinarily doesn't allow. But for First Amendment reasons, strip clubs that are already legally operating by the time the new zoning goes into effect would be allowed to stay, according to Selke.
Before any proposed rezoning is approved, it must go through a seven-month public review period, formally known as the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP). Thursday's hearing, hosted by Community Board 4, served as an early step in that process.
Other goals for the proposed rezoning, which is the culmination of four years of dialogue between CB4, the Department of City Planning, residents and business owners, include allowing continued manufacturing development between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenue and maintaining the aesthetic character of the neighborhood.
One major outcome of the West Clinton Rezoning would be the imposition of height limits, in an area where developers can currently construct towers of unlimited height.
It would also prohibit hotels from moving onto the blocks between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues — a popular cause in the neighborhood.
The rezoning would promote affordable housing by allowing developers to propose higher density buildings if they're making 20 percent of their units affordable — though these don't necessarily have to be on site.
At Thursday's hearing, residents praised many of the terms of the proposed rezoning. CB4 members said it achieved the vast majority of the goals they had laid out in discussions dating from 2006.
But many said that they remained disheartened by a lack of anti-harassment protections for people living between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues. On blocks where anti-harassment provisions are in place, landlords with proven cases of tenant harassment on their records face steep penalties, including being prevented from performing renovations.
The recent influx of luxury development in the neighborhood remains a sore point for many long-time residents, who say landlords are now financially motivated to pressure them to leave.
"We've been here, we stuck it out…when Hell's Kitchen was a description of this place and not just a cute name," said born-and-raised New Yorker Dave Novoa. "If it wasn't for us, this place would look like Detroit."