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CB12 Rejects Plan to Build Washington Heights Skyscrapers

By Carla Zanoni | September 28, 2011 5:06pm

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — After seven months of consulting with the developer of a proposed skyscraper project in Washington Heights, the local community board voted Tuesday to reject the plan as it currently stands.

Community Board 12 members unanimously voted to approve a resolution that lists 12 areas of concern for the Department of City Planning to consider while it reviews an application for a group of skyscrapers.

The so-called Fort Tryon Center, put forward by developer Quadriad Realty, details three possible scenarios for two to four skyscrapers on Broadway near 192nd Street, ranging between 23 and 40 stories.

The plan includes residential and commericial space as well as several public amenities in two of the proposed schemes, including a refurbished subway entrance for the 1 train at 192nd Street and Broadway, and a plan to reconstruct Gorman Park, a city park that sits beside the site.

"Community Board 12-Manhattan opposes Quadriad Realty Partners Tryon Center project as it is currently proposed for development," reads the resolution, which was drafted in collaboration with the board’s land use, health and environment, and human services committees.

In the document, the board calls on Quadriad to reduce the overall density and height of the development; create more family-sized units with at least 50 percent of them two-bedrooms or larger; use Washington Heights and Inwood household income data to determine affordable housing rental rates; and change the plan so that at least 50 percent of the project is made up of affordable housing units.

The resolution also requests Quadriad to arrange for the affordable units to be registered in a rent-stabilization program so as to regulate rent increases and allow for more tenant rights.

Outside of concerns about the sizes and heights of the skyscrapers, the discussion of affordability has been paramount since the plan was first brought to the board in November 2010.

“These are points we’ve made repeatedly over the past seven month,” said land use chair Wayne Benjamin.

If allowed to build at the heights proposed, Quadriad's current plan for affordable housing would feature studio apartments ranging from $367-$1,100; one-bedrooms from $504-$1,513; two-bedrooms from $665-$1,994; and three-bedrooms from $900-$2,700. Quadriad based the prices on market rates, which the developer says range from $1,700 for a studio apartment to $3,400 for a three-bedroom.

Quadriad officials argued that if they are unable to reach consensus with the community, the developer will move ahead with an as-of-right plan for the building, which will include no affordable housing units.

Several area residents spoke out against the plan at CB 12’s general meeting Tuesday night, calling the plan out of scale and out of touch with surrounding community.

“This is not in the best interest of our neighborhood,” said Martha Morrissey, a member of the community group Northern Manhattan Neighborhood Coalition. “This plan will have a severely negative impact on our transportation system, schools, traffic and electric grid.”

City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who represents the district where most of the buildings would be located, argued for housing to meet the needs of lower-income constituents in the neighborhood.

“I want to see at least 50 percent of the units be affordable to our community. We’ll deal with issues of noise and traffic after of course, but I first want to see at least 50 percent of the units allocated to the residents of this community.”

In a presentation to the board before the vote, Quadriad chairman Henry Wollman said he was committed to continuing the discussion with the community as the developer continues its process with the city.

“We are willing to compromise," he said. "We are prepared for discourse and compromise with the community."

Next up, the Department of City Planning will review the board’s recommendations and begin the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP).

Once City Planning certifies a copy of the plan, the next step in that process is that the community board will have 60 days to weigh in with a final opinion on the project application before it goes to the Manhattan Borough President, City Planning and finally City Council for approval.