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Board Wants to Trim Building Heights in Hudson Square Rezoning Plan

By Andrea Swalec | October 19, 2012 9:36am

SOHO — In an official recommendation to the City Planning Commission Thursday night, Community Board 2 voted to deny Trinity Real Estate's application for the rezoning of Hudson Square unless the company significantly reduces its proposed maximum building heights and creates a recreation center.

In a resolution passed at CB2's full board meeting, the advisory group described "broad support" for Trinity's goal to create a "diverse and vibrant mixed-use community," but asked for concessions to maintain the quality of life of current residents.

"A significant rezoning of this densely built environment with very few opportunities for open space and community facilities … will cause negative effects on both the proposed area and the adjacent neighborhood," the resolution reads. "These effects must be mitigated in order for the proposal to be acceptable."

Trinity is seeking to transform an 18-block area within Hudson Square, which is still overwhelmingly zoned for commercial and manufacturing use, into a mixed-use neighborhood. The area subject to rezoning is roughly bound by West Houston Street, Sixth Avenue, Canal Street and Greenwich Street.

Arguing that overly tall buildings would "overwhelm the buildings that now create the character" of Hudson Square, CB2 urged the city to reduce the proposed building heights of 320 feet on wide streets and 185 feet on narrow streets.

CB2 also recommended incentives for developers to create affordable housing. On wide streets, the board requested a maximum height of 250 feet for buildings with affordable housing provisions and 210 for those without them. On narrow streets, CB2 asked for a maximum of 185 feet if affordable housing is present and 165 feet if it is not.

Silvia Beam, the head of the Vandam Street Block Association, said she wanted even lower heights in her neighborhood.

"The height limits on the buildings are still way too high," she said.

A recreation center with a gym, pool, community rooms and a small theater is also on CB2's wish list. The board proposed that Trinity build the center near the 444-seat public school it is planning on the northwest corner of Sixth Avenue and Canal Street.

Trinity Real Estate president Jason Pizer said in a statement that the company would continue to work with residents and elected officials.

"We are pleased that CB2 agrees with the goals of this proposed rezoning and supports the creation of a diverse and vibrant mixed-use community that preserves neighborhood character," he said.

CB2 also recommended that the city grant landmark status to the proposed South Village Historic District championed by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. The district is bordered by West Fourth Street, LaGuardia Place, Watts Street and Sixth Avenue.

Additionally, CB2 recommended that Trinity eliminate a planned zoning subdistrict that would have a dramatically lower maximum building height.

Under Trinity's plan, an area roughly bound by Dominick Street to the north, Varick Street and Sixth Avenue to the east, Watts Street to the south, and the entrance to the Holland Tunnel to the west could have buildings of up to 120 feet tall.

After multiple residents said the height restriction would unfairly cut into the sale values of their properties, CB2 voted against the creation of the zone, called Sub-District B.

Lifelong Broome Street resident Linda Sousa, 55, said Trinity's requested zoning for the sub-district would represent a huge blow to the value of her property.

"If this is approved, over half of the value of our properties will be appropriated for someone else's gain," she said.

In the next steps of the city's land-use review procedure, Trinity's proposal will be subject to an advisory vote by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, followed by votes by the City Planning Commission and City Council.