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Developer to Spruce Up Fulton Houses Playground Threatened with Demolition

By Mathew Katz | August 20, 2013 2:20pm
  Artimus Construction wanted to bulldoze the playgrounds for parking, but will now renovate them.
Developer Will Renovate Once-Threatened Fulton Houses Playground
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CHELSEA — A developer that previously threatened to bulldoze two play areas at the Fulton Houses complex will now pay to renovate a playground and a basketball court, following widespread community outrage.

Artimus Construction pledged this week to fix up one of the play spaces that would have been knocked down under the company's initial plan to build a 158-unit affordable housing building at 425 W. 18th St.

"All we want to do is try to improve the areas," Artimus' Evan Kashanian said at Community Board 4's Chelsea Land Use Committee on Monday night.

“We’re more than willing to work with the community and the community board and obviously the tenant's association to put something together to make everybody happy.”

Artimus representatives also denied they had ever actually planned to replace the two play spaces with parking, despite the company's printed map of the plan to do so — which sparked protests earlier this summer from angry tenants and community leaders.

The Fulton Houses playground will now get new benches, planters, a children's basketball hoop and a hopscotch area, Artimus representatives said. A basketball court on Ninth Avenue between West 18th and 19th streets will also get a full renovation, including a new surface, a fresh paint job, and new hoops and backboards.

The improvements will start prior to construction of the building, Artimus said, and should take about three months. It was not immediately clear how much the upgrades would cost.

"The board has requested and received a commitment from the developer that...they will make improvements to two of the play spaces that NYCHA has today — at their own expense," CB4 member Joe Restuccia said at Monday night's meeting.

The CB4 committee agreed to recommend approval of Artimus' new plan, which requires some changes to zoning regulations. The committee also requested that Artimus look into building a health care facility on the ground floor of the new building, add a green roof and plant additional trees.

Under the original plan, Artimus wanted to build the new affordable housing building on the current home of a parking lot and trash compactor, moving the compactor to another lot on West 19th Street.

To make up for the loss of parking, Artimus had planned to replace a sprinkler area and community garden on the north side of West 17th Street and a playground on the south side of West 17th Street with parking spots.

But under the new plan, the developer plans to re-stripe existing lots to fit more cars and shift NYCHA staff parking to the street, keeping the play areas intact without taking away much parking.

"The entire matter of how the parking gets redistributed has been solved," Restuccia said.

The total number of parking spaces will be reduced from 114 spaces to 101, but according to NYCHA, only 96 Fulton Houses residents hold permits, so Artimus argued that no one will lose their space.

However, Miguel Acevedo, head of the Fulton Houses Tenants' Association, said those numbers were incorrect.

"We have a waiting list of 37 people [for parking permits]," he said. "They don't even know what they're doing with the parking lot today."

The proposal will now go before the full board at its September meeting and will also need approval from the City Council.