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U.N. Tower Will Bring Traffic and Shadows to Tudor City, Residents Fear

By Heather Holland | September 26, 2013 7:20am
 Tudor City residents slammed a plan to build at 36-story office building across from their park.
Residents Raise Concerns About Proposed U.N. Building
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TUDOR CITY — Residents who live near the site of a proposed United Nations office building opposed the plan during a public meeting this week, saying it would increase traffic in an already congested area and block sunlight to a nearby park.

The 36-story tower is set to rise on a piece of Robert Moses Park, on the East River waterfront between 42nd and 41st streets, to consolidate the U.N.'s scattered offices into a single building.

At Tuesday night's public meeting, representatives of the United Nations Development Corporation only allowed comments and would not answer questions from the audience. But that didn’t stop about a dozen community members from demanding answers.

“What would it do to traffic conditions in the area?” asked Ann Seligman, a member of Community Board 6.

“This week — the General Assembly — we call it hell week. It’s miserable to live around the U.N. this week.”

Seligman added that she hoped the design of the building could be improved.

“Just as somebody who walks around the neighborhood, it’s just a blank wall,” she said. “I hope it can be made more interesting.”

Many Tudor City residents also worried that the new building would cast a shadow over the complex's two parks, which sit across from the proposed site on either side of 42nd Street.

“I’m concerned that we're losing more parkland,” said Tim Maldonado, a resident of Tudor City. “Right now, we do have sunlight coming into the park, but if this building goes up any children going out at 9:30 in the morning would be in total shadow.”

In 2011, the city agreed to sell a portion of Robert Moses Playground to the United Nations Development Corporation so that the organization could build a facility that would serve 2,700 U.N. employees.

The project also includes an underground pedestrian tunnel that would connect to the U.N. headquarters.

In exchange, the city promised to convert Asser Levy Place into a park to make up for the lost open space.

But many residents said that additional open space at Asser Levy would not be an adequate replacement because it was too far away.

“It’s just telling us that something is being built far away,” said Mark Harris, a resident of Tudor City. “[It’s] not a part of this general neighborhood.”

A UNDC representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some residents praised the plan for its ability to bring new green spaces to the waterfront.

As a part of the deal with the city, the United Nations Development Corporation agreed to pay $73 million into a fund for open space in the neighborhood, including for the rehabilitation of the former Con Ed pier between 38th and 41st streets and an esplanade from 53rd to 60th streets.

“This is a vehicle for getting funding for [the esplanade],” said Scott Mollen, a resident of 870 U.N. Plaza. “It’s not easy to accomplish something that big without losing something. It’s not every day the opportunity comes around.”

The project still requires the approval of the City Planning Commission, and additional public hearings will be held as plans move through the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. The UNDC hopes to open the building in 2018.