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Neighbors Challenge Condo Development Atop Hell's Kitchen Post Office

By Mathew Katz | February 13, 2014 6:28am
 A rendering of the condo development set to be built on top of the Radio City post office on West 52nd Street.
A rendering of the condo development set to be built on top of the Radio City post office on West 52nd Street.
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Architecture Outfit

HELL'S KITCHEN — A plan to build luxury condos on top of a Hell's Kitchen post office has come under fire from the building's neighbors, who say the project violates the spirit of local zoning laws.

Developer OasesRE plans to build two floors of luxury condos above the three-story Radio City post office, providing much-needed cash to the struggling United States Postal Service.

But neighbors on West 52nd Street say their block is already overrun with vehicular and foot traffic, and adding a bulky building with 48 units would cause even more problems.

The city quietly approved building permits for the project at the end of December, but locals filed a zoning challenge against the project last Friday, arguing that the added height, bulk and traffic violate the spirit of the Special Clinton District zoning laws.

"The injection of additional luxury housing units, coupled with additional building height, runs afoul of [the Special Clinton District] provisions, which were intended to protect the character of the area, particularly on the narrow streets west of Eighth Avenue," the neighbors wrote in their challenge.

The Link, a nearby luxury tower, already sparked outrage among neighbors when it pulled air rights from Eighth Avenue to the middle of 52nd Street, allowing developers to build a 44-story tower that blocks off light and air from the street's smaller apartments, residents said. Adding the condos on top of the post office would make the narrow street even busier, locals said.

"The real concern is that the purpose of the special district is being completely perverted by all this," said Shemmy Mishaan, a neighbor who filed the challenge with the Department of Buildings. "The street has become so completely inundated — it was built on low-rise tenements, now it's getting like everything else in the city, with giant towers."

At 66 feet, the height of the condos is proposed to be the maximum that's allowed under the zoning, according to permits. The total condo project will be about 42,500 square feet, according to the developer's website.

“The project is small, adding just 20 feet of height to the existing building. It is ‘as of right,’ complying with current zoning and its strict height restrictions," said George Shea, a spokesman for the developer, in a statement.

"We respect the community's desire to make sure that all projects comply with the provisions of the Clinton Special Zoning District. 320 West 52nd, which decreases the footprint of the Post Office and adaptively reuses its space for apartments, strengthens that character.”

The Department of Buildings and USPS did not respond to a request for comment.

Along with the influx of traffic, locals also fear that the post office condos will eliminate the last bits of light that comes into their apartments.

"For a few hours a day, I get a little direct sunlight, I get a little sliver of sky," said Judy Corcoran, who's lived across the street for 30 years. "I'll lose both of those if this project goes up."

Once quiet, the block is now home to a cacophony of noise and traffic at all hours of the day, with postal and delivery trucks serving the new buildings, and lots of customers frequenting the block's several new bars and restaurants, residents said.

"A diverse economic culture with all age groups, all kinds of people, this is all being pushed out by luxury condos," said neighbor Holly Kanfer. "The reason I moved to a side street is to have a little peace and quiet — now they've turned it into Eighth Avenue."