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Neighbors Oppose 1,200-Unit Building on West 57th Street

By Mathew Katz | April 14, 2014 6:59am | Updated on April 14, 2014 9:05am
 A rendering of the proposed TF Cornerstone building on West 57th Street.
A rendering of the proposed TF Cornerstone building on West 57th Street.
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TF Cornerstone

MIDTOWN — Fed up with what they see as the overdevelopment of their neighborhood, a group of West Side residents has banded together in a last-ditch effort to oppose developer TF Cornerstone's new residential building at 606 W. 57th St.

Some neighbors say that the area's schools, hospitals and public transportation can't handle the influx of new residents the massive building would bring. The project, which requires City Council approval for rezoning, would bring 1,189 units to the neighborhood, 237 of which would be permanently affordable.

"Fifty-Seventh Street is under siege," said Jessica Bondy, who lives nearby and has been lobbying City Council members to fight or shrink the development. "All of us are concerned about the unsustainability of projects this size. It's a giant, giant project."

Bondy joined with neighbors to create a coalition called Citizens for Responsible Organized West Side Development With Environmental Deference — or CROWDED for short. Roughly 150 people participated in a community-organized forum on overdevelopment and the TF Cornerstone project last week, with participation by City Councilman Corey Johnson and City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, organizers said. 

The proposed 999,636-square-foot building is made up of four distinct elements, including two 28-story towers on the eastern half, connected by a glass bridge, and a 14-story cube on top. On the western portion of the site, a tower will rise to 17 stories.

The building would have as many as 106,900 square feet of public parking and 42,000 square feet of retail space or community facilities.

West 57th Street is currently awash in new development, including the Durst Organization's 709-unit building across the street from the proposed TF Cornerstone building.

The opposition to the building comes relatively late in the rezoning process — TF Cornerstone's application has already been given the thumbs-up by Community Board 4, the Manhattan Borough President's Office and the City Planning Commission. It will go before the City Council on April 23.

"TF Cornerstone has worked for close to two years with City Planning, Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Transportation and other city agencies to analyze every possible impact this development or any other development on the site might have on the community," a spokesman for the developer said in a statement.

"Every level of the public review process has supported the project thus far, with the participants finding that the development will invigorate a new up and coming neighborhood without any major unmitigated  impacts to the current environment. TF Cornerstone is particularly proud to be making such a significant contribution toward the Mayor's goal for more affordable housing."

A spokeswoman for Rosenthal, the city councilwoman whose district the building falls into, said she had not yet decided how she will vote on the matter, but is considering a "variety of options."

When it overwhelmingly recommended approval for the project in December, CB4 praised the building's permanently affordable housing but noted that schools in the neighborhood are already over capacity and the area would need to adequately prepare for an influx of new residents.

"I'd love to see affordable housing being built. I'm not against affordable housing, but I think quality of life is what we're concerned about," said Susan Lahn, a longtime resident of West 58th Street, who hopes the city can provide shuttle buses for the masses of people who will need to get to the subway at Columbus Circle if the development moves forward.

"I don't think we're going to stop TF Cornerstone, but maybe we can get a reduction in size," Lahn said.