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1,000 Apartments Could Be Built on Top of East River Plaza

By Jeff Mays | July 8, 2014 12:03pm
 The developers of the  East River Plaza mall  have a plan to add a residential tower a top the existing structure but first want to get some feedback from East Harlem residents about their proposal.
East River Plaza Mall Plans to Add Housing
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HARLEM — The developers of the East River Plaza mall are planning to add a residential tower with as many as 1,000 units atop the existing structure — and want to get some feedback from East Harlem residents at a meeting Wednesday night.

"Residential has always been contemplated. The infrastructure is there, the property has water views, is next to the FDR Drive and would be an iconic property," said David Blumenfeld, a principal of Blumenfeld Development Group, Ltd. which owns the mall at 116th Street and the FDR Drive along with Forest City Ratner Companies, one of the city's largest developers.

"That's why we want this open community meeting to get a feeling about what people would like to see," Blumenfeld said of the meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. July 9 at Hunter College School of Socialwork. "We are going to present some ideas in regards to residential and get some feedback from the public."

The five story, 500,000 square foot complex, which opened in 2009, currently houses stores such as Costco, Target, Burlington Coat Factory and discount grocer Aldi, which opened its first Manhattan location at the mall in 2013.

In March, the mall reached full capacity after Planet Fitness signed a long term lease for 14,500 square feet and Mt. Sinai Hospital signed a 15-year lease to open a 14,500 square foot dialysis center.

The underlying zoning of the property is already designated for residential use and would only require a modification of the special permit used to build the retail center Blumenfeld said.

Blumenfeld added that a final decision on size or height has yet to be determined. But he said affordability will definitely be a part of any residential project at East River Plaza and that the company was looking to do a higher rate of affordable housing than the standard 80 percent market rate and 20 percent affordable split.

"That's one of the conversations we are having," Blumenfeld said.

Elsewhere, East Harlem is booming with new, tall residential towers.

Ian B. Eichner's Continuum Company is planning two 32-story residential towers at Park Avenue and 125th Street. The $415 million, 600,000-square-foot development will have 650 units.

Community Board 11 originally balked at Continuum's proposal when the developer said only 65 to 70 of the units would be affordable before an agreement on community hiring goals was reached.

Extell Development recently purchased the Pathmark at Lexington Avenue and 125th Street for $39 million and is expected to build a residential building.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said his administration is willing to let developers build higher in exchange for increased affordable units. The mayor has set a goal of building and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade.

Community Board 11 member and housing advocate Alvin Johnson said he does not have a problem with building higher at East River Plaza as along as the project has a good amount of affordable housing.

"There's only one way to expand on the island of Manhattan and that's up," said Johnson. "All that I'm worried about is that we recapture the affordable housing that was lost in the last 10 years."

Holley Drakeford, sales manager at Giscombe Realty Group and a member of Community Board 11, said East Harlem is quickly becoming an attractive location for rental residential properties.

"You are going to see a lot of residential being built and it will really blow up when the Second Avenue Subway arrives," Drakeford said. "These developments will draw people from Midtown and a lot of young people that live on Long Island are dying to move to the city. Not many people can afford to live downtown anymore."