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5 Greenwich Village and SoHo Stories to Watch In 2016

By Danielle Tcholakian | December 31, 2015 12:09pm | Updated on January 4, 2016 8:50am
 New renderings of Pier55 presented by architect Signe Nielsen show the highest points of the park's undulating hills are slightly lower than previously planned.
New renderings of Pier55 presented by architect Signe Nielsen show the highest points of the park's undulating hills are slightly lower than previously planned.
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Heatherwick Studio/Mathews Nielsen

GREENWICH VILLAGE — The Village and SoHo saw a lot of changes this year, many of which pitted locals against the city or powerful developers.

Development plans for the St. John's Terminal building across from Pier 40 were finally revealed, the city applied for funding to raze Elizabeth Street Garden and build affordable housing for seniors, and plans to redevelop a block of Gansevoort Street were met with local opposition.

Here's a look back at the stories that mattered most to Village and SoHo readers in 2015, and what's expected to happen next.

Pier 40 and the St. John's Terminal Building

The city and the Hudson River Park Trust announced in October a proposal to allow the developers who own the St. John's Terminal building at 550 Washington St. to build five mixed-use towers in exchange for $100 million that the Trust will use to fix the crumbling pilings that support Pier 40.

The deal — selling the pier's development rights, known as "air rights" — was hailed as a way to finally "save the pier," but local youth sports leaders are questioning whether the Trust could get more money from the developers to truly refurbish the pier, which needs extensive repairs beyond just the pilings.

The deal requires the approval of the Hudson River Park Trust's board of directors, which will undertake an independent appraisal to make sure the price is appropriate for the amount of air rights being sold.

Under the proposed deal, the developers will commit 30 percent of the apartments in the project as permanently affordable housing, including an entire building of senior housing, and also provide a small public garden.

The proposal must undergo a public review process in 2016 that includes a review by the City Planning Commission, the local community board and the City Council, which typically defers to the local Councilmember — in this case Corey Johnson. Both the chair of Community Board 2 and Johnson provided supportive quotes for the city's press release on the deal.


Sale of Hudson River Park Air Rights Could Fund Pier 40 Repairs

► Secret Deal Over Pier 40 Air Rights Struck in December

Notes Reveal What a Developer Wants to Do With Pier 40's Air Rights

PLANS: Here's What the St. John's Terminal Development Might Look Like

RENDERINGS: Here's What St. John's Terminal Might Look Like

Elizabeth Street Garden

The city's plan to build affordable housing for seniors at the site of the Elizabeth Street Garden dates back to 2012, when Councilwoman Margaret Chin secured the location as part of the Lower East Side SPURA development plan several blocks away.

At that time, the garden was not the bustling center of community activity it is now. The volunteers who spearheaded the nonprofit that now runs the garden coalesced around the issue in 2013, after it became known that the garden, long believed to be the private property of the adjacent gallery, was actually on city-owned land.

In August, the city applied for a $6 million grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to build the housing there.

Advocates for seniors and users of the garden butted heads at a public hearing, with some local seniors saying the need for affordable housing is too dire to prioritize the park.

At a subsequent Community Board 2 meeting, garden supporters said the city was putting them in "a 'Sophie's Choice' situation" by making them choose between the garden and senior housing.

HPD consistently refused to engage with the supporters, or with the community board, much to the chair's frustration. But on Jan. 20, the agency will present its plan to the community board at a public meeting.

Garden administrators have already put out a call to their supporters to show up to the meeting.

Community Board 2 is also attempting to divert the city's attention to a group of vacant lots where they were promised parks to suggest affordable housing might be built there instead.

Gansevoort Development

Aurora Capital Associates and William Gottfield Real Estate enlisted BKSK Architects to redesign the entire south side of Gansevoort Street between Ninth Avenue and Washington Street, including the new location of Keith McNally's restaurant Pastis.

(The developers also own the former site of McNally's eatery, which is being turned into a massive Restoration Hardware store. A young worker died at that construction site earlier this year, prompting criminal charges against two contractors hired by Aurora and the suspension of a third's license to operate anywhere in the city.)

BKSK's design is facing vigorous community opposition. Though there are taller buildings across from the ones they are proposing, neighors insist the design is out-of-scale.


Businesses Reshuffle in Meatpacking District for Gansevoort Development

Gansevoort Developers Launch Website to Track Progress of Approval Process

Gansevoort St. Redevelopment Plan to Face Preservationists at Meeting

Gansevoort Street Redevelopment Goes Before Landmarks Commission

Because the area sits in a historic district, the architects presented their design to the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission in November. Due to the amount of people who showed up to speak against it, the LPC did not have time to hold a public discussion on the project.

That is expected to take place sometime in January, with the earliest possible date Jan. 12.

75 Morton

The city is getting a new middle school at 75 Morton St., after a hard-fought effort by local parents.

The building was officially transferred to the School Construction Authority in 2014, a year after the city paid millions for it.

It was originally supposed to serve 800 students and open in 2016, but the timeline was pushed back. After accessing the space, the SCA decided it could serve 1,000 students.

The back-and-forth between the community and the city was strained for a time, with the city coming unprepared to public meetings and providing less opportunity for input than parents wanted.

But in May 2015, the SCA unveiled renderings of the planned school, and local parents are now trying to engage the community in its planning, particularly in how 75 Morton will meet the requirements of its special-needs students.

The next meeting, to brainstorm about the school's admissions process, will be on Jan. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Clinton School for Writers and Artists, 10 East 15th St. Babysitting and light refreshments will be provided, organizers said.


Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg and her billionaire husband Barry Diller announced their plan in 2014 to fund a $130 million waterfront park and performance space on a pier to be constructed off the Hudson River Park just south of 14th Street.

The project was approved by the Hudson River Park Trust in February 2015, and the chosen landscape architect, Signe Nielsen, unveiled renderings for the space at a public meeting in June.

The park cleared another hurdle recently when the Environmental Protection Agency changed its position, after previously citing concerns about the impact of the park on the aquatic wildlife, as POLITICO New York reported. It is still under review by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The project is also tangled up in a lawsuit filed by a civic group concerned it will harm the river's ecology.