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Stories to Watch in Greenwich Village and SoHo in 2017

By Danielle Tcholakian | December 27, 2016 4:00pm
 Expect major development at the St. John's Terminal site at 550 Washington St. in 2017.
Expect major development at the St. John's Terminal site at 550 Washington St. in 2017.
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DNAinfo/Danielle Tcholakian

GREENWICH VILLAGE — This year saw the groundwork laid for significant change across Greenwich Village and SoHo, from a new historic district to a major development approved on the waterfront and several new buildings in the Meatpacking District.

And there's more to come in 2017. Here are the neighborhood stories to watch in the coming year:

1. ST. JOHN'S TERMINAL

One of the City Council's final moves for the year was to approve the massive St. John's Terminal development planned for 550 Washington St. across from Pier 40.

READ MORE: St. John's Terminal-Pier 40 Deal Gets Final OK From City Council

The negotiations to approve this five-building complex of retail and housing — some luxury condos, some mixed-income and rent-regulated senior residences — were complex, so there's much to watch in the coming year.

As part of the deal negotiated by Councilman Corey Johnson, the neighborhood got a new historic district and the developers promised public access to an indoor recreation space and an as-yet-undetermined amount of money for a crosswalk across the West Side Highway to the waterfront.

READ MORE: Preservationists Win New Historic District Near St. John's Terminal

The developers also promised to keep most of their retail spaces to 5,000 square feet to encourage "neighborhood" shops as opposed to big box stores — though a supermarket is also expected.

But the developers have said they may postpone building the residential portions of the project due to the city's flagging luxury real estate market.

READ MORE: St. John's Developers Considering Major Change to Plan, to Council Chagrin

Some City Council members objected to the deal because the city allowed the developers to skirt the minimum requirements of Mayor Bill de Blasio's Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, which is geared at generating more affordable housing around the city.

READ MORE: Here's the Affordable Housing Breakdown for the St. John's Terminal Project

2. PIER 40

As part of the St. John's Terminal deal, the mayor promised an additional $14 million for repairs to Pier 40, on top of the $100 million that the developers paid to purchase 200,000 square feet of the pier's air rights.

The Hudson River Park Trust also promised to use the remaining air rights on Pier 40 to develop the pier itself, rather than sell them to developers with properties on the waterfront.

READ MORE: Here's What Hudson River Park Trust Wants Do With Extra Pier 40 Air Rights

HRPT President and CEO Madelyn Wils has said she hopes to create office space on the pier that could generate steady revenue for the park, and documents obtained through Freedom of Information Law requests showed Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen reached out to William Floyd, an executive at Google, about "a deal to do" at Pier 40.

READ MORE: Here's How the St. John's Terminal-Pier 40 Deal Got Done

The Pier 40-St. John's Terminal deal was the first instance of the Trust selling air rights from the park's commercial piers, something enabled by state legislation aimed at helping the park generate revenue to stay afloat. Several other commercial piers exist, and more such deals are to be expected in other neighborhoods along the waterfront.

3. ELIZABETH STREET GARDEN

Locals are still fighting the city's plan to build rent-regulated senior housing on the site of the beloved Elizabeth Street Garden between Prince and Spring streets in Nolita.

READ MORE: Here's What You Need to Know About Fight Over Elizabeth Street Garden

They protested outside City Councilwoman's Margaret Chin's office recently, and sent letters to developers warning them that the project will not be embraced by the community. 

They are also trying to hold the mayor to a promise he made on the Brian Lehrer Show to come visit the garden, though his office has been mum on when he might do that.

READ MORE: Elizabeth St. Garden Advocates Press Mayor to Make Good on Promise to Visit

Still, the city is moving full-speed ahead, and the deadline for developers to submit bids for the project passed on Dec. 14.

READ MORE: Elizabeth Street Garden Development Bids Requested by the City

After the city selects a winning bid, the developer has six months to submit a proposal for the project. The project will undergo a public review process known as ULURP that could take a year to complete, and the project will require approval by the City Council and the mayor's office.

4. OTHER NEIGHBORHOOD PARKS

As part of their attempts to win over locals with regard to the Elizabeth Street Garden fight, the city announced this year that they would make good on a decades-old promise to convert a handful of sites controlled by the Department of Environmental Protection into public parks.

READ MORE: The Village and SoHo Will Get New Parks at Long-Promised Sites, City Says

But funding for those parks hasn't yet been dedicated, according to the Parks Department.

Several other parks in the area that have been in need of work for years are expected to see progress in 2017, however, including Father Fagan Park in SoHo and DeSalvio Playground in Nolita.

READ MORE: Park Projects in the Village, SoHo Moving Forward, City Says

5. DEVELOPMENT IN THE MEATPACKING DISTRICT

The Meatpacking District is seeing a flurry of large-scale changes, almost exclusively at the hands of developers William Gottlieb Real Estate and Aurora Capital Associates.

The two biggest projects are a massive redevelopment of an entire block of Gansevoort Street and a Restoration Hardware flagship store at 9-19 Ninth Ave., the former site of longtime neighborhood restaurant Pastis.

The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the Gansevoort Street redevelopment over the summer, and Pastis is expected to reopen in one of the ground-floor spaces there.

READ MORE: Gansevoort Street Redevelopment Clears Landmarks Preservation Commission

► READ MORE: Pastis Will Reopen In Gansevoort Market Building

Opponents of the development haven't given up, however, and filed a lawsuit in October attempting to overturn the LPC's decision.

READ MORE: Gansevoort Street Redevelopment Sparks Lawsuit Against Landmarks Commission

The plan to open a Restoration Hardware in the space hit a snag when the city notified Aurora that the area's zoning restricted such large retail spaces, but it's since been cleared to move ahead due to a loophole that allows interior design businesses.

READ MORE: Restoration Hardware Flagship Is Too Big for Meatpacking District, City Says

But the death of a young worker at that site prompted a massive city-led investigation and a criminal trial against the contractors and two foremen operating the site.

The general contractor company was convicted, but was able to dodge the judge's sentence — to create public service campaigns to educate the public — saying it refused because to do so would be an admission of guilt.

READ MORE: Construction Firm Doesn't Have to Comply With Sentence in Worker's Death

The Manhattan District Attorney and the city's Department of Investigation have vowed to pursue legislative change in Albany to hold corporations accountable in criminal convictions, which could have far-reaching change for the city's construction industry.

6. LARGE RETAIL IN SOHO

Aurora was also the developer of a new Nike store at a 529 Broadway in SoHo where locals and elected officials says the Department of Buildings allowed construction inconsistent with the area's zoning regulations.

READ MORE: City 'Sleeping' on the Job With Battle Over Too-Big Nike Store, Brewer Says

DOB approved permits for the building that allowed the developers to skirt the neighborhood's zoning regulations, which prohibit retail over 10,000 square feet.

7. NEW YORK UNIVERSITY

NYU's new president, Andrew Hamilton, outlined in an interview with DNAinfo New York several initiatives he has planned for the school, including an array of measures to address the high costs students face.

READ MORE: Meet New York University's New President Andrew Hamilton

Some of those plans are already in place, while others — including an idea that would have students living with senior citizens — are still in the works.

READ MORE: NYU Affordability Plans Include Housing Students in 'Grandma's Spare Room'

Hamilton also responded to concerns about incoming President Donald Trump's administration by outlining in a letter ways that the school would protect its immigrant community, including those who are undocumented.

READ MORE: NYU Will Protect Undocumented Immigrant Students, President Says

Student activists also persuaded Hamilton to take action when it comes to application questions that address prospective students' criminal records.

READ MORE: NYU to Change Application Questions for Students with Criminal Records

Progress is also underway on the first building in the school's massive and controversial expansion plan.