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Developers Knock 3 Stories Off Controversial Plan for Post Office Site

By Allegra Hobbs | March 16, 2017 4:56pm
 Benenson Capital Partners, LLC unveiled plans for a mixed use building on the site of a former post office.
Benenson Capital Partners, LLC unveiled plans for a mixed use building on the site of a former post office.
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Benenson Capital Partners, LLC

EAST VILLAGE — After community members overwhelmingly opposed a plan to stick a 12-story building in a largely low-rise area, developers have opted to knock three stories off the proposed development at the site of the former Peter Stuyvesant Post Office at 432-438 E. 14th St.

Under the new proposal, the mixed-use project would rise to nine stories at the East 14th Street side of the building — only one story higher than the eight allowed under the current zoning, according to documents submitted to the Board of Standards and Appeals. 

While the 12-story building would have held 155 apartments, 31 of which would have been below market-rate, the amended nine-story project would contain 130 apartments, 26 of which would be below market-rate. 

The initial pitch for a 12-story structure had been condemned by community residents and activists who argued the added height would disrupt the character of the neighborhood — a concern echoed by BSA chair Margery Perlmutter at a January hearing for the project.

More than 300 community members had penned letters to the BSA opposing the 12-story project ahead of that hearing.

Benenson Capital Partners and the Mack Real Estate Group said they must increase the height and floor space of the project to make up for steep construction costs that sprung from unfavorable soil and groundwater conditions at the site. 

Unusually high levels of groundwater and weak soil have made it more difficult and pricey to build the necessary cellar for the site's commercial space, lawyers for the developers explained in the BSA documents, pointing to a handful of precedents in which poor soil conditions have yielded variances from the BSA in the past. 

Developers have also pointed to elevated building heights in neighboring Stuyvesant Town as evidence the added height would not place the development wildly out of context with the area. Additionally, the added height will only fall on 14th Street, while the side of the building facing 13th Street will remain eight stories.

But community members are still not satisfied with the dialed-down project — activists continue to doubt the need for a variance and vow to oppose the nine-story proposal.

"Using Stuyvesant Town as a precedent to justify oversized development in the East Village shows how little these developers know about this neighborhood," said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which has spearheaded opposition to the development. 

"They should play by the same rules as everyone else, and their development should abide by the contextual zoning which protects the scale and character of the East Village."

The Board of Standards and Appeals will consider the new proposal at a hearing on March 28.