Street Fighters Too
Janette Sadik-Khan, the sui generis city transportation commissioner, was standing on 51st Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues as rush hour was just starting last week. Rather, she was standing at the intersection with 6½th Avenue, her latest asphalt confection. The pedestrian passageway was designated and demarcated about two months ago, connecting up a series of plazas running from here to 57th Street. Ms. Sadik-Khan was out for her first official stroll.
“It’s kind of a secret garden, one of the new secret spaces we’ve helped create; we’ve got 500 of them in the city and we’re trying to connect people better to their surroundings, make the city that much nicer,” Ms. Sadik-Khan said.
She gazed up at the cute little green street sign one of her construction crews had installed. “6½th Avenue” it read, like a sign on any other corner, though it, along with five others along the seven-block passageway, are the only ones in the city bearing fractions. The commissioner looked down and smiled. “It’s like Harry Potter,” she said. “The 9¾ platform. Or Being John Malkovich, with the 7½ floor.”
“I love it.”
Much of the debate around the expansion of the Chelsea Market has centered around not the former Nasbisco factory turned popular shopping center (and subsequent tourist attraction), but the old railroad trestle next to it.
Part of the justification for expanding the market by 25 percent was that, in addition to providing construction jobs and new office space for the city’s booming tech sector, the developer of the project, Jamestown Properties, would pay about $19 million to the High Line, to help fund ongoing maintenance. But there was also great community outcry over the fact that much of the new addition would be built on the 10th Avenue side of Chelsea Market, directly overhanging the High Line.
Earlier today, the City Planning Commission unanimously approved the project’s expansion, and addressed a few of these concerns.
Battle of the Skyscrapers
Stepping off the elevator on the 12th floor of 250 Broadway, you pass by a dozen photographs of idyllic, almost bucolic housing projects. The dogwoods are in bloom, matching the pink matting within the frames. That the pictures are a bit faded only adds to the utopianism of the scenes: families frolic in green grass courtyards, the sun is always shining.
These days, the picture is far less rosy: Apartments are overcome with toxic black mold, riven with cavernous leaks, overrun with rats, sometimes all three and then some. Repairs? Fuggetaboutit. Those will be years away. And that’s just inside; outside, it’s a war zone.
Or so the city’s tabloids would have you believe.
But the Housing Authority—or NYCHA, as almost everyone calls it, pronouncing it like some bureaucratic sneeze—represents much more than those run-down apartments we read about, of which there are fewer than the coverage suggests.
Empire State Building
Citigroup owns some of the most iconic office buildings in the city. Not only is there its headquarters at 601 Lexington, with its jagged roof and gravity-defying base, but also Queens’s tallest tower and a waterfront monolith in Tribeca. As Citi prepares to leave that last home and go in search of some 2.6 million square feet, the Journal reveals that “Citigroup managers had discussions with several landlords about developing a new tower for the company.” While the bankers just as well might stay put at 388 Greenwich, this got us thinking about exactly what on-the-horizon towers Citi could wind up in.
Best Laid Plans
Tony Malkin, whose family controls the Empire State Building, just released the following statement regarding this morning’s shootings outside his landmark office tower. He notes that there was no violence inside and he remains open for business.
Earlier this week, Councilman Dan Garodnick called on the Department of City Planning to slow down the planning for the new Midtown East rezoning, that would add possible a dozen new skyscrapers to the Manhattan skyline. The argument was that with such an important rezoning—the city’s fate as a competitive marketplace hangs in the balance!—more time was needed to consult all the parties and get the plan right.
For essentially the same reasons, the department is now arguing that it cannot wait. Time is of the essence to get these new projects underway.
Best Laid Plans
All the local scrutiny of the city’s Housing Authoirty this summer has caught Washington’s attention, as well, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development is reviewing the public housing agency’s books to make sure everything is in order, according to a spokesman.
The review began earlier this month, HUD public affairs officer Jerrod Brown said, and was prompted by reports in the Daily News of mismanaged funds. Mr. Brown stressed that the review was still in its earlier stages and was not a condemnation or confirmation any wrongdoing of NYCHA. Instead, the review is a matter of practice.
Best Laid Plans
Last Friday night on far west Spring Street, the Ear Inn was crowded as usual. A mix of neighborhood regulars and happy-hour-indulging co-workers from the nearby loft buildings—architects, ad execs, programmers, writers—were crammed around the mahogany bar imbibing. Others were gathered outside around benches on the uncrowned sidewalk two blocks from the West Side Highway.
The bar has been there for 195 years, but forget asking for some sort of mixological cocktail that could be found at hundreds of establishments citywide pretending at this sort of authenticity. Above the bar, beyond the shelves of dusty liquor bottles, are glass carboys, ruddy green and brown glass, the size of harbor buoys. They held wine more than a century ago and disappeared into the bowels of the basement, only to be excavated in the 1970s when the bar was made over by a band of eccentric artists. One of their rank tended bar until five years ago. He has since moved upstate. Things change, then they don’t.
“We’ve gotten the holy trinity of Pret a Manger, Starbucks and Hale & Hearty soups, but otherwise the neighborhood looks the way you imagine it did 100 years ago,” said James Parvin, a segment producer at NBC who lives in a loft he converted himself on nearby Charlton Street.
Best Laid Plans
Easy does it. That is the message from Councilman Dan Garodnick, echoing concerns of two Midtown community boards, that the Bloomberg administration is moving too fast in its plans to rezone Midtown East to allow for taller skyscrapers.
The Councilman, who represents the eastern flank of Manhattan, applauded the plan in a letter [PDF] to Planning Commish Amanda Burden last week shared with The Observer, but he worries to plan is so complex, it needs more time to be considered. The Department of City Planning argues there is enough time to get the job done before the Bloomberg administration is out in a year and a half.
Silicon Alley U
Time to pray to the zoning gods. As expected, Trinity Real Estate brought its big plans to the City Planning Commission today—it is the largest private rezoning ever undertaken. The plan to bring residential development to the quiet blocks just west of Soho was met with quiet approval from the commission, though a few members of the zoning board expressed concern over whether or not a private applicant, and not the city, should be undertaking such a project.
Back in the Spring, The Observer traveled to Steiner Studios at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where Doug Steiner is working on building the biggest movie studio outside of Hollywood. Part of that plan is building a new media-tech campus, including a new grad school for Brooklyn College’s film program that is already under construction in old radio building at the foot of Washington Avenue.
The marquee feature is a 20 acre satellite for Carnegie Mellon University, to be located on the site of a former naval hospital. On Friday, The Times revealed both a rendering of the project and the fact that the city and Steiner Studios were close to a deal for redeveloping the property.
Brookfield Asset Management C.E.O. and president J. Bruce Flatt has sold his two-bedroom co-op at 165 Duane Street. We totally understand. Whatever charms Lower Manhattan held for the financial guru were almost certainly diminished by the whole Occupy Wall Street debacle. After all, it was his (well, Brookfield’s) own Zucotti Park that they were occupying.
Trinity Church has controlled vast swaths of Lower Manhattan real estate for going on three centuries, since the Queen of England deeded 215-acres to the church in 1773. Much of that property has been sold off, but the church still controls one pocket of land at the mouth of the Holland Tunnel, known affectionately these days thanks to developers and brokers, as Hudson Square.
Over the years, the neighborhood has been remade repeatedly, from farmland to factories to the heart of the city’s printing district. More recently, it has become a hub of media and tech firms—Saatchi and Saatchi, New York magazine, MTV, the New York Genome Center—but the church wants to take things a step further and create a 24/7 live-work neighborhood, like neighboring Soho and Tribeca.
For the past five years, Trinity has been working on a rezoning of 50 acres spread over some 20 off-the-grid blocks—the area often feels remote cut off from the rest of the city as it is by the Holland Tunnel. On Monday, it officially begins the public review process, as the City Planning Commission is expected to certify Trinity’s in-hourse rezoning proposal.
We already know that the DMZ between the Upper West Side and Hell’s Kitchen (call it Lower West End Avenue?) is a happening spot, with the Walentases, the Dursts, the Elghanyans, basically everybody building a slick new project over there. The biggest, of course, is Riverside Center, Gary Barnett’s massive reimagining of the final plots of the Riverside South complex.
Earlier this week, Extell returned to the local community board with plans for affordable housing in the project, according to DNAinfo, and therein he revealed the latest detailed designs for the Christian de Portzamparc-created project.