Sunday, May 11, 2008

the city's design for Community District 3

Over the last six years of construction boom in New York no tall towers have been built in the East Village area about to be rezoned (2nd Avenue to Avenue D). None. Lots of low construction, nothing out-of-scale.

That's a sure sign that our current R7-2 zoning works.

The rezoning plan does NOT INCLUDE 3RD AVENUE AND THE BOWERY where the tall towers are being built (C6-1 zones)!

The areas that most need rezoning are the zones that the developers are just beginning to look at: Bowery and Chinatown (C6-1 zones). These areas are excluded from the rezoning. The hotel boom from C6-1 Suffolk to Allan appears to be exhausted: the air rights are probably all eaten up; the rezoning will be too late. So the city's rezoning plan includes all the areas that do NOT need rezoning and excludes all the areas that need rezoning! The city's design is plain as day.

Our current R7-2 zoning works -- even without height caps -- for a variety of reasons: 1) the allowable FAR is so low that there aren't enough air rights to build with; 2) tall structures require multiple lots and plaza space under current zoning; 3) developers are not interested in building the large community facilities which the zoning allows. It's not as simple as height caps.

Years ago this rezoning looked like a great way to prevent Gregg Singer from building a skyscraper on the former Charas building next to Christadora House. No one here wants to see a skyscraper there, not just the people on that block or in Christadora House. But the building has already been landmarked, thanks to EVCC, and preventing one building is not an ideal reason to rezone an entire neighborhood. It has resulted in tunnel vision: focusing within the EV, we've overlooked the areas most at risk.

This rezoning is a done deal. You don't need to support it -- it will happen regardless what anyone says at this Town Hall. The political influences here want it, and the city wants it. The only good that can come of it now is using the approval process to get the city to commit to saving the areas that really need rezoning, Chinatown and the Bowery, and getting a higher ratio of affordable housing.

We have leverage over DCP now. Do some good with this rezoning: use the approval process to get a deal for Chinatown and the Bowery. Unless we get a commitment now when we have leverage, the city will never support a protective rezoning of those neighborhoods. Can we think ahead for once?

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