By Orlando Lee Rodriguez
In the final prerequisite before facing a full council vote, a modified version of the proposed Hudson Square rezoning plan was approved by the City Council Land Use Committee on Wednesday.
The modifications will now create more affordable housing units than the original proposal and ensures a vote by the Landmarks Preservation Commission for a new South Village Historic District by the end of the year.
“The Hudson Square area has long been a largely under regulated neighborhood putting it at constant risk of change not supported by the community nor this Council,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn in a statement. “Currently, there are no height restrictions in the district which could lead to unwanted skyscrapers. Additionally, the outdated prohibition of residential development has led to little foot traffic on nights or weekends, hurting the neighborhood’s small businesses.”
Trinity Real Estate, the development arm of Lower Manhattan’s Trinity Church was the organization that first submitted the re-zoning proposal. Representatives for Trinity said they were pleased with the subcommittee’s decision.
“Today’s positive action significantly advances the process launched more than 5 years ago,” said Jason Pizer, President of Trinity Real Estate. “We look forward to the rezoning’s final consideration by the full Council.”
The rezoning proposal for the area that is known as the “Printing District” had not faced overwhelming opposition throughout the process, even from commercial tenants. However, community groups felt that modifications were necessary to the proposal in anticipation of residential development beforehand.
“We felt that they needed to provide more of the infrastructure amenities that are required when you increase the population by so many thousands of people,” said David Gruber, Chair of Community Board Two. “It was difficult for Trinity Real Estate to do some of that because it was an already built environment, but we managed to negotiate a settlement. We got some recreation sites like a gymnasium that will be there for the community to use plus a couple of thousand square feet of flex space. I think it was a win-win all the way around.”
Trying to head off a lack of public school availability, which parents in Chelsea now face, a new 444-seat elementary school will be built in Duarte Square, located at the southern tip of Hudson Square by Canal Street. The new public recreation space will also be built in the square which honors the founder of the Dominican Republic.
$5.6 million in mitigation funds will also be required to fix the roof at nearby Pier 40 and to fund the expansion of the Tony Dapalito Center on Clarkson Street, which houses the community’s two swimming pools. Pier 40 is home to the areas only open playing fields.
The agreement also provides for a survey to be done on the proposed historic district area south of Houston Street. The area facing the landmarked vote this year, located north of Houston and bounded by Sixth Avenue, West 4th and LaGuardia Streets, would include the popular entertainment strips of Bleeker, West 3rd and MacDougal Streets that fill up on weekends.
Height restrictions, limited to the scope of existing construction in the district were added to the plan, as well as proposed protection for particular office buildings in the Hudson Square area from re-development.
Preservationists, who had a say in the protection of Hudson Square’s commercial spaces, also lobbied elected officials to vote ‘No’ on the rezoning – unless the South Village landmark designation proposal was tied to it.
“This is extremely important progress in our very long fight to preserve our neighborhood,” said Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP). “The commitment to landmark part of the proposed South Village Historic District will help protect this endangered neighborhood from overwhelming development pressure. However, we are very concerned about the lack of commitment to protect the southern part of this neighborhood, which we will continue to fight to preserve.”