By Sabina Mollot
Real estate luminary Richard Ravitch said city officials should not have thrown local opinions out with the garbage when it came siting a new sanitation garage on the city’s east side.
The former MTA chairman and Lt. Governor of New York said people living in Waterside Plaza, a complex he built in 1973, deserved more consultation.
“I’ve spent so much of my life in public service… so if the city says they’re going to have a garage there, I can’t argue with it,” said Ravitch.
But he added, “When you have 4,000 tenants and two schools directly involved, there should have been more consultation.ˮ
Ravitch was speaking on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Waterside Plaza, a four-tower community overlooking the East River that he called “revolutionary.”
“Everything about it was revolutionary,” Ravitch said. “It was a social experiment. We were going to have families of various incomes. We didn’t know we’d have to get a law passed by Congress to make it do-able (to build on the river).”
He recalled residents of nearby Peter Cooper Village were opposed to the idea over concerns new buildings might block their own views of the river.
Waterside is situated east of the FDR Drive between 25th and 30th Streets. To build the complex, 2,000 concrete pilings were placed 80 feet into the bed of the river. Each tower ranges from 31 to 37 stories and there are a total of 1,470 apartments.
The designer of the buildings was Lewis Davis, whose son Peter, coincidentally, is now the property’s general manager.
Along with closeup views of the river, Waterside has doormen, a gym with a pool, a landscaped plaza for the use of the public where summer concerts, movies and dance performances take place and a retail strip. Two private schools are also located onsite, British
International School of New York and United Nations International School.
Waterside was for many years in the Mitchell-Lama program. It expired in 2001 and today, some residents pay market rent while others who lived there before 2001, live under a “settling agreement,” which gives them a rent increase of 4.25 percent every year.
The towers as well as a number of adjoining townhouses are home to 4,000 residents and Ravitch credited award-winning architecture and diverse population with creating “a wonderful community.”
Two hundred residents of the complex are United Nations employees and residents come from 62 different countries.
“It’s a little further away from the subway than some people would prefer, but that’s the only reason everybody doesn’t clamor to be at Waterside,” said Ravitch.
To deal with the transportation issue, a few years ago, Waterside began offering free shuttle bus services to tenants to local subway stops.
While residents and management sometimes clash over issues, Ravitch said overall the tenants have been happy with the way the place is run and currently their real only beef is with the city and its plans to build the sanitation garage across from a pedestrian bridge that takes Waterside residents over the FDR Drive to First Avenue and 25th Street.
Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Association, applauded the developer for creating Waterside Plaza.
“It shows you the finesse of Richard Ravitch in putting it all together and Lew Davis, too. The guy really wired this and it was not an easy thing to wire. It’s a great community, a beautiful place. It’s like a small town really.”