Volume 75, Number 16 | September 07 - 13, 2005

Big BLUE on Norfolk has some seeing red

By Ellen Keohane

A soon-to-be-built 16-story blue building on Norfolk St. on the Lower East Side is getting mixed reviews from local residents, and many of them are not rosy.

Aptly called BLUE by developers, the proposed condo building at 105 Norfolk St. will house between 30 and 40 units, some with private outdoor access. According to promotional materials, the 700-to-2,000-square-foot condos will range in price from $700,000 to more than $3 million. The building is scheduled to be completed by late 2006.

“The height is what bothers me,” said Al Orensanz, of the Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts, which is just a couple of blocks from BLUE’s construction site. “It will change forever the skyline of our neighborhood.” Most of the buildings on the block between Delancey and Rivington Sts. are less than half as many stories tall.

As of Tuesday morning, construction had already begun on the formerly vacant lot at 105 Norfolk St. On scaffolding, which wrapped around the corner of Delancey and Norfolk Sts., was a large sign advertising the new high-rise. In an artist’s rendering of the building, the modern structure appeared to have an exterior of blue-tinted glass with upper floors that extend over an adjacent low-rise building.

The modern structure is designed by Bernard Tschumi and SLCE Architects. Both firms, which have offices in Manhattan, would not comment on the building’s design. Neither would On the Level Enterprises Inc., the building’s developer. In addition, the public-relations representative for the property said she would not release any additional information about BLUE until next week.

Orensanz first learned about the proposed building, like many others, by walking by the advertisement. “[It] seems extremely sleek,” he said. “The color is all right — I don’t have a problem with the color blue.”

Others feel less positive about the choice of color. “It’s not going to fit in at all,” said Earl Holloway, 32, an administrator for the School of Visual Arts who lives across the street from the site. “It will look like one of those big toilet bowl cubes that turn toilet water blue,” he said.

“What the neighborhood needs is more affordable apartments here, not high-end condos,” said Antonia Garcia, 56, who paused to talk on the sidewalk near the construction site. Now staying with a friend in Baruch Houses, public housing, Garcia said she was priced out of her Lower East Side home. “The rents are too high,” she said.

Some see the new building as a positive change in the neighborhood. “Five years ago this used to be a dangerous neighborhood. You used to be afraid to walk around here,” said Frank Gonzalez, a 34-year-old contractor working at a new bar/lounge called Backdoor opening on the same block.

It’s much safer now, Gonzalez said. At the same time, he’d hate to see the Lower East Side turn into another expensive Manhattan neighborhood. “I hope the neighborhood stays the same,” he said, “not like Soho, where it’s too expensive to live.”

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