Volume 76, Number 18 | September 20 - 26, 2006

Building will strike unusual note with cello facade

By Albert Amateau

The Board of Standards and Appeals approved plans last week for a residential project on the triangular lot at Canal and Greenwich Sts., which the late sculptor Arman used as his outdoor studio.

The B.S.A. approved a zoning variance on Sept. 12 to allow Red Brick Canal L.L.C. to cover 98 percent of the lot at 482 Greenwich St., instead of the 80 percent lot coverage allowed by existing zoning.

However, the proposed 11-story apartment building, which will include a 40-foot-tall Arman sculpture of broken cello pieces on the Canal St. facade, will have a floor-to-area ratio, or F.A.R., of 6.5 instead of the 7.98 that Red Brick Canal requested in its original B.S.A. application early in 2005.

Nevertheless, the B.S.A. approval includes plans for a 415-square-foot ground-floor community facility, whose specific use has not yet been determined, which allows the developer to increase the basic 6.02 F.A.R. to 6.5.

Canal West Coalition, a civic group in the neighborhood, had opposed the variance from the start. The coalition also protested the increase in building size that current zoning allows when a community facility is included in the project.

Kate Koster, a coalition member, said on Sept. 13 that she could not make a comment until the B.S.A. releases its report on the decision. The agency usually issues such reports two weeks after a ruling.
David Slavin, a principal in Red Brick Canal, said he was disappointed that the B.S.A. turned back the original application for increased bulk.

“But it’s still going to be a great building, with unobstructed water views,” he said, adding that he expects construction to start at the end of this month.

The B.S.A. grants zoning variances when developers show that they cannot make a reasonable return (about 6 percent) on their investment. Red Brick said it needed variances because of unusual expenses in developing an odd-shaped lot and sinking a foundation above the westbound tube of the Holland Tunnel.

The coalition had disputed the claim that the project would not yield a reasonable return if built under as-of-right zoning by noting that apartments with unobstructed water views would command top dollar.

The B.S.A. also granted Red Brick a variance on setback requirements by allowing the project to include dormers and balconies for apartments at the setback level. A curb cut on Greenwich St. for underground parking was another variance.

The southern end of Hudson Square was rezoned two years ago from a manufacturing district with 5 F.A.R. to mixed residential and commercial with a 6.02 F.A.R., eligible for 6.5 with a community facility. Meenakshi Srinivasan, B.S.A. chairperson, told Red Brick earlier this year that the board was not likely to grant more area than the zoning allowed.

Before Arman, who created art from trash and scrap metal, died last year, he agreed to sell the space to Red Brick Canal L.L.C., and was involved in the project until his death.

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