West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 7 | July 18 - 24, 2007


Taking a hard look at Hudson Square

Hudson Square does not yet have the name recognition of its larger bordering neighborhoods — Soho, the Village and Tribeca — but this former printing district is rapidly developing with the stamp of high-profile architects like Winka Dubbeldam and the late Philip Johnson.

Just this year, Donald Trump and partners have begun building an out-of-scale 45-story “condo-hotel,” and the city has unveiled its plan to build a 140-foot-tall parking garage tower for garbage trucks in the neighborhood. Under the garbage plan — pun intended — Hudson Square would absorb most of the garbage traffic from Tribeca up to Midtown.

City officials first said they would move these trucks off the Hudson River Park’s Gansevoort Peninsula in the Village to settle a lawsuit forcing the city to obey the law, but then they turned around and proposed a marine garbage transfer station at Gansevoort — in other words, garbage off, garbage on. This all comes three years after the city approved a sensible new zoning plan to allow residential development in Hudson Square, but unfortunately the plan left some of the neighborhood’s zoning unchanged. Clearly, the city is planning the neighborhood piecemeal and frequently at cross-purposes.

We are pleased to report this week that a broad array of civic-minded people, groups and developers have stepped into this void and are looking at the neighborhood as a whole and are planning improvements. On Tuesday, the neighborhood’s largest property owner, Trinity Church, some of the neighborhood’s smallest developers, community groups like Friends of Hudson Square, the Canal West Coalition and the Tribeca Community Association, and even some feuding community leaders came together for an all-day brainstorming session to “Envision the Future of the Hudson Square Neighborhood.”

The new coalition has enlisted three architectural firms to come up with rough ideas for the neighborhood in 60 days and the plans will be put on public display. Though blessed with river views and some distinctive buildings, the neighborhood has serious problems, including unsafe pedestrian crossings — particularly along Canal St. — Holland Tunnel traffic and pollution, imposing superblocks, shallow retail development and a shortage of park space.

At Tuesday’s charrette, Trinity, which has resisted residential development like the plague, acknowledged that attracting good retail stores is not possible without more residential growth, which it now supports.

Perhaps the most important revelation was that residents as well as developers large and small agreed on the need for better retail, parks and garbage plans. Instead of the garbage tower on the UPS lot, the lot could be a valuable residential site that could attract a much-needed supermarket while feeding the city tax rolls.

The community has come together to elevate the dialogue and begin a thoughtful planning initiative. We look forward to following this innovative project closely.

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