Vigilance needed on Hudson Yards
The Hudson Yards development between 30th and 33rd Sts. west of 10th Ave. is notable not only for its size and the legacy it will undoubtedly leave, but also because it is an odd case of the tail wagging the dog: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has accepted bids on the Western Rail Yard before it is even rezoned. And the request for proposals, or R.F.P., distributed to developers by the city includes few guarantees on issues that matter most to residents of Community Board 4 and the neighborhoods surrounding the rail yards.
Housing: The R.F.P. requires that, of the 5.7 million square feet of residential and commercial development slated for the Western Rail Yard, at least 20 percent be residential. However, the R.F.P. doesnt require that any of those units be rentals though it does provide developers incentives to build not only rentals, but affordable rental units by providing state bonds (low-interest loans) to developers who opt into the states 80/20 program, which stipulates that at least 20 percent of a buildings rental units be affordable. Developers would get bonus square footage on site if they make those units permanently affordable through the citys Inclusionary Housing Program. C.B. 4 is pushing for 30 percent of all rentals in the Western Rail Yard to be permanently affordable, exceeding slightly the 28 percent and 27 percent guarantees, respectively, it got in the Hudson Yards and West Chelsea rezonings in 2004 and 2005.
Open space: The R.F.P. mentions approximately five acres set aside in the Western Rail Yard comprising a central open space, a 12th Avenue Linear Open Space near the Javits Convention Center, urban plazas at the northeast and southwest corners and linear open spaces along 30th St. C.B. 4 and the Hudson Yards Community Advisory Committee are insisting not on gated, groomed spaces used for private functions but on a public park that draws residents from nearby neighborhoods and is reserved for passive and/or informal recreation, with playgrounds and public restrooms. Getting open space is one thing. Getting livable green space is quite another.
The High Line: The fate of the High Lines northern section is at risk as the M.T.A. seeks maximum return on its land and developers seek maximum profit in their bids. The R.F.P. called for developers to submit bids with and without the High Line, ostensibly so the M.T.A. can gauge the profit differential. The elevated rail line is a critical link in the open-space network connecting Hudson River Park and the West Side. It is also the only remaining piece of history in what will become a gleaming new development, serving as a probable anchor for increased land values for adjacent properties, as it did in West Chelsea. Preserving it is a no-brainer.
Its crucial that the public stays vigilant and engaged during the public review process to protect the few community benefits it has currently undefined and vague in this multibillion-dollar development. Anything less will be cheating future generations.