By Patrick Hedlund
Hudson Sq. BID?
Gone are the abandoned cars and overgrown rats that many in Hudson Square remember about the old neighborhood, but can upscale retail and modern street design take the place of those former eyesores?
Thats what local business owners and developers are asking while moving forward with plans for a business improvement district, choosing this time to focus more on physical improvements over sanitation and security issues after a failed BID attempt several years ago.
I was in the forefront of the opposition the last time, acknowledged Phil Mouquinho, owner of P.J. Charlton restaurant, about a possible Hudson Square BID after a second steering committee meeting held recently. He said other essential elements are being proposed in this iteration like streetscape improvement, retail and marketing which makes the BID more attractive.
Spearheading the effort is Carl Weisbrod, president of real estate for Trinity Church, which owns approximately 6 million square feet and 18 buildings in the neighborhood. Weisbrod helped launch and then ran the Alliance for Downtown New York, the citys largest BID in terms of budget ($15 million) and geography, from 1995 to 2005.
Erin Roeder, Trinity senior real estate planner, said the proposed BID district is located in the area between Canal and Houston Sts. along Sixth Avenue, Varick and Hudson Sts. She counted streetscape development, improving foot and car traffic conditions and encouraging quality retail as the BIDs main goals, with an eye toward environmental sustainability. Roeder added she hopes to see the BID up and running within 18 months.
Landlord in crosshairs
Have all the bad-boy landlords left Lower Manhattan?
Only one Downtown property has been identified in a list of 200 buildings flagged by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development in a report detailing the citys worst residential buildings.
The four-story, seven-unit apartment building at 146 Henry St. near the Chinatown/Lower East Side border, joined eight other Manhattan buildings cited for repeatedly poor maintenance and hazardous conditions.
According to H.P.D. records, Suk Ming Tom of Yuens Realty Corp. owns the property, which has been included in the newly launched Alternative Enforcement Program aimed at rectifying code violations that generate a disproportionate percentage of H.P.D.s current enforcement activity.
The landlord will have four months to correct all violations related to heat and hot water, correct 80 percent of Class A (hazardous) and Class B (immediately hazardous) violations, and pay all outstanding charges for emergency repair work. If not corrected within that time, the property will be subject to further inspections, fees and extensive repair work to fix violations. Any new charges, if not paid, will become liens on the property.
The next-closest Manhattan property cited in the report is on 109th St. near Third Ave. Of the 200 buildings identified, 132 were located in Brooklyn, 52 in the Bronx, six in Queens and one in Staten Island. Tom could not be reached for comment.
St. Johns Center for sale?
The colossal St. Johns Center in Hudson Square will hit the market for a staggering $600 million, according to a New York Post report last week.
Owners Eugene M. Grant and Co. and the Westbrook Partners group have enlisted CB Richard Ellis to market the building, which The Villager reported a month ago could possibly see a hotel or condominiums rise atop its four-story rooftop.
The superblock building, spanning W. Houston St. between Washington and West Sts. across from Pier 40, contains Manhattans largest floor plates, and the property has an additional 300,000 square feet of developable air rights.
Mixed Use finds it odd, however, that the Post referred to local residents who hate the fact that the building soars over Houston Street ruining view corridors.
In fact, many residents currently pushing for further rezoning in Hudson Square have pointed to St. Johns as an integral part of future redevelopment.
The superblock is a remnant of a historical era, and everybody knows the prominent role the St. Johns Building played back in the era of rail, freight and cargo, said Michael Kramer, whom Eugene Grant commissioned to head up the current Hudson Square design charrette process.
Richard Forte, director of real estate operations for Eugene M. Grant and Co., declined to comment on the deal but indicated a statement would be released shortly.
With an impending verdict on the future of Pier 40 and plans for a much-maligned Sanitation facility abutting St. Johns south end, Mixed Use wonders about the strategic timing of this announcement with so many interconnected projects still up in the air.
Drawing a crowd
Speaking of the St. Johns Center, for the past month the building played host to the aforementioned Hudson Square design charrette, which welcomed a few surprise visits by local politicians and city officials before its run ended last week.
According to charrette curators, a veritable whos who of city players dropped in to view the architectural firms far-reaching visions for the future of the neighborhood.
Among the reported visitors: Assemblymember Deborah Glick; State Senator Tom Duane; Daniel Klein, director of real estate for the Department of Sanitation; Erin Roeder, senior real estate planner for Trinity Real Estate; Kate Seely-Kirk and Grey Elam, chief of staff and legislative aide, respectively, for Council Speaker Christine Quinn; staffers from Borough President Scott Stringers Office; and Hudson River Park Trust representatives.
Local architect and developer Peter Moore said the next step will be to publish a book with the charrette proposals and exhibit the designs to the architectural community. He hopes it will also lead to a larger dialogue about Pier 40, the proposed Spring St. Sanitation facility and Hudson River Park.
This all brings up the bigger issues, Moore said.