Volume 78 / Number 10, August 6 - 12, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since
1933

Editorial

Time for rational rezoning is now
 
Depending where one stands, the rezoning of two half-blocks in the southwest Village at Greenwich and Leroy Sts. to allow residential use is either a smashing victory or a bitter pill to swallow.

The rezoning of 627 Greenwich St. and the LaFrieda Meats property across the street from it was passed two weeks ago by the full City Council. Many neighbors and community groups fought the rezoning to the end, charging that it would alter the neighborhood’s low-density, mixed-use character.

Ultimately, Peter Moore, who plans to convert the existing 12-story 627 Greenwich St. and add new residential housing on an adjacent parking lot, made significant concessions: Twenty percent of the units will be permanent affordable housing, 30,000 square feet will be commercial and 2,500 square feet will be a small, “vest-pocket park” open to the public. The project also will be constructed to lessen the area’s flooding and sewer-backup problems — with a green roof, an abundance of sidewalk trees and super-absorbent sidewalk cement.

Although some call these concessions “token gestures,” we think they are major.

The two rezoned half-blocks were the last remnant of the proposed “Hudson Square North Rezoning” from five years ago. That rezoning plan had, in turn, been severed from a rezoning of Hudson Square’s south end; West Village Houses residents had opposed rezoning the area’s north end, fearing it would hurt their efforts to buy their homes at a sensitive moment when the Mitchell-Lama complex’s owner was seeking a buyout from the affordable-housing program.

This cumbersome process points to the larger need for a sensible rezoning approach for the southwest Village and north end of Hudson Square. The latter is now home to Donald Trump’s dubious, 42-story, condo-hotel, which — it’s clear to most — is a “Trojan horse” hotel that will likely function residentially in a manufacturing-zoned district, unfettered by an essentially unenforceable restrictive declaration. Trump Soho is out of scale and out of context for this neighborhood.

In addition, the U.P.S. parking lot, at Spring and West Sts., presents another colossal dilemma. A Sanitation garage for three districts’ garbage trucks is planned for this site. A ULURP public hearing was cynically scheduled on the issue at City Planning for Aug. 27 — when no one is in town.

It’s wrongheaded to let Sanitation plan Hudson Square’s future. The city must broadly look at all these areas — Hudson Square’s north end, the southwest Village — and, with community input, devise a rational rezoning.

Otherwise we get a towering Trump Soho condo-hotel with a toothless restrictive declaration or a massive megagarage with scores of garbage trucks rumbling back and forth, huge underground diesel tanks and more pollution and congestion.

The time for large-scale — not piecemeal — rational rezoning is now, or else it will be too late.

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