Volume 79, Number 25 | November 25 - December 1, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Advocates give thanks for new rezoning that adds height caps

By Albert Amateau

Preservation advocates and elected officials were especially thankful on Thanksgiving week that the City Planning Commission has begun the process to prevent out-of-scale development on six threatened blocks in the West Village.

The commission last week announced that it would soon propose a change in development rules for the blocks between Greenwich and Washington Sts. from W. 10th to W. 12th Sts.

The area, which is within the Greenwich Village Historic District, is now a C6-1 zone, which has no height limits on new construction and allows a development bonus for commercial projects, including hotels and community facilities, like dormitories.

The proposed new C1-6A zoning would impose height limits on new construction and eliminate the bonus for commercial buildings and community facilities.

A City Planning spokesperson issued a statement Monday saying, “The proposed contextual district would significantly reduce the amount of floor area that could be built for commercial purposes, including hotel use, while allowing a minor increase in the amount of floor area that could be built for residential use.” 

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and Community Board 2 during the past year and a half both have been calling for tighter controls on inappropriate development in the area. Along with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Assemblymember Deborah Glick and state Senator Tom Duane, the community groups suggested the proposed rezoning.

“I’m pleased that the city has now finally agreed to rezone this area of the far West Village to the zoning suggested by G.V.S.H.P. and other community groups,” said Andrew Berman, G.V.S.H.P. executive director. “This will do a much better job of protecting the character of the neighborhood and preventing out-of-scale commercial development.”

Because the area is inside the Greenwich Village Historic District, any new development would have to be reviewed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission for appropriateness.

“We are pleased to announce that the Department of City Planning has determined that a rezoning is warranted and that a C1-6A district would be appropriate,” said a Nov. 18 joint statement by Quinn, Stringer, Glick, Duane and Congressmember Jerrold Nadler.

The new zoning must be certified by City Planning, and submitted to a Community Board 2 review and hearing, with a final review by City Planning and final approval by the City Council. The process takes between six months and a year.

Jo Hamilton, C.B. 2 chairperson, said the City Planning announcement was an important victory for the board.

“We met with neighbors about the area in 2008 and we reached out to City Planning,” Hamilton recalled. “But because [City Planning] had recently rezoned part of the area they had moved on to other parts of the city. Still, we worked really hard to make this happen, and the community board wrote a really strong resolution last April and worked with the elected officials to make this happen.”

Preservation advocates have been anxious about a proposed new hotel at the corner of Perry and Washington Sts. About a year ago, a developer submitted plans for a seven-and-a-half-story hotel plus a penthouse on the site, and the L.P.C. deemed it appropriate because the commission felt the existing building did not contribute to the district’s historic character.

However, construction has not begun, and if the rezoning is approved before the foundation is built or before “substantial expenditures” are made on the project, the hotel would not be allowed on the site.

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