Volume 79, Number 50 | May 19 -25, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


12-story cap is under review for 3rd, 4th Aves.

By Albert Amateau

The Department of City Planning on Monday began the formal review of proposed changes in development rules for the Third Ave. corridor in the East Village that would establish height limits and encourage affordable housing for new construction.

The proposal covers eight blocks — between E. Ninth and E. 13th Sts. and Third and Fourth Aves. The changes are also intended to eliminate the disparities in current zoning that permit much larger buildings for commercial offices, dormitories and other community facilities in what is mainly a residential district.

“This plan ensures that future development will respect the existing scale and character of this residential community, balancing neighborhood preservation with modest residential growth, as well as encouraging the creation or preservation of permanently affordable housing through the Inclusionary Housing Program,” said Amanda Burden, commissioner of City Planning.

The Third Ave. corridor plan is an outgrowth of the 2008 East Village/Lower East Side rezoning. The plan involved consultations with Community Board 3, local elected officials and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

The rezoning would replace the existing zoning district established in 1961. The current zoning has no height limits, encourages “tower in the park” development set back from the property line, and allows dormitories and other community-facility or commercial development nearly double the density of residential development.

“I’m thrilled that the Third and Fourth Aves. corridor is on the verge of being rezoned to cap building heights, encourage affordable housing and eliminate incentives to build oversized dormitories,” said City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, who represents the district. “The residents of this district, Community Board 3 and I have been advocating for changes like this for the last five years, and we’re extremely pleased that City Planning has cooperated with us to preserve the community’s character and scale,” Mendez said.

The area is characterized by low-to-mid-rise residential or mixed-use buildings that generally line up at the sidewalk and have a strong street wall. But there is also a significant institutional presence with a number of large dormitories, particularly on the east side of Third Ave.

The proposed contextual zoning, dubbed C6-2A, would cap the height of new development at 120 feet, or about 12 stories. There would be a provision for continuous street walls with base heights between 60 feet and 85 feet tall, which would be able to rise — after a setback— to the 120-foot maximum.

As part of the city policy of encouraging new and affordable housing, developers in the corridor could choose to take advantage of the city’s Inclusionary Housing Program, which combines a floor area ratio (F.A.R.) zoning bonus with housing subsidy programs. F.A.R. is the ratio of enclosed space to the footprint of the building.

Under Inclusionary Housing, buildings in the rezoned area could achieve the maximum F.A.R. density if they provide 20 percent of their floor area for permanently affordable housing, subject to the 120-foot height limit and setback requirements.

The new zoning specifies that buildings that do not provide any affordable housing would be permitted a maximum of 5.4 F.A.R. for residential uses. With Inclusionary Housing, the building would allow a maximum of 7.2 F.A.R. for residential uses, as long as 20 percent of the floor area was for apartments affordable to households that earn at or below 80 percent of the area median income. “Affordable” means rents not more than one-third of income. Community facilities would be allowed a maximum of 6.5 F.A.R., and commercial buildings would be allowed a maximum of 6.0 F.A.R.

The uniform land use review procedure, or ULURP, that began Monday usually takes from six to nine months. Community Board 3 has 60 days to review the proposal and make suggestions; the City Planning Commission then reviews the project and determines if the suggestions are within the scope of the proposal, and the City Council has the final decision.

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