Volume 80, Number 31 | December 30, 2010 - January 5, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
New Year’s wishes
Before we even realized it, the end of another year has snuck up on us. And so it’s time to reflect on some of the major, ongoing stories that occupied us in 2010 and that will assuredly top our list once again in 2011.
For starters, the potentially largest development scheme of all is, of course, New York University’s 2031 expansion plan. As part of its ambitious growth agenda, the university seeks to add 6 million square feet, including up to 2 million on its two South Village superblocks.
N.Y.U. simply must scale down its superblocks plans. Yes, perhaps on some architect’s table somewhere it might somehow have appeared that a fourth tower — 400 feet tall, no less! — could be jammed into the landmarked Silver Towers complex on Bleecker St. But Architect I.M. Pei, Silver Towers’ designer, and his partner, Henry Cobb, recently made it emphatically clear that it was the wrong spot for a new tower — only confirming what neighbors and preservationists were saying all along.
Yes, N.Y.U. can build “as of right” on its Morton Williams supermarket site. But any development there — just as on the Coles gym site, also on the southern superblock — must be reasonably sized and contextually designed. N.Y.U.’s upcoming ULURP will determine if, and how big, it can build at Coles.
Also in the South Village, the Landmarks Preservation Commission must quickly designate the rest of the proposed South Village Historic District. The Children’s Aid Society’s recent decision to sell its Sullivan St. buildings has highlighted the risks of leaving this low-scale area unprotected against potential overdevelopment.
This past year was devastating for Lower West Side healthcare with St. Vincent’s Hospital’s closing. The health-needs assessment now underway is, in our view, required to make the best case for whatever level replacement health facility we can hope to get, from a full-service hospital on down. Lawsuits aren’t working. And the recent New York Post report that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah is mulling buying the St. Vincent’s site and restoring a hospital is, so far, unsubstantiated. Political opportunists have been exploiting this emotional issue; what we need instead is cooperation and a realistic appraisal as to what’s truly achievable.
We’ll continue to cover the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. Led by Community Board 3, conscientious development guidelines have taken shape. Both affordable-housing advocates and Grand St. co-op owners must compromise. We call on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to back the emerging consensus plan and be a leader on this issue. Mixed-income and mixed-use development at SPURA will increase, not decrease, property values.
Politically, it’s also essential that Silver back the reforms being pushed by Ed Koch and others: independent redistricting, a GAAP budget and ethics reform. Albany is long overdue for reform.
We support the proposed Chinatown Business Improvement District. Yes, BID’s can admittedly cause economic upscaling and affect small merchants. But this will basically be a cleaning BID, which Chinatown needs.
We hope ’11 sees progress at Pier 40, at W. Houston St. in Hudson River Park. The massive pier, a treasured community amenity, needs millions for urgent repairs. Absent a new R.F.P. to find a compatible developer, money must somehow be located. We hope Friends of Hudson River Park in a new private fundraising role can help meet this need.
Finally, we look forward to the increasing acceptance of the growing bike lane network. Bike lanes making our city more livable, safer, healthier. But cyclists must be considerate of pedestrians — especially the elderly, who move slowly and fear serious injury from falls.
We’ve barely begun and it’s already shaping up to be an exciting and busy 2011. Happy New Year!