Volume 74, Number 16 | August 18 - 24 , 2004

Board 4 gives its recommendations on Hudson Yards

By Albert Amateau

Community Board 4 last week responded to the city’s far-reaching Hudson Yards proposal intended to transform the far West Side over the next 20 years with an extension of the No. 7 subway, high-rise commercial towers, decks over the rail yards and a new boulevard and parkland.

While the 10 land-use and zoning resolutions involved in the proposal do not directly involve the controversial New York Sports and Convention Center stadium or the northern expansion of the Javits Convention Center, they would enable both to be built.

The board’s response at its Aug. 11 meeting attended by more than 300 Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen neighbors called for eliminating the massive buildings proposed for 11th Ave. The response also demanded that 30 percent of the 12,000 apartments expected to be built in the rezoned area be made permanently affordable.

The board overwhelmingly approved a 37-page response to the Hudson Yards proposal with scores of recommended changes. “A real plan for affordable housing and no stadium,” were the board’s overriding conditions.

“The city is proposing unprecedented zoning,” said Anna Hayes Levin, vice chairperson of the board. “Some sites would have an unlimited floor-to-area ratio and many would give developers the opportunity to raise the F.A.R. to 24 — almost equal to the 25 of the Empire State Building.” The zoning would allow commercial buildings of 70 to 80 stories, she added.

The state and city plan to put a deck above the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rail yards at 31st St. between 12th and 11th Aves. — the Western Rail Yard — for the stadium is not part of the review process. However, the plan to deck the M.T.A. rail yards between 11th and 10th Aves. — the Eastern Rail Yard — for a plaza in front of the stadium is part of the Hudson Yards review.

Development rights could be transferred from the Eastern Rail Yard to other sites along 11th and 10th Aves. as far north as 41st St. if developers pay into a special District Improvement Fund to be created by the Hudson Yards plan.

The Community Board 4 response calls for eliminating the stadium and using both the Eastern and Western Rail Yards decks for development to be oriented in an east-west direction from 30th to 34th Sts. as part of the Penn Station corridor.

Nevertheless, the community board supported the Javits Convention Center expansion. “An expansion to the south was originally intended when the Convention Center was built in the 1980s and this remains a preferred direction of expansion,” the board response says. The expansion to the south would involve the rail yards. The board also supported Convention Center expansion to the north “as long as 34th, 39th, 40th and 41st Sts., remain public streets and open to the sky.”

The traffic and pollution impact of the Hudson Yards plan was a major concern in the community board response. “The Draft Environmental Impact Statement confirms our fears that congestion and pollution associated with the Hudson Yards projects will be overwhelming,” the resolution says.

“During rush hours, traffic will come to a standstill, pedestrians [will be bumping into each other] and there will be long lines to get up and down stairs at many subway stations,” the resolution says. The board is also concerned that development would cause the North River sewage plant to overflow into the Hudson River during wet weather and that “many blocks would be so noisy that in commercial buildings, sealed windows will be required and in existing residential buildings, the city will install double-glazed windows and air conditioners.”

Condemnation of private property for the proposed new boulevard between 10th and 11th Aves. and for new No. 7 subway stations would displace 85 existing residential units and about 340 businesses with between 1,200 and 3,000 jobs. “We oppose these displacements,” the board resolution says.

But the board was in favor of the overall plan to remove Department of Sanitation trucks from the Gansevoort Peninsula on the Greenwich Village waterfront south of 14th St. and from under the High Line around 30th St. and to take the auto tow pound off Pier 76, at 35th St. The Hudson Yards plan would put those uses in a new garage beneath a public park to be built between 11th and 12th Aves. from 29th to 30th Sts. The board, however, called for a community advisory board to have a role in the design, programming and operation of the park. The board also wants the city to commit adequate funds for the proposed park.

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