Volume 74, Number 36 | January 12 - 18, 2005

The Council changes up call on West Side planning

By Albert Amateau

The Hudson Yards redevelopment plan received approval from the City Council Land-Use Committee on Monday with provisions to encourage creation of 3,500 affordable apartments and language that will make it a little harder for Mayor Bloomberg to fund the proposed New York Sports and Convention Center stadium.

The committee action came after intense negotiations with the Bloomberg administration, and virtually guarantees that the rezoning of the West Side between 30th and 43rd Sts. will get final approval from the Council and the mayor at the end of the review process in March.

While West Side housing advocates did not win mandatory affordable housing, zoning bonuses in the plan are expected to encourage developers to take part in an inclusionary housing program to create permanently affordable apartments.

“This is the largest percentage of affordable housing in the city,” said Councilmember Christine Quinn. “We were able to change the bonus structure to guarantee that affordable housing will be built,” she said.

The plan was originally conceived to make 16 percent of the estimated 13,600 units of housing to be affordable to a wide range of low- and middle-income residents, but changes now make it likely that 25 percent of the apartments will be permanently affordable. Quinn credited the Department of Housing Preservation and Development with creating new incentives for low-cost housing. The plan also provides for preserving existing housing in the district.

The Hudson Yards rezoning is separate from the proposal to build a 75,000-seat stadium for the New York Jets over the rail yards between the West Side Highway and 11th Ave. between 30th and 33rd Sts., and the proposal excludes the area where the Jets hope to build the stadium.

“We’ve taken steps to remove the stadium by excluding the area west of 11th Ave.,” said Quinn. “The plan doesn’t even allow a tunnel from the proposed No. 7 line extension to the stadium site,” Quinn said. “Revenues from the Hudson Yards will not be used for the stadium,” she added.

Nevertheless, Mayor Bloomberg, who praised the Council committee action, said he was sure the New York Sports and Convention Center would become a reality. But it is the second setback for the stadium proposal. Last month, the State Legislature approved the expansion of the Javits Convention Center and funding for the center but not for the stadium.

Nevertheless, the stadium, proposed for a platform over the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Rail Yards — state property — is expected to get approval from the state Empire State Development Corporation later this month. It will still require the approval of a commission that includes Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Governor Pataki.

The Hudson Yards plan as passed by the Council committee also reduces the density of office development in the 59-square-block area from 26 million sq. ft. to 24 million sq. ft. West Side preservation advocates, however, had called for a sharper cut in commercial development.

Quinn, however, noted that the commercial square footage reduction was significant along 11th Ave. from 36th to 41st Sts., “an area near a majority of the core of the neighborhood,” she said. She also noted that building density in the Ninth Ave. midblocks, where walk-up tenements are presently located, has been significantly reduced from the original plan.

The housing part of the plan also provides a $45 million fund for affordable housing throughout the city, including the Hudson Yards area. In addition, H.P.D. intends to develop 900 units of affordable housing on various city-owned sites in the district.

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