The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

21 May 2014


"Tentative Deal"
Announced for Pier
40 Air Rights Sale

Mayor Chooses New Landmarks Chair

The Latest from GVSHP's Blog, 'Off the Grid'

"Tentative Deal" Announced for Pier 40 Air Rights Sale

To the surprise of many, last week it was reported that Governor Cuomo, Hudson River Park officials, and the developers who own the three-block-long St. John's Terminal Building along West Street between Clarkson and Charlton Streets had arrived at a "tentative deal" to sell air rights from nearby Pier 40. Such a deal would generate income for the park by allowing the development of larger buildings on the St. John's site than currently allowed.
While details have been sparse, the deal appears to revolve around the use of a State 'General Project Plan' (GPP) as a means to allow the air rights from the park to be transferred. Such a mechanism only requires approval by the Governor, Assembly Speaker, and State Senate Majority Leader, thus offering the impacted communities little if any say or leverage over the outcome. It is for this reason that GVSHP and a coalition of West Side community groups reached out to Governor Cuomo and other government officials early on to urge that a GPP not be used (read letter here).  
Now Mayor de Blasio is calling for any deal to also go through the city's land use review or ULURP process. The Mayor does not appear to have any ability to force the deal to go through the city's land use review process or to make the city approvals conditional for the deal moving ahead (as opposed to simply allowing the City to review the plan and issue non-binding recommendations), though it is possible that he could persuade the Governor to allow this. The city's ULURP process far from guarantees a good outcome or an outcome which reflects the wishes of the affected community, as evidenced by the ULURP approvals for the NYU Expansion Plan, the St. Vincent's/Rudin Condo rezoning, or the Chelsea Market upzoning. But it does at least have the benefit of requiring approval of the City Council, over which the local Councilmember can exert influence, thus giving the local community some opportunity to potentially affect the outcome.

In recent weeks, the Hudson River Park Trust has stated at multiple public meetings that no transfer of air rights from the park was imminent, and that any transfer would go through the ULURP process. Read GVSHP's letter to Hudson River Park Trust Chair Madelyn Wils here.

The transfer of air rights from the Hudson River Park to generate income for the park and allow an increase in allowable development inland was made possible in 2013 by legislation introduced by Assemblymembers Glick and Gottfried, approved by local State Senators Hoylman and Squadron, and signed by Governor Cuomo.

GVSHP will continue to seek answers regarding the proposed transfer of air rights from the Hudson River Park and to forcefully advocate for protecting our neighborhood from overdevelopment. Click here for more information on the Hudson River Park air rights issue and our work to ensure that they do not lead to overdevelopment.

Mayor Chooses New Landmarks Chair

Last week Mayor de Blasio announced his choice of Chair for the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC): Meenakshi Srinivasan, the Chair of the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals from 2004 to the present. Prior to chairing the BSA, Ms. Srinivasan worked in the NYC Department of City Planning. While Ms. Srinivasan has an extensive planning background, she does not have a background specifically in historic preservation, as many recent LPC Chairs have not -- see her resume here.

Ms. Srinivasan's appointment as Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission goes to the City Council for advice and consent. The Council will hear the nomination in their Rules, Privileges, and Elections Committee this Friday -- click here for more information.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission decides which sites and areas of the city will fall under landmarks protections and regulations, as well as what changes will be allowed to landmarked properties. GVSHP has reached out to the Mayor about some of our concerns about the Landmarks Preservation Commission and ways in which the agency could be improved. We also hope to see the Commission consider areas of our neighborhood desperately lacking in landmark protections which it has previously refused to. Whoever the new Chair is of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, GVSHP will work closely with them to advocate for expanded landmarks protections for our neighborhoods and a more efficient and fairer system of regulation.

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