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We did it!

Thousands of you joined us to demand landmark protections, no more air rights transfers from the Hudson River Park, and no traffic-generating mega-retail in the new development at the St. John’s site.

You wrote letters.

You spoke up at hearings.

You came to town hall meetings.

And yesterday, the City Council approved a plan that gave us these protections we need, over the objections of some pretty powerful interests.

You made a difference.

Thanks to you, we have:

► a new ten-block, 160-building landmark district about the be approved

► a ban on future air rights sales from the Hudson River Park in our neighborhood

► a vastly less impactful development on the St. John’s Terminal site that eliminates the high-volume, high-traffic stores the developer and the City wanted

On Monday, the City Council’s Land Use Committee voted to approve a deal negotiated by City Councilmember Corey Johnson making big changes to a proposed project on the St. John’s Terminal site (West/Houston Street).  The deal was highly responsive to the demands and concerns raised by GVSHP and thousands of you.  The City is on track to designate the third and final phase of our proposed South Village Historic District (join us for the celebration planned following the vote at 6pm on December 13th!). The deal included a limitation that would prohibit any more air rights from the Hudson River Park from being used anywhere in Community Board #2 -- between 14th Street and Canal Street (in 2013 the State Legislature gave the City the power to move an estimated 1.6 million square feet of air rights from the park into our neighborhood and elsewhere along the Hudson River waterfront between 59th and Chambers Streets, thus vastly increasing the size of potential development on our waterfront blocks). This limitation was placed over the objections of the Hudson River Park Trust, which has pushed this scheme to sell “air rights” from the park as a way to fund the park’s construction and maintenance, and the City, which wanted to place no limits on future air rights transfers.  And the deal included strict limitations on the allowable size of stores, which will help limit the traffic they generate and orient stores toward local rather than regional shoppers and needs.

This is a HUGE victory.  Without these changes, we would have had no landmark protections for nearby endangered historic areas.  We would have had a million and a half square feet of “air rights” from the Hudson River Park which government officials and developers could have still moved into our neighborhood, vastly increasing the allowable size of development in the future.  And we would have had huge stores in the new St. John’s Terminal development generating enormous amounts of vehicular traffic, drawing shoppers from all over the New York metropolitan area by car with virtually no mass transit nearby.

Had the Council simply rejected the plan altogether, the developer could have gone back to building what the current zoning for the site allows with no approvals needed – a massive hotel/office/entertainment complex with no height limits for the new development whatsoever, no public space, no affordable housing, no design controls, and no money provided for repairing and restoring the public playing fields at Pier 40 (all of which the approved development has), and with much more traffic-generating commercial uses.

This COULD NOT have happened without YOUR help, and without the hard work of City Councilmember Corey Johnson, who negotiated this deal.

One note of caution: the protections we secured against future air rights transfers in our neighborhood are written into the zoning.  Zoning rules, like landmarks regulations and all other land use controls, can be changed.  As part of this deal, the city laws governing air rights from the Hudson River Park will explicitly say that no more than the 200,000 square feet that are to be transferred to the St. John’s site to fund emergency repairs at Pier 40 can ever be used between 14th and Canal Streets.  We have no doubt that at some point in the future, developers and government officials may seek to lift that limitation. GVSHP had sought even stronger language explicitly stating that it was the intention of the City Council that no future air rights transfer from the Hudson River Park EVER take place in Community Board #2.  We are working with Councilmember Johnson to find other ways to make the record as clear and indisputable as possible that it is the intention that no other air rights transfers from the park would ever be allowed in this neighborhood.

As with all victories, the work does not end here.  As long as the state legislation allowing air rights transfers from the Hudson River Park remains on the books, we will have to work hard to ensure that developers and government officials do not seek to loosen or undo the limits we fought hard to achieve.


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