MAS has been working with partners including the Brownsville Partnership, the Brownsville Community Justice Center and Friends of Brownsville Parks to support community-based planning and advocacy since 2013. On June 4th MAS helped plan and facilitate a community discussion about Betsy Head Park, resulting in a set of resident identified priorities around activities, safety, cleanliness, facilities, open space, furniture and equipment and circulation of the park.
You can read more about the June 4th discussion and other programs MAS has partnered on in Brownsville, here: http://www.mas.org/betsy-head-park-community-discussion/.
You can view an infographic containing a list of community priorities for Betsy Head Park here: http://www.mas.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Betsy-Head-Park-Map-Infographic.pdf
For more information please contact Joanna Crispe, Director of Community Engagement and Education, at email@example.com.]]>
The Municipal Art Society commends the Council for making the appropriate decision for the Inwood community, reinforcing trust in the public review process. We hope the decision will encourage continued public engagement regarding the future development of the site and similar land use decisions.
The rezoning was the first project subject to the application of the City’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) requirements. Passed by City Council in March 2016, MIH is one of the key mechanisms designed to achieve the affordable housing goals to build or preserve 200,000 affordable housing units over a ten-year period, outlined in the Mayor’s Housing New York Plan. As such, the Broadway Sherman rezoning had the potential to be a precedent setting project with citywide implications.
Along with many civic organizations and neighborhood residents, MAS maintained its opposition to the project throughout the public review process. Despite design modifications made by Arcadia Sherman during negotiations, MAS argued that the project would still set a harmful precedent for inappropriate, out-of-scale development in the Inwood neighborhood. Furthermore, MAS argued that the selected income thresholds did not adequately reflect the socioeconomic conditions of the neighborhood. For more details on the project, see our technical summary.
The project had initially been scheduled for a vote by the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises on August 9. However, the decision was postponed to the last date of the public review process to allow local Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez more time to negotiate with Arcadia Sherman and the City. On August 15, the day before the Council was set to vote, Rodriguez, addressing a crowd of over 100 residents at the project site, stated “We’ve now been able to get to a point where I feel it is in the community’s best interest to not move this spot rezoning forward.”
In light of this decision, MAS understands that the City faces a tremendous challenge in achieving its affordable housing goals. MAS is encouraged by the level of public involvement in Inwood and hopes it carries over to the Inwood NYC Neighborhood Planning Initiative. We are confident the neighborhood can work with the City to address its affordable housing needs and manage its future growth on a community level. We also hope that the Broadway Sherman decision stimulates much needed public discourse citywide on critical land use decisions that have the potential for long-range environmental and socioeconomic impacts.]]>
If approved, the Broadway Sherman rezoning in Inwood would facilitate the City’s first development under the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) zoning text amendment passed by City Council in March 2016. MIH is one of the key mechanisms utilized by the City to achieve the affordable housing goals to build or preserve 200,000 affordable housing units over a ten-year period as outlined in the Mayor’s Housing New York Plan. Under the proposed rezoning, the project developer Arcadia Sherman Avenue LLC (Arcadia) is proposing to construct a 369,000-square foot (sf), mixed-use, primarily residential building consisting of 15 stories on a site directly across Broadway from Fort Tryon Park in an ethnically diverse neighborhood characterized by 5- to 7-story residential buildings. As such, the Broadway Sherman rezoning has the potential to be a precedent setting project with citywide implications. This document summarizes the evolution of the project and the public review processes involved, and provides clarity on the various issues and the involvement of The Municipal Art Society of New York.
Initial proposal from Arcadia Sherman Avenue LLC certified by Department of City Planning January 19, 2016 (CEQR Negative Declaration and ULURP Certification)
*Note: The January 19, 2016 Environmental Assessment Statement (EAS) evaluated a 540,635-square foot (sf), 27-story, 280-foot building with 475 DUs in order to address the highest potential impact development scenario.
The Municipal Art Society delivered testimony in opposition to the City Planning Commission on May 25, 2016
**2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-year Estimates
Arcadia Sherman Avenue LLC revised its proposal after negotiating with elected Officials (Evaluated in revised EAS, dated June 20, 2016)
***Note: The June 20, 2016 EAS evaluated a 431,725-sf, 17-story, 175-foot building in order to address the highest potential impact development scenario.
The Municipal Art Society delivered testimony reasserting opposition to the NYC Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises on July 12, 2016
NYC Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises postpones vote
Since it was certified for ULURP in January 2016, the project has undergone several changes in terms of height, scale, levels of affordability, and the framework for the analysis in the environmental review process. As such, MAS reasserts that the City carefully examine all facets of the proposed development, including the potential long-term environmental and economic impacts on the neighborhood, including Fort Tryon Park before moving forward with this project. Accordingly, MAS strongly urges the Subcommittee to reject the proposed zoning map amendment and request an alternate design that minimizes environmental affects and includes an affordable housing component that accurately reflects the socioeconomic needs of the Inwood neighborhood.
Download testimony (PDF) »»]]>
The Webmaster & Digital Outreach Manager is responsible for maintaining and updating MAS’s existing website and serving as lead manager of the organization’s 2016-2017 website redesign. This position will also be responsible for distribution of e-newsletters and other electronic communications through our existing eblast platform, and guiding the organization through the transition to a new platform to be debuted upon website relaunch next year. S/he is responsible for overall audience development strategy and continual assessment of the effectiveness of the website and eblast efforts. This position also serves as point of contact and relationship manager for external vendor contracts totaling several hundred thousand dollars.
Reports to: Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs
Duties and Tasks:
Maintenance, Monitoring, and Updating Existing Website 50%
Management of 2016-2017 Website Redesign Process 40%
Communications & Event Production Support 10%
Commensurate with experience.
To apply, please email a resume and cover letter to the attention of Meaghan Baron, Vice President, Communications & Public Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line “Webmaster candidate.” No phone calls please.
For more information about The Municipal Art Society, visit MAS.org. The Municipal Art Society is an Equal Opportunity Employer.]]>
The Municipal Art Society of New York is a non-profit committed to advocating for intelligent urban planning, design, and preservation policy. MAS has a particularly long and celebrated history in East Midtown, successfully leading the fight to preserve Grand Central Terminal.
When the Department of City Planning first released their plans to rezone a large portion of East Midtown Manhattan in 2012, MAS worked with area stakeholders and a variety of planning experts to help ensure the future vitality of this important neighborhood. Much of this effort culminated in a report, East Midtown: A Bold Vision for the Future, which laid out recommendations for an improved planning framework for the City.
In 2013, the Historic Districts Council, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, and MAS identified 16 buildings worthy of landmark designation and presented this list to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). In response, the LPC has calendared 12 buildings, and has held hearings for five items today:
We are grateful to the LPC for taking action on this selection of important historic resources. However, several of the buildings that we recommended for designation, and were identified as eligible by LPC, remain unprotected. In addition, many were identified as projected or potential development sites in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the East Midtown Rezoning (denoted by an asterisk), virtually guaranteeing that these remarkable buildings would be demolished. LPC should immediately calendar the remaining six buildings it considered eligible for designation:
We would also urge that LPC reconsider the remaining two buildings on the joint list:
In sum, we strenuously ask the LPC to broaden their efforts to preserve the architectural legacy of East Midtown as embodied by these eight historic sites.
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The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) herein provides comments on the Notice of Filing (NOF) for the proposed site selection of Block 728, Lots 34 and 36, and any other property in the immediate vicinity which may be necessary for the proposed project, for the construction of a new, approximately 300-seat primary school facility in Community School District No. 15, in Brooklyn.
With regard to the overall project, MAS opposes any plan that would involve the demolition of the 18th Police Precinct Station House and Stable. Designed by architect George Ingram between 1890 and 1892, both structures are listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places and are individual New York City landmarks. As such, these structures warrant protection and rehabilitation. We urge the School Construction Authority (SCA) to either select an alternate site for the construction of the school, or sensitively preserve the two buildings by incorporating them into any new design.
As part of its site selection process the SCA was required to conduct an alternative sites analysis for eight other potential sites for a school facility in Community School District No. 15 in Brooklyn. Three sites were eliminated from consideration based a variety of issues, (environmental concerns, size/shape of lot, proximity to MTA train line, etc.). A fourth site was eliminated because SCA determined that the existing building could not be renovated to accommodate a pre-kindergarten facility. A fifth site, 177 25th Street is now under lease with the Department of Education (DOE) for a 108-seat pre-kindergarten facility. The site at 4002 Fort Hamilton Parkway was deemed too cost-prohibitive based on the building’s deteriorated condition. The remaining two sites identified by SCA in the NOF are still undergoing “various studies” to determine if they are appropriate and can accommodate a small public school facility.
We contend that the protected, historic status of the 18th Police Precinct Station House and Stable should be an equally important consideration in site selection and offer the following comments:
To reiterate: in no uncertain terms, the MAS is entirely opposed to demolition of the landmark 18th Police Precinct Station House and Stable.
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The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) commends the level of city engagement and community involvement in the Bay Street Corridor @ Downtown Staten Island Initiative. We support the goals of the City to rezone this area from manufacturing to residential and commercial zoning districts to create opportunities for affordable housing, increase economic development, and improve open space and infrastructure. MAS also recognizes that the Bay Street Corridor is one of 15 neighborhoods in which the City seeks to encourage density and apply the requirements of Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH).
The proposed project is expected to result in an incremental increase of approximately 2,557 new dwelling units, approximately 260,000 square feet (sf) of new commercial uses and approximately 49,000 sf of community facility space throughout the 20 block project area. We understand that the project could facilitate a maximum of approximately 700 affordable dwelling units.
MAS requests the following items be included in the Scope of Work to be evaluated in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS):
Zoning, Land Use, Public Policy
The Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) option has not been chosen at this time and the potential impacts on overall development will vary. The EIS should evaluate an option that would result in the highest number of dwelling units in order to assess the highest possible impact scenario.
Under Task 5: Open Space and Recreation, the Draft Scope of Work (DSOW) states that “because the Project Area does not contain any existing public open space, no open space would be displaced, changed, or have access limited; therefore, the Proposed Project would not result in any direct effects on open space and a detailed assessment is not warranted.” Based on the significant increase in residents and workers anticipated under the rezoning, and the fact that the area is already extremely underserved by open space, MAS would like to see, as part of the overall project, new open space included in the project area.
The EIS should include a shadow analysis of the potential impacts of the project on the Lyons Pool, an individual New York City landmark. This is especially important because under the proposed rezoning, the lot west of the site (181 Bay Street – Block 497, Lot 9) would be rezoned to allow a building with a maximum height of 165 feet.
MAS recommends that each lot to be rezoned should be subject to an individual Phase I Environmental Site Assessment based on the change in land uses in the corridor from manufacturing to residential and commercial districts.
Water and Sewer Infrastructure
The project as proposed would significantly exceed CEQR waste water thresholds for residential and commercial uses located within combined sewer areas in Staten Island. During the June 15 Public Scoping Meeting elected officials and community members discussed the condition of the existing sewer infrastructure in the project area, expressing concern that the additional development facilitated by the rezoning would overwhelm the already inadequate system. In addition, according to DEP 311 data, between years 2010-2014 there have been dozens of complaints reported in relation to street flooding, clogged catch basins, basement flooding, and sewer backups.
The Bay Street Corridor is located within a combined sewershed served by the Port Richmond water pollution control plant (WPCP). The WPCP has a designed capacity to treat 60 million gallons per day and serves an estimated population of 212,685. According to the 2016 EPA Enforcement and Compliance History Report, the control plant is one of the four EPA violating facilities classified as Significant Noncompliance Category I, the most serious level of violation noted in EPA databases. Future development facilitated by the rezoning would further tax the overburdened control plant. Based on this information, the EIS must include a detailed analysis of potential impacts on the sewer’s infrastructure and identify mitigation options for a development scenario that exceeds the capacity of the WPCP.
Because the project is anticipated to result in the generation of more than 50 tons of solid waste per week, we expect the EIS to include a detailed analysis of the impacts on the available waste management capacity in the area. In addition, we recommend that the EIS evaluates the potential impacts of the project on Staten Island’s waste transfer station and identifies and evaluates mitigation measures in the event that adverse impacts are identified.
According to the City’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency’s report, A Stronger More Resilient New York, the Bay Street Corridor is located within one of the city’s most extensive electric networks, ranging over 10,000 acres. The network is also Staten Island’s largest and densest, serving roughly 44,000 buildings. Based on the magnitude of the potential development facilitated by the rezoning, the EIS should include an investigation of the potential impacts of the project on the capacity of the electric network serving the Bay Street Corridor.
We understand that the reasonable worst case development scenario (RWCDS) evaluated in the EIS will disclose the projected amount of energy consumption. In addition, we recommend that the evaluation should include the energy conservation codes likely to be in place in the year 2030, the rezoning build year. According to the New York City Energy Conservation Code, buildings over 50,000 gross square feet (gsf) or larger will be required to upgrade lighting systems by 2025. However, the City Council has recently introduced a bill that would expand the upgrade requirements to buildings 25,000 gsf or larger (Intro. 1165). This bill will likely have a significant impact on the electric network serving the Bay Street Corridor area. Again, as the Bay Street Rezoning build year is 2030, we recommend for the EIS to address this scenario in full detail.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change
Finally, based on the build year 2030, we recommend that the EIS include an analysis of the project’s resiliency in response to the increase in flood risk resulting from sea level rise. According to the 2012 NYC DPC Surge Area map, over 50 percent of the Bay Street Corridor study area was flooded during Hurricane Sandy. Furthermore, an even larger area of the corridor is expected to be included within 100-year flood zone, according to New York City’s Panel on Climate Change projection for the 2050s. As such, MAS believes that the Scope of Work for the Bay Street Corridor EIS should analyze flood risk based on data presented in Table 18-2 from the CEQR Technical Manual (NPCC Baseline Climate and Mean Annual Changes).
Download testimony (PDF) »»]]>
The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) asserts that this project, as currently proposed, would set a harmful precedent for inappropriate, out-of-scale development in the Inwood neighborhood. We urge the subcommittee to reject the proposed zoning map amendment and request an alternate design.
While we are pleased with the proposed changes regarding the affordable housing component, MAS remains concerned that the project would set a precedent for rezonings that facilitate the construction of similar out-of-scale developments in the Inwood area. With a height of 155 feet and approximately 431,725 gross square feet, the project would adversely affect urban design, visual resources, and the neighborhood character in the area.
MAS also questions why the revised Environmental Assessment Statement (EAS) submitted June 20, 2016 includes a substantially shorter (14 stories, 150 feet vs. 10 stories, 110 feet) No-Action development than what was used as a basis for the evaluation in the original January 19, 2016 EAS. We question why this fundamental change was made at such a late stage in the project environmental review process.
MAS believes the changes in the project’s affordable housing component accurately reflect the needs of the neighborhood. Under the revised proposal, 50 percent of the residential floor area would be provided as permanently affordable, 20 percent of which (83 dwelling units) will be at 40 percent of the AMI (approximately $31,000 for a family of three) and the 30 percent of the remaining residential floor area (124 dwelling units) would range up to 80 percent AMI (approximately $65,000 for a family of three).
Precedent for Similar Development and Need for Sound Planning
MAS believes the Sherman Plaza project presents a timely opportunity for the City to champion sound planning that considers the cumulative effect of non-contextual development, reduces environmental impacts, and preserves valuable public assets, while offering equitable housing opportunities that reflect the needs of the neighborhood.
Fort Tryon Park is the predominant design feature of the neighborhood. The area east of Broadway is characterized by 5- to 7-story residential buildings. Therefore, new development along the Broadway corridor and Fort Tryon Park should be consistent with the existing neighborhood fabric and avoid impacts on the park.
Overall, the Inwood-Washington Heights neighborhood is facing major changes, as evidenced by the Inwood NYC Planning Initiative, a comprehensive planning study currently underway to guide the future rezoning and redevelopment of a 100-acre area northeast of the Sherman Plaza site. MAS applauds the efforts by elected officials and City agencies to engage the community in a vision for developing and preserving affordable housing, creating jobs, improving streetscapes, and reclaiming the waterfront and open space. Although it is not part of the initiative, the Sherman Plaza project is a microcosm of the issues that the entire neighborhood will need to address as development pressures mount.
Adverse Impacts on Visual Resources, Urban Design, and Neighborhood Character
Fort Tryon Park is at one of the highest elevations in Manhattan accessible to the public. It features a varied topography and panoramic views of the Hudson River and Palisades. It is one of only ten City-designated scenic landmarks and is listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places (S/NL). The Cloisters, at the highest point of the park, is an individual New York City landmark listed on the S/NL and was designed to be the focal point of the Fort Tryon Park landscape. Even at the reduced height of 155 feet, the Sherman Plaza development would alter views from both the Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters as well as views of these landmarks from the adjoining neighborhood.
In addition, a R9A/R8X zoning district would allow a streetwall with a maximum height of 125 feet along Broadway and 105 feet along Sherman Avenue. Under this design, the proposed building would not set back below 10 stories. The current structure on the site, the Packard building, has a streetwall of approximately 30 feet. The surrounding buildings have streetwall heights that do not exceed 40 feet. Under the proposed zoning, the project could exceed the current streetwall by 70 feet or more, which would result in adverse impacts on urban design from a pedestrian perspective, and in turn affect neighborhood character. We do not feel that the EAS fully addresses the potential urban design impacts of the revised proposal.
It is imperative that the City carefully examine all facets of the Sherman Plaza development, including the potential long-term impacts on the neighborhood and Fort Tryon Park.
As such, we strongly urge the subcommittee to reject the proposed zoning map amendment and request an alternate more appropriate design.
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The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) supports Intro 1219, but proposes a series of modifications to strengthen the City’s oversight powers for New York’s privately-owned public spaces (POPS).
In our city-wide review of POPS conducted in 2000, MAS and partner Professor Jerold S. Kayden gave 41% of POPS a “marginal” rating and found that over 50% were in some way out of compliance. Despite our findings, City government and community stakeholders still lack a comprehensive and transparent set of mechanisms and oversight processes to ensure that POPS are kept open to the public, in good condition, and in alignment with the needs of the community.
The recent debate about the future of the Water Street POPS underscores the need for better oversight of these cherished public spaces. When POPS are allowed to fall into disrepair or disuse, as happened along the Water Street corridor, the public risks losing these spaces altogether to retail or other private uses without fair compensation to the public benefit. The passage of Water Street Upgrades Text Amendment N 160166 ZRM earlier this month demonstrates that New York City can no longer settle for a hands-off approach to POPS.
As such, MAS supports Intro. 1219 proposed by Council Members Greenfield and Kallos, but we also believe there is an opportunity to improve the city’s POPS further.
We propose the following modifications:
George William and Anna Curtis House (234 Bard Avenue)*
St. John’s Protestant Episcopal Church Rectory (1331 Bay Street)*
92 Harrison Street House*
Prince’s Bay Lighthouse Complex (6204 Hylan Boulevard)*
315 Broadway Building*
St. Joseph of the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church (401-403 West 125th Street)*
St. Paul Roman Catholic Church (121 East 117th Street)
Together with the items designated on April 12th (read our blog post on those properties as well), we now have 15 new landmarks as a result of action taken on the Backlog. There are another 15 items that await a vote from LPC. Stay tuned!
*MAS delivered testimony in support.]]>
“I’m designating the Stonewall National Monument as the newest addition to America’s National Park System. Stonewall will be our first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights. I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country, the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us. That we are stronger together. That out of many, we are one.”
Barack Hussein Obama
44th President of the United States
The Stonewall Inn became ingrained in American history on June 28, 1969, when a police raid ignited days of disturbance and demonstration. In previous interactions with police, bar patrons had been cooperative, even in the face of routine, government-sanctioned persecution; but on this night they rose up in defiance. The rebellion is credited with sparking the formation of LGBT civil rights organizations across the country. It also resulted in the annual Pride March, now part of Pride Month, which is celebrated by millions worldwide.
The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) was proud to advocate for the designation of the Stonewall Inn as an individual New York City landmark in 2015. Conferring this status upon Stonewall last year was a step forward for our local Landmarks Preservation Commission and our field as a whole—it was the first landmark designated in New York City exclusively to recognize the LGBT rights movement.
Now we celebrate our first national monument dedicated to this struggle. We hope you have a chance to stop by the Stonewall Inn and Christopher Park soon in honor of this legacy of change within our City.]]>
For more information please visit: http://art-bridge.org/project/brownsville/.]]>
The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) welcomes the chance to comment on the application by 42 West 18th Street Realty Corp. for a special permit to facilitate a mixed-use development at 38-42 West 18th Street. MAS has carefully reviewed this application and opposes this project unless the requirements of the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Program (MIH) are applied.
38-42 West 18th Street, located in a C6-4A District within the Ladies’ Mile Historic District in Manhattan, has the potential to be a precedent-setting project for which special permit applications would need to meet the affordable housing requirements outlined in MIH. In this case, the applicant is proposing to build a mixed-use primarily residential building and expand an existing commercial building, as well restore the facades of two historic buildings on the same zoning lot. To build the project as proposed, the developer has asked for adjustments to rear yard, height and setback, and street frontage requirements. These changes would facilitate a project with 66 residential units, a net increase of 26 residential units in additional to the 40 permitted in the as-of-right development evaluated in the project’s Environmental Assessment Statement.
The question before the Commission today is whether those additional units trigger the application of MIH requirements. The applicable language of the zoning code (ZR § 74-32) states that a project is subject to MIH when a special permit application would allow a “significant increase in residential floor area” than would otherwise be permitted. The Department of City Planning has stated that MIH is triggered only by the granting of new residential floor area rather than the facilitation of floor area already permitted. The intention notwithstanding, the text as written is not clear on this distinction.
MAS recognizes that housing affordability has reached crisis levels in New York, with over half of renter households citywide classified as “rent-burdened” and 30 percent are “extremely rent burdened.” Average rents have gone up dramatically in the last decade, while incomes have not risen proportionally. As such, MAS supported the City’s efforts to address this crisis through the passing of MIH as part of the administration’s Housing New York plan.
MAS therefore agrees with the conclusions drawn by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Manhattan Community Board Five that the additional 26 residential units allowed by this special permit represents a “significant increase” in residential floor area and would be subject to MIH requirements. In order to facilitate the goals outlined in the administration’s housing plan, we urge the Commission to mandate that this application include affordable housing as specified under MIH.
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Founded in 1893, The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) promotes intelligent urban planning, design, and preservation through education, dialogue, and advocacy.
The MAS is acutely aware that demolition of any building in a historic district is a serious undertaking, not to be taken lightly. In the course of reviewing this project, the MAS Preservation Committee returned to questions posed during a previous application for 16 West 18th Street:
As before, we came to the conclusion that the buildings in debate are highly altered and no longer convey their own story nor that of the Ladies’ Mile Historic District. As outlined clearly in the presentation, several small-scale buildings with a higher level of integrity remain in the district, and thus better represent its early history. While we regret the loss of light and air that their low stature has provided to date, the proposed construction is appropriate for the neighborhood in scale, design, and materials. The new building is subtle and thoughtful, taking cues from the historic loft architecture of the surrounding district and fitting snugly within the street wall.
We greatly appreciate the façade restoration of the adjacent building, especially the upper transoms of the storefront that have been hidden for decades. The only disappointment is the HVAC grilles which prominently, albeit symmetrically, intrude into the restored storefront. We hope the project team has investigated alternatives and that this is an unfortunate last resort.
While MAS supports this application, we caution that one must not be cavalier about the approval of demolition. This is a unique condition in which two buildings that lack true authenticity will make way for a new design that is both deferential and additive to the Ladies’ Mile Historic District.
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The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) is deeply disappointed by the City Council Zonings and Franchises Subcommittee’s approval of the proposed Water Street Upgrades Text Amendment without any significant modification to the original plan. We urge Council Members representing districts across the City that also contain Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) to reject this proposal today as a dangerous precedent.
As presently constituted, the modified proposal that was approved last Tuesday allows property owners within the Water Street Corridor not only the benefit of the initial additional floor area accorded to them under the 1961 Zoning Resolution’s POPS regulations, but also the financial benefits of the additional retail infill without any economic evaluation or a measurable benefit to the public.
The so-called compromise brokered last week is no compromise at all; essentially, the amendment authorizes a giveaway to property owners who benefitted from the additional FAR but did not improve their POPS as the zoning regulations required, to replace arcades with commercial, revenue-generating infill without just compensation owed to the public. Moreover, the approval also sets a potential distressing precedent that invites property owners of the 525 POPS citywide, many of which are as underperforming as the Water Street POPS, to enjoy the same double benefits allowed under the current proposal with little in the way of compensation for the public.
MAS maintains that the text amendment as currently written does not require property owners to account for the costs and benefits for upgrading their POPS and eliminating or reducing public space. Given that these POPS were intended to exist in perpetuity and provide a public benefit, it is imperative that the reduction or elimination of existing public space be subject to a thorough economic analysis. Our preliminary estimation suggests that this change could deliver a one-time profit of $55-77 million for building owners, with no accounting of the cost to the public.
As we have stated throughout the environmental review process for the text amendment, MAS supports the goals the project sponsors seek. We are in favor of reimagining these POPS to ensure they are welcoming places for residents, workers, and visitors that offer space for respite and contemplation while also activating the street realm. We have also urged DCP and EDC to develop a city-wide approach that would provide all property owners the framework, tools, and incentive to improve their underperforming POPS.
However, we are strongly opposed to giving property owners the added benefit of additional retail space without an equitable return for the public. We urge the Council to reject this proposal today.
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