August 2017
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Planning for Manhattan’s West Side

For decades, Manhattan, west of 8th Avenue from 14th to 43rd Streets has been underused and underappreciated. Today, an urban drama is playing out on the Far West Side, in which the City of New York, the US Olympic Committee, and the neighborhoods themselves are among the primary players. A city-sponsored planning project now underway would rezone the area from mostly manufacturing to a high-density mix of residential and commercial uses and extend the 7 train west to 11th Avenue. The NYC 2012’s Olympics proposal would bring a football stadium, a grand park space and an expanded convention center to the area bordering the Hudson River from 30th Street to 41st Streets. This activity has kicked off a spirited debate about the best use of Manhattan’s untapped potential from Chelsea to Clinton. The Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association has even proposed its own alternative that would locate most development in a corridor from 30th to 34th Streets. The Municipal Art Society’s role in this debate will be to count the economic, environmental and social costs of the various plans and to measure their ability to promote a long-term, sustainable approach to redevelopment on the Far West Side. Based on the preliminary results of a series of roundtable discussions we held on the themes of Transportation, Theatre, Manufacturing, Housing, and the Environment with participants from the neighborhood and a wide range of organizations – we identified several important principles we believe should guide any plan on the West Side, as well as areas for additional study. Roundtable participants responded to a series of questions establishing existing conditions, the advantages and drawbacks to the City’s plan as they perceived them, and their own visions about the most desirable future for this area of Manhattan. After this first round of discussions, we convened some of the New York area’s foremost experts in the field of Sustainable Development to put what we learned into a comprehensive perspective. As the planning progresses, the MAS will play a major role in promoting a broader public dialog on these issues and in providing criteria by which to evaluate the various plans under discussion. We will be seeking answers to some of the following questions. How might each of these plans affect existing assets in the community? What would be the toll or gain to the Hudson River Waterfront? What effect would proposed transportation improvements have on ease of access to, from and around the Far West Side? And finally, what might be the costs of the various plans to the average New Yorker before the first shovel breaks ground? Our advocacy program will promote and furnish both decision makers and the general public with the information needed to conduct a reasoned assessment of the prospects for the Far West Side.