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Thread: Mercedes House - by TEN Arquitectos - Two Trees

  1. #31
    Senior Swanky Peteynyc1's Avatar
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    Default NIMBY taken to a new disgusting level

    Volume 2, Number 36 | The Weekly Newspaper of Chelsea | June 13 - 19, 2008
    Chelsea Now photos by Jefferson Siegel
    The Department of City Planning’s Erika Sellke (left) displays a map of the 11th Ave. rezoning proposal area, as Community Board 4 Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen Land Use Committee chairperson Anna Hayes Levin looks on. RIGHT: Board 4 chairperson Jean-Daniel Noland asks the meeting’s opening questions.
    Community, city peer down 11th Ave. rezoning

    By Chris Lombardi
    The pace of growth currently gripping Chelsea and the Hudson Yards could seep north and turn lower-rise Hell’s Kitchen into the next destination neighborhood, claimed residents who packed PS 51 this week to discuss the potential rezoning of 11th Ave.
    The Wednesday meeting of Community Board 4’s Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen Land Use Committee brought forth many of the current hot topics regarding the rezoning, from parking and pollution to the lack of a zoned middle school for families already in the area.
    But the main issue at hand was the shape of the proposed zoning—introduced in an unusual co-application between Board 4 and the Department of City Planning—which was born when development pressure began to build stemming from the Hudson Yards.
    Their results were a proposed set of zoning changes, explained Wednesday by City Planning’s Erika Sellke, which would extend the Special Clinton District north and west. It would declare much of the east side of the avenue a residential zone, and re-classify the industrial zone on the west side to allow for office space while prohibiting new hotels. Committee members and local residents were both supportive and critical of the plan, urging Sellke to reconsider their proposed height limits of 135 feet and look again at the future of the western side of the block. “What makes sense, what we need, is residential,” said board member and housing developer Joseph Restuccia.
    Despite the day’s heat, a crowd packed the first-floor classroom to standing-room-only capacity on Wednesday. Many attendees had heard from Sellke at a December forum regarding the rezoning, where she had explained that most of the block was zoned M1-5, a category reserved for heavy industrial use. That’s unlike the Special Clinton District to the east, which limits development to a maximum FAR (floor area ratio) of 4.2, and includes a very unusual 66-foot/seven-story height limit.
    The December forum was held to elicit community wishes for the rezoning, where committee chairperson Anna Hayes Levin had outlined the board’s vision: 11th Ave. should become a sub-district of the Special Clinton District, she said, as a mid-rise residential corridor with an initial limit of 150 feet.
    “We know the buildings will be bigger, but we want them to get bigger only in order to build affordable housing, via the inclusionary housing bonus,” Levin said in December, adding that the buildings can have ground-floor commercial uses. “Garages, auto shops are OK—we’ve always had them. Retail—the kind that serves area residents. And we want to encourage UPS, Federal Express and the like.” While she said the board wants businesses that feed the Theater District, “we’re seeing a lot of inquiries about clubs and hotels.”
    CB 4 also proposed to extend the Special Clinton District’s strong limits on demolition and penalties against tenant harassment, and recommend that 20 percent of the units in new residential developments have two or more bedrooms.
    The proposal unveiled by Sellke on Wednesday does extend the Special Clinton District but only on the east side of 11th Ave., with height limits of 120-150 feet, and inclusionary housing bonuses for all new development in the district. On the western side, she said, M1-5 buildings would convert to M2-3 and M2-4, allowing for “a greater variety of uses” while prohibiting any new hotels. Instead of converting those blocks for residential use, City Planning is proposing “light industrial uses,” especially Class B office space, with a maximum height limit of 180 feet and FAR limits from 5.5 to 7.2.
    Sellke said that City Planning sees all new development on either side of the block having “similar heights, with a maximum height of 135 on the east, to 120 to 150 on the west.” In FAR terms, the buildings currently zoned for an FAR of 2 would be granted 4, “which would allow for more uses, especially for office space,” she said.
    However, committee members appeared startled by City Planning’s vision for the western portion. “I think there’s some surprise in the room at that 180-foot possibility,” Levin said. As she opened the discussion, Levin suggested that people in the room confine their comments to the more relatively modest 120-, 135- and 150-foot proposals.
    Board 4 chairperson Jean-Daniel Noland began the night’s questioning, saying he’d prefer to see the special district extended to both 11th and 12th Aves., with the 66-foot limit. “Our concern in doing this was that 11th Avenue would not wall us in,” he said. “But if you go higher than that between 11th and 12th, you do the same thing.”
    Echoing Noland, Levin reaffirmed that “we’d hoped for an emphasis on residential on the west side of 11th Avenue.”
    Sellke replied that City Planning’s method is to “look at land uses and how different areas are being utilized.” On the west side, she said, it tapers to very short blocks with “these huge buildings—Verizon, Federal Express… It’s hard to mix residential uses into those blocks.” The suggested height limits, she added, came right out of the 2005 rezoning of West Chelsea.
    “What kind of office uses were you thinking about?” Noland asked.
    “In the West Chelsea rezoning, we had a lot of similar MI-5 buildings,” Sellke responded. “And we found that many of them became occupied by small businesses—small firms that can’t afford Midtown, designers, architects, small law firms.” She added that heavy manufacturing is not the best neighbor to residential buildings. “Heavy manufacturing—there’s a lot of trucks, a lot of noise… We thought that office space would be a good transition. In the future these buildings could be converted to residential, or those blocks can be rezoned residential.”
    But unlike Chelsea, Restuccia said, Hell’s Kitchen “has no loft buildings of the kind that get converted to office space. And economically, no one is going to construct new buildings to build Class B office space. It’s not feasible.”
    What is feasible, he noted, is residential. “And if you confine it to the east side, there’s less space there, which means not so much more new units.” On the west side, he added, it is possible to plan for more units, using the tools at the city’s disposal to make some of them affordable.
    Many community members openly expressed fears of what the “transitions” spoken of by Sellke might bring. “We don’t need more rich people here!” said one, while another added, “Those offices won’t employ people who live here!” Many showed concern over City Planning’s reliance on existing buildings for guidance—especially considering developer Two Trees Management’s massive new 866 11th Ave. complex, not-so-fondly nicknamed “Ice Station Zebra” by locals.
    “If Ice Station Zebra is the precedent for what happens,” asked a member of the West Side Neighborhood Alliance, “isn’t every developer going to ask for that, saying, ‘Hey, he’s got FAR of 9, why are you saying I only get 7.2?’” Sellke replied that while City Planning was aware of the project, which had already secured a private individual rezoning, “the context for this is the residential district.”
    “Maybe we can get the precedent working in the opposite direction!” added Restuccia.
    As for the perennial issue of nightlife on the West Side, Sellke offered a sly smile. “Clubs are not allowed within 500 feet of a residential district,” she said. “If you were to draw a line 500 feet out of our proposed residential district, you’d [only] have about 50 feet on the West Side Highway that could be used for a nightclub.
    Other concerns on Wednesday were about the kind of impacts usually expressed at later stages of development: green space, parking, hospitals and schools. “You can’t bring in new residents without new schools!” volunteered someone in the audience. Another WSNA member complained of spending 30 hours on a gurney at Roosevelt Hospital, stressing, “We need a hospital in this plan!”
    Both Sellke and Levin emphasized that the meeting had only covered the tip of the iceberg about what the rezoning would entail, and that the final EIS would include schools, hospitals, parking, etc.
    “Is this the kind of zoning we want to study?” added Levin. “Then we start to look at—does this work for people? If it doesn’t the zoning does not go forward.”
    Neither Sellke nor Levin appeared to soothe many community members, one of whom offered what she called a “quality-of-life anecdote” that summarized many residents’ concerns. A hotel just built at 48th and 11th Ave, she said, rises 15 stories and creates a shadow down the block. “From my roof, I can no longer see the sunset,” the person added. “If you approve many buildings outside of a 10-story height, the people who live in this preservation area will no longer see the sunset.

    http://www.chelseanow.com/cn_90/communitycity.html

  2. #32
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    Have you ever attended any of these meetings, Petey? As a resident of Hell's Kitchen, you should have your voice heard, too.

  3. #33

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    I have- lived here for almost 25 years....
    One of the most active cb4 members is my upstairs neighbor.
    An older, Very headstrong, opinionated, and
    wealthy European. Would fight to the death for her beliefs.
    CB4 seems to be more interested in low income housing and
    no more parking garages for the area than anything else.
    They also don't want tall buildings grouped along 11th ave
    because of the long shadows they would cast over
    the hood from the afternoon/evening position of the sun, and the blocked views.
    As far as further east, I don't think they care to much about height-
    as long as it's within present zoning regulations, has NO new parking- and includes (of course),
    a good percentage of low income housing.
    Oh and they want NO office buildings- this has been a residential and light manufacturing district- they would like to keep it that way.
    I don't think the NIMBY's of cb4 are as bad as those of most other cb's in the city- but still...

  4. #34
    Senior Swanky Peteynyc1's Avatar
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    I have never attended one of these meetings but I would certainly like to. I wanted to make it to the CB-5 meeting on the new MOMA tower but couldnt get there that day. Since buying in a new construction building (The Link), and getting involved in this board I have become very interested in architecture and city development. My feeling is that the the Clinton Special District is a great thing but would be even better if the Eleventh Ave corridor was developed. Ninth ave is fantastic with all its restaurants and little shops, no Duane Reeds or banks for the most part, truly old NY style. This little oasis could be only improved with the money that would flow into the district from quality developments along its West bank. I envision the possibility of a village-like neighborhood of boutiques, shops, and sidewalk cafes which has already begun to grow as the neighborhood improves. Why leave the far Western side of the district a barren wasteland of old mechanics shops? The argument of loss of sunsets seems rediculous to me. The area gets great sunlight in general all day long and tall buildings over there would only detract from a few minutes of final sunshine in the early evening. The area already has plenty of tall buildings so the damage is already done. Why these people dont want the "Ice Zebra" building just does not make sense. I envision that development, which was a barren empty parking lot, vastly improving DeWitt Park and perhaps making that far west area into something much more enjoyable than it is today.
    Last edited by Peteynyc1; June 19th, 2008 at 10:54 AM.

  5. #35
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Walentases vs. Credit Markets in Manhattan Return

    11th Avenue apartment tower faces density concerns, too

    NY OBSERVER
    by Eliot Brown
    November 4, 2008


    Two Trees
    Tower rendering.

    For decades, David and Jed Walentas’ Two Trees Management Company has holed up in Brooklyn, building up the neighborhood of Dumbo almost on its own, along with other sites in the borough.

    But now the family is seeking to move forward on its first Manhattan development in 30-plus years, as Two Trees has entered the city’s seven-month public approval process for a planned 900-unit rental apartment building on 11th Avenue and 54th Street.

    So far, it doesn’t appear that it will be all smooth sailing for the Enrique Norten-designed building, an eye-catching white-and-gray, Z-shaped tower that steps upward in height from east to west. Local residents say the density is far too much for the site, which for years was a Verizon service facility.

    “People are really concerned about the density, and the precedent it would set in the neighborhood, and the overall height,” said Anna Hayes Levin, chair of a Community Board 4 land-use committee.

    Members of Community Board 4, which tends to be one of Manhattan’s more welcoming regarding development, have submitted an alternative plan that calls for cutting the density by about one-third, leaving space for 646 apartments. The board only gives an advisory opinion on the plan, but boards’ opinions often weigh heavily with the local council member, in this case Speaker Christine Quinn. The Council must vote on the plan in the spring.

    The push for less density comes as the Department of City Planning intends to rezone 11th Avenue on the West Side, changing manufacturing zoning to allow for residential towers; however, the density being proposed by the city for much of the street is considerably less than what Two Trees is seeking.

    Jed Walentas, vice president at Two Trees and heir apparent to his father, David, does not seem all that eager to cut down on the building’s height.

    “It’s a totally contextual design and project in every sense of the word,” he said. “Immediately adjacent to it, the AT&T tower is the only building that shares the block with us, and I think it’s 150 feet taller than what we’re proposing.

    “I know there are people in every community that are concerned about things like height and density, and there are people whose job it is to express those opinions, and they have a right to do so,” Mr. Walentas said, “but I’m not sure that argument is sound here.”

    Two Trees plans to have a massive dealership and service station for Mercedes-Benz, which Mr. Walentas said has signed an agreement to buy space at the building’s base once it’s constructed. That portion, he said, is financed, although Two Trees has not yet obtained financing for the rest of the project.

    Although financing has virtually come to a complete halt for new development today, Mr. Walentas said once the public review process is complete, he intends to move forward, putting in substantial equity if needed.

    “We’ll borrow as much money as we can, and whatever we can’t borrow will come out of our pocket,” he said. “I can’t tell you where the credit markets are going in six months.”

    © 2008 Observer Media Group

  6. #36

    Default certifiable insanity

    Doesn't the article get it wrong? The site was a parking lot for the AT&T building, not the facility itself. Man, this building is beautiful... and its so ridiculous, because on this site you would want a building big enough to hide (1) the REALLY hideous tower north of it, and the blank white wall of the AT&T equipment tower. But no, CB4 would rather shrink it. Where do they find these people? These people need to be sent away somewhere.

  7. #37
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    The site was a parking lot which also included some very low rise buildings for the servicing of vehicles ...

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  8. #38
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    But I agree that the CB4 NIMBY's are nuts for going against this project.

  9. #39

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    Call me nuts.....I don't care how tall they build around here (taller the better) but...
    That design is (in my humble art/architecture school graduate opinion), hideous- I hope it never gets outta the ground!
    Put a couple of well designed, tall, finger towers there and I'd be happy

  10. #40
    Forum Veteran Tectonic's Avatar
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    This is the site I was asking about earlier in the year.

  11. #41

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    I imagine you guys have noted the recent news about Mercedes signing a deal for a big dealership at this site. (I think it was in www.globest.com). So was that really news? Does that mean this deal is going forward? Since this is apartments rather than condos, I assume it has a better chance? I'm really hoping for this deal more than any other because the architecture seems great, and its an area that is in serious need of freshening and new development. (And because I drive by there several times a week.)

  12. #42

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    Volume 3, Number 9 | The Weekly Newspaper of Chelsea | November 28 - December 4, 2008

    A rendering of the proposed development (center) on 11th Ave. in Hell’s Kitchen


    Quid pro quo in Hell’s Kitchen as project OK’d

    By Diane Vacca
    After grappling with a number of thorny issues Monday night, Community Board 4’s Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen Land Use Committee agreed to the amended plan for Clinton Park, the Z-shaped Enrique Norten-designed development proposed for 11th Ave. between 53rd and 54th Sts. in Hell’s Kitchen.
    In getting the developer to agree with the board’s requests, the committee succeeded in realizing two of its principal goals—reducing the building’s density (its height and overall size) and minimizing the impact of the ground-floor commercial tenant on residents and neighbors—but had to settle for fewer affordable units in the process. Whether the board will achieve its long-term goal of limiting 11th Ave. to mainly residential use is uncertain.
    By far the most difficult issues dealt with at the three-hour meeting were affordable housing and zoning. Developers that include affordable units in their projects are entitled to an inclusionary housing bonus to increase their total square footage, which allowed developer Two Trees Management to propose a building larger than the zoning would otherwise permit. The committee has consistently objected to the density of the project, and at its last meeting with Two Trees on Nov. 12, the committee requested that the building height be reduced. Accordingly, the developer has offered to remove one floor, reducing the building by 42,000 square feet comprising 55 units, of which 11 would have been affordable and 40 market-rate.
    Although the committee regretted the loss of 11 affordable units, it accepted the tradeoff because of the potential harm to the community that would result from the precedent set by allowing greater density. The committee voted to accept the size revision of the building, which results in a total of 845 units, of which 169 are affordable and 676 market-rate. However, the committee still lobbied hard for the inclusion of more affordable units, with the developer responding he would consider the option and get back to the board at a later date.
    In the Clinton Special District, where the Clinton Park project is located, the developer’s inclusionary housing bonus is calculated based on the building’s entire square footage, which includes both residential and commercial. The committee wrangled with Two Trees over the developer’s desire to remove the commercial space from the calculation, insisting that the bonus be calculated using the the building’s total square footage, which would allow for more affordable units to be added.
    The zoning discussion regarding some variances for the project presented no problem, such as granting a special permit to allow the health club and residential units to be on the same floor. But whether the building should be classified commercial or residential, and how to obviate intrusions by uses such as hotels into a predominantly residential area, posed a much greater challenge. Two Trees paid a huge sum for the land and therefore had to incorporate a substantial commercial tenant to make the project viable—thus incurring a likely commercial, not residential, zoning designation. The committee will ask for a residential designation with a ground-floor commercial overlay at the site, but the board is strongly committed to rezoning 11th Ave. for residential use. So in theory, agreeing to a commercial zoning designation for the project will rob the committee of bargaining power when ruling on future development in the area. Reluctantly accepting this unpleasant reality, the committee decided to press hard for everything else on its wish list and defend its zoning decisions and variances with language that specifies these exceptions apply only to this specific project.
    The committee also had several concerns with the large Mercedes-Benz auto dealership that will occupy the entire 11th Ave. front and wrap around to the side streets.
    First of these is the traffic that it will generate at peak hours when cars line up for service in the morning and exit in the afternoon. Mercedes-Benz anticipated this potential problem by designing a circular ramp and 50 parking spaces to efficiently accommodate cars that arrive simultaneously for service in the morning, and prevent double-parking or queuing up on the streets. Cars may enter and exit from both 53rd and 54th Sts., thus eliminating the necessity to circle around the block on one-way streets. The committee decided to negotiate issues of pedestrian safety, location of stop signs, etc., directly with Mercedes-Benz.
    Signage for the dealership, particularly the illuminated signs on 53rd and 54th Sts., provided another stumbling block. The committee wanted assurance that light wouldn’t shine directly into apartments across the street. Mercedes-Benz had provided renderings of its space and signage, as the committee had requested at the last meeting. The signs on the side streets appear perpendicular to the building, and consequently cast their light toward the avenues, not across the street. The committee approved the request for a zoning variance that will permit a large sign facing the park on 11th Ave. Although the sign is larger than the zoning allows, its size seemed moderate in proportion to the building, and had the added advantage of being the only one on the block.
    Committee members also took issue with the exhaust fumes emitted by the facility. They were relieved that no bodywork, with its attendant noxious paint fumes, would be performed on site, and were satisfied that the vents would not direct exhaust to flow into residential units or onto pedestrians.
    “The service bay is insanely clean,” said Two Trees principal Jed Walentas. “They have a thing called service tourism, where they actually have a little glass thing where they bring you down to watch your car get fixed.” As for accessory parking, the developer readily committed to allow no hourly and only monthly parking.
    Several architectural issues were additionally raised, such as the composition of the sheathing material for the building. The gray, synthetic composite, which some compared to limestone, will be uniform in color, despite its variegated appearance in the renderings. Where grilles or louvers usually cover in-the-wall air-conditioning units, the composite will be perforated but still contextual with the rest of the building, appearing only slighty darker. In an attempt to mitigate the monolithic mass of the façade, the architect distributed the windows non-linearly. Still, some of the committee were not satisfied, and the alignment of the windows is yet to be determined.
    Responding to the board’s request, Two Trees had intended to incorporate a supermarket on the ground floor and charge the store a lower rent so that it could offer high-quality merchandise at unusually low prices. At this point, however, for various reasons, the 16,000 square feet allotted for the market has been reduced to 5,500, which all agreed is insufficient space for such a store. Instead, the developer will underwrite a substantially below-market rent to support whatever nonprofit or cultural entity will be chosen among the many whose survival depends on inhabiting such a space.
    In dealing with issues of open space, committee chairperson Anna Levin wanted to identify areas of the park that need enhancement. Walentas assured her that the park is a “huge part of the reason we saw value in the site. We’re obviously going to be someone who cares enormously how that park looks and feels and functions to make sure that it’s well maintained.”
    His father, David Walentas, added, “We think that’s our front lawn. We’re going to take care of it whether you want us to or not.”
    The committee also wanted guarantees that Two Trees would plant trees on the street and install tree guards, especially in areas adjacent to vehicle entrances that need extra protection. “You have to come down and see my tree guards—they’re tank-proof,” interjected the senior Walentas.
    School capacity, which all agreed is a general advocacy matter, is another issue tied to the development. As Levin explained, in addition to the number of school seats that will be required if all the other projects currently in the pipeline materialize, Clinton Park will produce a need for 108 new seats. She saw this as an opportunity to ask the city to double the size of PS 51 on W. 45th St., and maintain it as strictly an elementary school, i.e., adding classrooms without adding grades, as the School Construction Authority is proposing.
    The committee will now present its recommendations to the full board for a vote at its next meeting on Dec. 3.

  13. #43

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    The neighborhood can sleep tonight, this building will have ONE less floor, the neighborhood is saved.

  14. #44
    Senior Swanky Peteynyc1's Avatar
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    The Walentases know how to make things happen. I guess they got the approval they were looking for. Started preparing the site well before that even happened, a move in true confidence. I am glad this project is moving forward in this horrible economy. This area is in need of additional new development. New life will hopefully improve the little DeWitt Park across the street. This snake of a building will be fun to watch rise.
    Last edited by Peteynyc1; December 1st, 2008 at 10:22 PM.

  15. #45
    Forum Veteran Tectonic's Avatar
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    Weren't they the same guys that were doing the warehouse-condo conversion in Dumbo that was stuck for two years? I think it was on Bridge Street if I'm not mistaken.

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