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Thread: 50 West Street - by Helmut Jahn

  1. #61

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    Quote Originally Posted by TREPYE View Post
    This development is not so bad in terms of design. But the antique that it is replacing is leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Cant it replace something else that nobody will miss such as a garage, one new york plaza, 55 water street or any one of those other 60's modernist garbage. Why get rid of such an elegant and distictive piece or architecture?
    Or the building directly to the north of it. It's one of my least favorite buildings in NYC. When I used to play SimCity 3000 there was a building in the game that looked exactly like it and whenever it would appear, I would always immediately destroy it. Perhaps the best thing about this project is that it will block that disgusting blank wall.

  2. #62
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    I ca't imagine what the argument can be against this building specifically. Shadows on BPC? School overcrowding is an issue for the whole city below Chambers, so it can't be attached to this building. I'd love to see this go up. It adds to the skyline (in an appreciative way) and, hopefully would add to the West Street streetscape.

  3. #63

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stern View Post
    When I used to play SimCity 3000 there was a building in the game that looked exactly like it and whenever it would appear, I would always immediately destroy it.
    Hehe, I believe that building's name was "Insurance Plaza." Considering that the "Silver Tower" was a complete knock-off of 2 NY Plaza, it wouldn't surprise me if the game designers copied that POS on West St.

  4. #64

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    SergeSmArt

    I was just thinking 4 Albany (630'), 111 Washington St. (52 st.), and this 63 story tower will continue the line of new towers from the New WTC. Throw in Goldman Sachs, the remaining BPC towers, and possible development of the parking garage and we'll have one hell of a skyline.

  5. #65

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    Quote Originally Posted by kz1000ps View Post
    Hehe, I believe that building's name was "Insurance Plaza." Considering that the "Silver Tower" was a complete knock-off of 2 NY Plaza, it wouldn't surprise me if the game designers copied that POS on West St.
    Found the building I was talking about... The tall building behind the police station.





    As for SC3000 knock-offs leave it WNY to have a thread for that too...

    http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4074

  6. #66
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    Developer says ‘no’ to affordable housing, so C.B. 1 considers saying ‘right back at you’



    Time Equities plans to build a new 63-story luxury
    condo building at 50 West St.


    By Skye H. McFarlane
    June 15 - 21, 2007

    A presentation on the proposed 63-story tower at 50 West St. last week left local community board members wrestling with two questions: What sort of community amenities would mitigate the impact of the project’s desired zoning variances? And when does the impact become so significant that no potential amenity could make the deal worthwhile?

    The developers at 50 West St. formally presented their request for two separate land use actions on June 6. Now it is up to Community Board 1 to determine whether green design, a public plaza and a laptop program for a local school are reason enough to approve zoning variances that would allow Time Equities to add more than 20 stories to their planned hotel and condominium combo.

    So far, the answer seems to be “no,” particularly since the developer refused a request by C.B. 1 members to consider building any affordable apartments in Lower Manhattan.

    “We’re moving in right direction, but I don’t think we’re there yet,” said City Councilmember Alan Gerson, who helped negotiate the amenities with the developer. “The community voiced legitimate concerns and requests at the meeting.”

    For some community members, the addition of park maintenance, cultural space or a pedestrian bridge could make the development palatable. For others, 50 West St.’s high density, out-of-context design and lack of affordable housing make the project a no-go, no matter what the developers offer the community. The board will hold another meeting this Monday to craft a resolution on the development. According to C.B. 1 chairperson Julie Menin, the board plans to write a conditional approval or disapproval, rather than a simple “yes” or “no.” The full board will vote on the resolution this Tuesday.

    By law, the Department of City Planning must consider the community board’s opinion as a part of the official Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. The City Council, however, will have the final say on whether or not the 50 West St. project gets approved.

    By right, the developer, Time Equities, can build a 30 to 40-story building on the site, which is next to the entrance to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. A 1912 office building will be demolished to make way for the new tower. If the developers’ land-use application is approved, they will be able to add 180,000 square feet of space through the construction of a public plaza along little-known Ward St. and the purchase of air rights from over the Battery Tunnel.

    The building will be a slender, translucent glass cylinder designed by noted architect Helmut Jahn. Time Equities director of acquisition and development Phillip Gesue said that the building’s aesthetics made the most sense at its planned height of 63 stories. He pointed out that most of the city’s most significant and beloved buildings, such as the Woolworth Building, were out of context with the height and style of their surroundings when they were first constructed.

    “Over time, everything blends in,” Gesue said of the building’s height. “I think this design is very different, very special.”

    Despite his admiration for the design, Gesue would not release a rendering of the project for publication.

    Several board members agreed that the Jahn design was appealing. Their concerns, they said, rested more with what will be inside the building — namely 300 luxury condominiums filled with new residents. The building will also contain a high-end hotel and ground-floor retail spaces. Community members worried that the new residents and their children would further stress the neighborhood’s already crowded schools, parks and ballfields.

    In an attempt to mitigate that impact, the developer offered up a plan to provide laptops for every student in Battery Park City’s I.S. 89. Time Equities would provide laptops, backup equipment and a staff technician for four years. Asked why the developer was offering a temporary amenity to offset a permanent development, Gesue said that the laptop program was designed to see the school through until a new school can be built in the neighborhood, presumably at Site 2B in the neighborhood’s south end.

    I.S. 89 principal Ellen Foote and David Feiner, an aide to Councilmember Gerson, both spoke in support of the plan. By giving the school laptops, they said, the developers will allow I.S. 89 to turn its computer room into two regular classrooms — thus reducing class size. Although I.S. 89’s enrollment is capped, P.S. 89, which shares the building, has experienced acute class-size problems in recent years.

    Feiner also spoke in favor of 50 West’s plan to seek a “Gold” rating from the U.S. Green Buildings Council. In addition to the rating, Gesue said at the meeting that Time Equities was open to requiring the use of ultra low sulfur diesel fuel and emissions filters in its construction vehicles.

    “This is the perfect place to have a green building,” Feiner said. “It’s important to set the standard and hopefully other developers will have to follow the standard and compete.”

    One aspect of the building’s green plan, however, was a sticking point for local residents. To encourage the use of public transportation, the building will not have a parking garage. Community members said they feared that the building’s high-income residents and guests would bring cars into the neighborhood anyways, clogging up the streets and raising the price of parking in local garages.

    At the Wednesday night meeting, the community debated back and forth with Gesue about other possibilities for community benefits in and around the site. Although the development will include a tree-lined pedestrian plaza along Ward St., Time Equities backed off of its earlier support for a pedestrian bridge connecting the area to Battery Park City.

    Gesue said that a bridge landing inside the building would present space and cleanliness issues. A resident of the Greenwich South area himself, Gesue said that he was personally in favor of a pedestrian bridge landing in plaza, but that the developers would have to discuss the feasibility of such a project at a later date.

    Gesue said that the developer would consider adding public art or cultural space to the building, so long as the cultural space was occupied by a paying tenant. He did not respond to suggestions that the developer might pay to improve the small parks and streetscapes in the neighborhood.

    Menin said that if Time Equities did not choose to take on the park and streetscape upgrades, she hoped that the city would do it instead. If the ULURP application is approved, the city would stand to earn an estimated $18 million from the sale of its air rights. Because the sale of city air rights over a street is an unusual and (to some board members) unsettling proposition, Menin and others insisted that the neighborhood must reap the benefits of that sale from the municipal end.

    “One-hundred percent of the proceeds must go to Downtown to support much-needed infrastructure,” Menin said. “That money cannot end up in Red Hook.”

    The mention of Brooklyn drew the ire of community residents more than once during the meeting. Because the developer plans to take advantage of the 421-a tax abatement, community members asked whether Time Equities planned to include any affordable housing in the 50 West project. South of 14th St., any development can currently take advantage of the tax break, which was put into place during the 1970s economic crisis.

    A new version of the law, however, is expected to pass the state legislature this session. If passed, the new 421-a law would require developers in Lower Manhattan to include at least 20 percent affordable housing in their projects to merit the tax break. The new law would take effect in the new year. The 50 West project plans to break ground in late fall, which would put the project under the old version of the law.

    Gesue said last Wednesday that it would be financially impossible to include affordable housing at 50 West as it is currently designed, since the building’s complex architecture and green features have put the construction price tag at over $1,000 per square foot. Asked if Time Equities would consider putting affordable housing off site in one of the company’s other Downtown properties, Gesue said no.

    Frustrated with that answer, board member Allan Tannenbaum asked Gesue if he believed that Lower Manhattan should be reserved only for the rich and the super-rich.

    “I think that Lower Manhattan should be for the people who can afford to pay the prices that it currently costs to live here,” Gesue said, stressing his strong belief in the free market. He added that if he could no longer afford to live in Lower Manhattan, he would happily move to Brooklyn. He suggested that other neighborhood residents could do the same. “You move to the neighborhood that you can afford to live in.”

    The comments — and the thought of another tower going up in the narrow streets of her rapidly developing neighborhood — brought long-time Washington St. resident Esther Regelson close to tears. She urged C.B. 1 to refuse the ULURP application. Gesue argued that the towers, particularly 50 West, would bring commerce and street life to a “gritty” area that currently houses strip clubs and parking garages in addition to its historic old buildings and tenement apartments.

    In the end, the board members decided that they needed to go home and carefully weigh the many aspects of the 50 West St. proposal before making a final decision.

    “It’s a very good looking building, but would we rather have smaller scale here with stoops and stairs?” asked board member Tom Goodkind. “It’s not just about what the developer is going to give us. We have to ask, ‘Will this improve the neighborhood?’ It might, but I don’t know yet.”


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    Quote Originally Posted by downtownexpress View Post
    For others, 50 West St.’s high density, out-of-context design...
    Huh? Can someone explain when downtown developed a "context?" Is this the same context that the last J&R Music building was built to respect?

  8. #68

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    No, this one is my favorite quote:

    It’s a very good looking building, but would we rather have smaller scale here with stoops and stairs?” asked board member Tom Goodkind.
    It's almost as if this person thinks he lives in the Village.

    The air rights from the garage are going to be inevitably used in the next few years. I don't see the big deal in transfering less than 10% of them to this project. I do, however, see their point in wanting the money to be used downtown, and about the crowded schools, all the more reason to build a school on site 2A.

  9. #69

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    I almost feel like writing a letter to these idiots. It sounds like the meeting that took place was a bunch of political grandstanding.

    As someone on curbed said: "I wish real progressives could somehow mobilize support for the elimination of the Community Boards. They were a good idea that have miserably failed. The meetings are completely useless NIMBY pow-wows."

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    Please do. I'll join you.

    It's not enough these days for a developer to pay millions of dollars for air rights, thus "for the right to build higher." No, they have to honor the community's wishes, which seem to get more outlandish every day. Forget about their opinions on such projects in general: too tall (for the neighborhood), too expensive (for the neighbors), too many new kids (for our schools). Since when have people felt such an intense sense of entitlement to something that they don't own and have no fundamental right to control? Is this really New York? Is this really America?

    Forgive me for the rant, but I think it's a terrible day when trying to get a modest new project underway comes down to paying off extortionist community boards. And then we wonder why so many of the most exciting proposals get delayed into obsolescence and we're stuck with a plateaued skyline of far too many ordinary and unremarkable buildings.

  11. #71

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    I will cry tears of absolute joy when CBs are abolished. a quality control is needed yes, this is not it.

  12. #72

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    This thread seems to be proof of the maxim "no good deed goes unpunished."

    I do not sit on CB1, but it does represent my neighborhood. These are just ordinary citizens generously volunteering their time and efforts to the community, trying to work through difficult issues. To direct all this hostility at them for their community service -- merely for talking through the issues -- is, frankly, unseemly. While I certainly do not agree with CB1's every decision, here they seem to be acting perfectly reasonably. The developer has come to them looking for a variance. In other words, he is asking to do something THE RULES DON'T ALLOW. They have every right to say NO, if they do not feel a variance would be in the community's best interests. The developer would then still be free to build to the height the rules allow, or try to get CB1's decision reversed (I believe it is non-binding).

    Here, I see no particularly compelling reason why CB1 should unconditionally accede to the developer's demands, particularly when the end result would be the demolition of one of the community's more elegant old buildings (even if not landmarked) merely for the sake of yet another tedious glass tower. Exactly how many of those do we need?
    Last edited by BPC; June 16th, 2007 at 05:29 PM.

  13. #73

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    The fact that approval will allow the toer to not be another tedious hulk should be reason enough for approval. Regardless of the CB's decision, the elegant old building will be demolished and the 180,000 sq. ft. of rights will be utilized somewhere.


    So if they reject this what will they gain?

    They won't get the $18 million they can potentially get from the air rights sale.

    They won't get the laptop program for a local school to free up classroom space.

    Most likely an even more tedious and unremarkable 40 story building with no public plaza will be built...yet still no affordable housing.
    _______________

    I still bet they're going to conditionally approve the tower, milking the developer as much as possible, no doubt.

  14. #74

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    Pianoman writes:

    "Since when have people felt such an intense sense of entitlement to something that they don't own and have no fundamental right to control? Is this really New York? Is this really America?"

    "No, they have to honor the community's wishes, which seem to get more outlandish every day."

    ----

    Instead the article states:

    "By law, the Department of City Planning must consider the community board’s opinion..."

    Note the words:

    "by law"

    "consider"

    "opinion"


    ---
    Last edited by Fabrizio; June 16th, 2007 at 08:02 PM.

  15. #75
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    Quote Originally Posted by BPC View Post
    To direct all this hostility at them for their community service -- merely for talking through the issues -- is, frankly, unseemly.
    It'd be one thing if the meetings were comprised mainly of back-and-forth debate. It's quite another, however, when one side is only trying to demonstrate its opposition, and, in effect, demanding their requests be met in exchange for approval.

    The developer has come to them looking for a variance. In other words, he is asking to do something THE RULES DON'T ALLOW. They have every right to say NO, if they do not feel a variance would be in the community's best interests. The developer would then still be free to build to the height the rules allow, or try to get CB1's decision reversed (I believe it is non-binding).
    Actually, the developer comes to the city looking for a variance, because it is the city who owns the air rights. The community board's input is only requested as part of ULURP procedures. And I take offense at your brash statement of THE RULES DON'T ALLOW. Variances were introduced into zoning regulations as a way for the city to ensure its restrictions weren't incurring financial hardship on the developers. The original intent of a variance was to simply provide the developer with more air rights, conditional upon the developer proving that the project could not get built without them. Back then, the community had no say in these matters. Nowadays, the community not only has a substantial say, but it has so even when the city gets compensated for providing the variance.

    Here, I see no particularly compelling reason why CB1 should unconditionally accede to the developer's demands, particularly when the end result would be the demolition of one of the community's more elegant old buildings (even if not landmarked) merely for the sake of yet another tedious glass tower. Exactly how many of those do we need?
    No one's saying they should unconditionally accede; they are, in fact, setting conditions with the developer, who's shown willingness to provide amenities. It seems as if the community's apprehension - and your agreement with them - is less the result of something the developer has done and more a result of the city's handling of the matter. Some of these include:

    1) The spending of the funds earned from selling the air rights. If the community wants this money to directly benefit them, they should petition the city to change the handling of such funds. Henceforth, all air rights sales should go into separate areas of the city's budget, labeled accordingly by community district. Funds should be used to finance infrastructure (or other) improvements within the community district's geographical boundaries.

    2) The 421-a housing abatement program and its relation to affordable housing. The community is annoyed the developer will get this tax break, even though he doesn't have to build affordable housing. They had the nerve to ask for affordable housing to be built somewhere off-site. Is this the developer's fault, who's only going along with the rules as currently set up? No - the city/state should amend the rules so that the tax break is only given if the development includes affordable housing (which they are actually in the process of doing).

    3) The nature of air rights ownership. The community claims the air rights are theirs, and the developer must provide a benefit directly to them. Maybe the city should henceforth transfer ownership of all of its air rights to the community boards, who will then have a more clearly defined stake held in the negotiations with the developer.

    Finally, your statement about the historic building and yet another "tedious" glass tower makes you sound like a classic NIMBY, in the time-honored tradition of opposing anything new in favor of preserving even the mediocre of old. We're talking about Lower Manhattan: there's more than enough historic buildings in the area, many of which are landmarked. There's also a lot of height, and a relatively diverse mix of building styles. To argue that this new tower would sit uncontextually in this area is equivalent to saying it doesn't have a suitable context anywhere else in the city, save for a few small areas of Midtown. I would hope that we haven't grown that myopic in our collective valuing of contextual architecture.
    Last edited by pianoman11686; June 16th, 2007 at 08:15 PM.

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